System Builder Marathon, Q2 2013: $650 Gaming PC

Results: F1 2012 And Far Cry 3

F1 2012

F1 2012 is going to hurt this quarter's PC when it comes time to average our gaming frame rates. It remains CPU-bound, even through the Ultra detail preset with 8X MSAA. That's not really a problem for us though, since the minimum performance level remains above 60 FPS through 1920x1080. In fact, using Ultra details with 8x MSAA, the stock $650 PC averages over 60 FPS at 4800x900, too.

Far Cry 3

At Far Cry 3’s high-quality settings, the Core i3-3220 processor constrains the performance we're able to achieve. It's unable to keep up with the overclocked Core i5s we're using to compare. Again, though, we're not worried. The Core i3 still allowed this quarter's machine to deliver a smooth high-resolution experience. At 4800x900, minimum frame rates remain above 35 FPS in stock trim, jumping to 40 FPS once we overclock. 

Some play time proved to me that this mild GPU overclock was all I needed for a solid 1920x1080 Far Cry 3 gaming experience, meaning I didn't need to further push higher clocks and deal with more heat or noise. Even in this demanding part of the game, frame rates reported by Fraps never dipped below 32, and the game was smooth enough for me. The stock $650 PC and overclocked $600 PC both fare well at 1920x1080, but only after dropping anti-aliasing to 2x MSAA.

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  • Madn3ss795
    Just 1 question: Why not a 4gb ram stick instead? That board only has 2 RAM slots, so wouldn't it be better to use just one and save another for upgrading later?
    1
  • nokiddingboss
    a great starting build at a very reasonable cost. it was a good read mate. gotta <3 the 7870xt for gaming. best bang for the buck. if only the i5's are a little cheaper... next quarter perhaps?
    2
  • sbudbud
    Anonymous said:
    Just 1 question: Why not a 4gb ram stick instead? That board only has 2 RAM slots, so wouldn't it be better to use just one and save another for upgrading later?

    I think this is for performance reasons, dual channel memory beats single channel in performance but more memory is better. I guess the reason is that 4gb is the sweet spot in terms of what is recommended and that going single channel 4gb for future upgrade to 8gb dual channel will has diminishing returns..
    2
  • thasan1
    ahh finally, i was wondering what happened to system builder marathon..
    2
  • thasan1
    but why mini ITX rigs?
    -2
  • sarinaide
    $650 called budget, clearly my definition and the going opinion is far from budget, with it possible to build a ATX Intel or AMD system for a little extra but a lot more performance. I did see the Day5 $400 Ultimate Purist M-ATX, this I gotta see, my guess is another Intel build.
    -3
  • jestersage
    Thank you for acceding to reader requests for an itx based SBM!

    I have similar preferences as the author when it comes to what I'd change here... a step down in graphics, a step up in CPU performance and bring up RAM to 8gb. I'm not very concerned about noise. I almost always put on a headset when I game.
    -2
  • MuadDibTM
    Great job on the build and the article. Would have liked a noise comparison as well. Just so we'd know what we're talking about when going for a mini-ITX build.
    0
  • bigshootr8
    Yea I'm a bit confused why you wouldn't go down to a 7850 2 gigabyte model and then spend the extra money on 8 gigabytes of memory instead ><
    -3
  • ARICH5
    jeez, it sounds like your face-palming yourself for getting the i3 through this whole article.
    2
  • Larry Bob
    You should have gone with the Sapphire 7870 XT instead for the cooler.
    -3
  • ojas
    Anonymous said:
    Just 1 question: Why not a 4gb ram stick instead? That board only has 2 RAM slots, so wouldn't it be better to use just one and save another for upgrading later?

    Guessing dual channel mode.

    Anonymous said:
    but why mini ITX rigs?

    Um why not?

    Anonymous said:
    $650 called budget, clearly my definition and the going opinion is far from budget, with it possible to build a ATX Intel or AMD system for a little extra but a lot more performance. I did see the Day5 $400 Ultimate Purist M-ATX, this I gotta see, my guess is another Intel build.

    Yes, lets not read the article at all and rush to the comments section. SBM defeats its purpose if we're going to stick to the same old stuff. What you're looking for has already been covered many, many times before in previous SBMs.

    Anonymous said:
    Yea I'm a bit confused why you wouldn't go down to a 7850 2 gigabyte model and then spend the extra money on 8 gigabytes of memory instead ><

    Because there are more games that would benefit from a 7870 than 8GB of RAM? And anyway, 8 gigs is a relatively cheap upgrade, compared to the GPU.
    3
  • pauldh
    Anonymous said:
    jeez, it sounds like your face-palming yourself for getting the i3 through this whole article.


    No, not at all. Just contrasting the shift in platform balance from CPU to GPU. i3-3220 was perfect for this high-res mini-ITX gaming PC. Wouldn't have changed that up at all at this budget.

    However, it's not the way to go for winning the SBM (overall performance/value), factoring the 60% applications weighting. With an upwardly locked multiplier, we knew exactly how this i3 would rate there (been there, done that already).
    2
  • ryanrich83
    I have a build with the same Cooler Master Elite 120 case. Good to finally see it included in a SBM article.

    For the money, it is hard to beat in an ITX case. There are better options, like the BitFenix Prodigy, but they cost almost twice as much.

    Only downside to the case is the noise. Fans are running at near max to keep temps tolerable.
    0
  • Killroyjenkins
    If you were going to leave the cpu at stock frequency, why not then undervolt it too? Certainly that would reduce heat a bit and could help with the graphics card issue.
    0
  • airborn824
    a budget PC with i3 instead of AMD? o find that odd. anytime you get a CPU under 200 its obvious to go AMD.. Isnt it? or is society blinded by shiny s?
    -1
  • ojas
    Anonymous said:
    a budget PC with i3 instead of AMD? o find that odd. anytime you get a CPU under 200 its obvious to go AMD.. Isnt it? or is society blinded by shiny s?

    1st thing: when gaming is priority, go Intel

    2nd thing: Below $200, look at the i5s. There isn't much point to lots of GPU muscle if you're going to be held back by a CPU bottleneck.

    3rd thing: The moment you hit thermally constrained spaces, Intel is the company of choice.
    2
  • David Siebert
    I could not help myself so I built my own version of this on PC parts picker.
    I used a different case and power supply and bumped the ram up to 8Gb and swapped the 500GB hard drive for a 120GB SSD. I can in under 650 after shipping and rebates.
    You could do a 64GB SSD and the 500GB drive for the same price but I figured Hard Drives are cheap and you might have one sitting around that you could add if you did this build or add one when you find a good deal.
    0
  • David Siebert
    Here is my version of the $1200 itx build.
    http://pcpartpicker.com/user/lwatcdr/saved/1MTa
    0