System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $400 Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: DiRT 2 And S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of Pripyat

Recall last quarter when I asked “What good is a DirectX 11-capable card if it isn’t powerful enough to render the DX11 code path?”

While the Radeon HD 5770 in our June PC handled DX11 all the way up to 1080p, this $400 PC is limited to 1280x1024. However, forcing DX9 does allow smooth 1080p playback at these quality settings.

Remember the blow this $400 PC was dealt in 3DMark Vantage? Well, it happens again here in DiRT2 using Ultra quality 8x MSAA. Even stock, the June $550 PC manages decent framerates at 1080p. Meanwhile, the overclocked $400 PC handles 720p at best. Even in DirectX 9 mode, increasing the resolution beyond 1280x1024 requires lower levels of anti aliasing.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat gives us another look at DX11-based performance. The June PC handles 1080p quite well at the high preset, but I’ll argue the overclocked $400 PC is limited to 720p. While a 43.5 fps average at 1280x1024 may appear playable, the most demanding Sun Shafts test only yields 27.1 fps. At minimum I’d like to see 30 fps in Sun Shafts, typically signifying a 45-48 average score for the four tests.

While we won’t crowd these charts with various rendering code paths, the 48.5 fps average at 720p in DX11 using EFDL (Enhanced Full Dynamic Lighting) is roughly equal to 48.7 fps in DX10 EFDL, but jumps to 65.0 fps with EFDL under DX9. Whatever your preference for tweaking, it is clear that Radeon HD 5670 owners need to (further) reduce some settings if they want to increase resolution.

Increasing the visuals to Ultra details with 4x MSAA just about knocks performance in half. Based on previous results found at the bottom of this page, the game now runs about 8% faster in DX11 versus DX10.1. But even so, the June system would have benefited from a low 720p resolution. Similar to Crysis at Very High details, these settings are completely unreasonable for our $400 September budget box.

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  • AMW1011
    I'll be honest, I think a $450 budget is a little more reasonable than a $400 budget. At that price a 5750 or even a 5770 can be had, which would have worked fine with all of the other parts and likely would have matched the $550 June build.

    Even this $400 build packs a punch, you can get one HELL of a rig for the money any more. It really is insane, and that's not even considering the used or refurb market!

    Awesome article, probably one of my favorite SBM, atleast the best I've seen in a long time.
    15
  • SpadeM
    Quote:
    Given the motherboard’s basic passive cooling measures, though, there was really no point in putting more time into lowering the CPU multiplier, pushing a high reference clock, and attempting to maximize northbridge and memory frequencies.


    +1 for making this statement, glad someone considered it at least. All in all decent build for the money.
    12
  • Proximon
    The Cooler Master Elite 460 is a falsely labeled piece of crap. You can find the review (with proper testing) here: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/1005/1

    You'll have to spend a little bit more there. Rosewill has a 430W (RG430 S12) unit or the Antec Neo 400W is almost the same price as the CM after a discount and rebate.
    11
  • Other Comments
  • SpadeM
    Quote:
    Given the motherboard’s basic passive cooling measures, though, there was really no point in putting more time into lowering the CPU multiplier, pushing a high reference clock, and attempting to maximize northbridge and memory frequencies.


    +1 for making this statement, glad someone considered it at least. All in all decent build for the money.
    12
  • AMW1011
    I'll be honest, I think a $450 budget is a little more reasonable than a $400 budget. At that price a 5750 or even a 5770 can be had, which would have worked fine with all of the other parts and likely would have matched the $550 June build.

    Even this $400 build packs a punch, you can get one HELL of a rig for the money any more. It really is insane, and that's not even considering the used or refurb market!

    Awesome article, probably one of my favorite SBM, atleast the best I've seen in a long time.
    15
  • micr0be
    very nice build, interesting to see how much performance can be squeezed out of the budget. i was expecting worse results.
    5
  • nevertell
    Conclusion ?

    150$ buys you a lot better gaming capabilities, and nothing else.
    -8
  • Gamer-girl
    Quote:
    It went $1 over-budget if we substituted in a GeForce 9800 GT.


    I doubt someone spending $400 can't afford to add an extra dollar. although i realize that the point in these articles is to stay under the budget, it would have been interesting to see the price/perforamce difference.
    9
  • haplo602
    nice case, looks very good ... pity that rosewill does not have a downloadable manual for it ...
    2
  • HibyPrime
    I'd be interested to know how much more overclocking headroom you could pull out of it if you left it at 3 cores - and would that net you more performance in most of the benchmarks?

    I'd bet if you could pull ~200 mhz more out of it, it would begin to match up with the missing core, and maybe start to pull away around 400mhz.
    3
  • Proximon
    The Cooler Master Elite 460 is a falsely labeled piece of crap. You can find the review (with proper testing) here: http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/1005/1

    You'll have to spend a little bit more there. Rosewill has a 430W (RG430 S12) unit or the Antec Neo 400W is almost the same price as the CM after a discount and rebate.
    11
  • Proximon
    Clicked once but got a double post somehow.
    -6
  • Anonymous
    What do the best price/performance we can have?
    -6
  • cmcghee358
    Really good job. I also like the fact you pointed out that it doesn't include combo discounts, shell shockers or MIR.

    That tells me that it could of been an even better system for the same price. I understand that you couldn't, but it's a real eye opener for us folks in the System forum.

    I consider this to be a perfect benchmark system for the low budget build requests there.
    11
  • Onus
    While I agree with Proximon on the PSU, I also think this was an outstanding benchmark build. It's also clear where the next $50-$100 could go to improve it. Very nicely done.
    3
  • Gulli
    There really are cheaper cases and motherboards out there that would work just fine with this setup. The extra money could go to where it's really need: the graphics.
    3
  • elbert
    LunarianI am building a computer with this motherboard and processor also, well the X3 445 anyway. I want to install windows XP on to the operating system, but all my recent CD's were upgrades only. Can I start off with the Win95 CD and install that to the HDD, then upgrade to Win98 followed by Win XP?If anyone can answer this, thanks a lot.

    I installed an upgrade disk XP once and I think its asks you to insert the disk of the OS you want to upgrade. XP then checks the disk I guess to see if its an allowed upgrade.

    This was a great review. I would have when for a $450 range build with a 5770 and an X3 and got the mobo in the review. I would have gotten the $20 Gigabyte gz-ph1a3 and Antec 430W for $40. May have exceeded the price but would have been a great system.
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811233061
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817371023
    -1
  • pauldh
    SpadeM+1 for making this statement, glad someone considered it at least. All in all decent build for the money.

    Thanks, yes felt it was worth mentioning this one wasn’t as tuned as other recent SBM budget builds. The 2140 MHz CPU-NB Frequency for this $400 OC is quite low versus 2540 MHz for the June $550 PC, and 2620 MHz for the March $750 build. I aim for 2400-2600 MHz CPU-NB, although realize many overclockers utilizing better cooling are willing to push this far higher.

    This lil’ box had a few strikes against it that (I felt) didn’t warrant the additional tuning time. The mobo’s design & tame passive cooling, the lack of CPU-NB Voltage control in BIOS, and the fact the boxed cooler’s abilities were already being taxed without increasing the memory controller and L3 cache frequency.
    3
  • sublifer
    I'd have rather seen a $500 system. ~$100 more into gfx would have been well spent. Maybe a better HSF too.
    -5
  • jonpaul37
    Agreed, kudos to the community for asking for this and kudos to Paul for making it happen, $400.00 seems to pack a decent punch!
    8
  • maydaynomore
    Blah.... If all you have is $400 then you should consider buying a gaming console. Flame all you want, but the reason for owning a gaming pc is for eye-candy I can't get with a console. This build will be similar to a console (eye-candy wise).
    -13
  • pauldh
    AMW1011I'll be honest, I think a $450 budget is a little more reasonable than a $400 budget. At that price a 5750 or even a 5770 can be had, which would have worked fine with all of the other parts and likely would have matched the $550 June build.Even this $400 build packs a punch, you can get one HELL of a rig for the money any more. It really is insane, and that's not even considering the used or refurb market!Awesome article, probably one of my favorite SBM, atleast the best I've seen in a long time.


    Agreed, every little bit helps. $411 alone added an HD 4850, so $450 would have been good for 1GB HD 5750 or maybe even a 5770. $500 then adds an aftermarket cooler, higher quality PSU, and doubles the storage capacity.
    0
  • pauldh
    HibyPrimeI'd be interested to know how much more overclocking headroom you could pull out of it if you left it at 3 cores - and would that net you more performance in most of the benchmarks?I'd bet if you could pull ~200 mhz more out of it, it would begin to match up with the missing core, and maybe start to pull away around 400mhz.

    The $550 overclocked June PC had a 350 MHz advantage plus further performance tuning, and it still fell shy of the $400 build in threaded-apps performance. Gaming, the system needs more GPU, so additional CPU frequency would not have a meaningful impact.

    FYI, we get curious too, just need to get the work done first. ;) I pushed 3.5 GHz at 3-cores, but wouldn't stability test because of insufficeint cooling. Didn't take the time to push the ref. clock any higher than 235 MHz. 3.45 GHz required a voltage bump from 3.4 GHz for stability, and temps were a bit high even before CPU-NB frequency overclocking. SO, had unlocking failed, benchmarks would likely have been run with 3-cores @ 3.4 GHz.
    0