Today’s $400 PC wasn’t built to be a workhorse, and we’re even glad that it performed respectably through our application testing. But now it’s time to see if the compact enclosure and low-profile graphics card possess the fortitude for gaming. I ran both of our current configurations through five matching resolutions.
Frame rates in our Battlefield 3 single-player campaign sequence are almost entirely limited by graphics hardware, and not by processing resources. The multiplayer game is entirely different. But I’ve played through the entire single-player campaign on a dual-core Pentium and already know these CPUs are all capable of doing it.
The Medium quality preset appears perfectly tuned for our Radeon HD 7750 graphics card. The cheap build survives through 1920x1080, yielding the 45 FPS average I set as a minimum requirement.
Sporting beefier graphics, the other two machines beg for higher-quality settings.
The Ultra quality preset enables maximum details and 4x MSAA, limiting the overclocked $400 PC to our lowest tested 1280x720 resolution. In stock form, however, it necessitates a drop to 2x MSAA where, interestingly, it delivers the same exact average and minimum frame rates as the overclocked configuration does with 4x MSAA.
Meanwhile, the two more potent rigs survive this game all the way through 1920x1080, although we’d prefer the $500 machine’s Radeon HD 7850 be overclocked.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, only the cheapest configuration appears graphics-bound at High quality settings. However, even in stock form, it delivers a minimum of 45 frames per second through the highest tested resolution.
Our two pricier PCs remain playable at all resolutions, yielding mostly processor-limited frame rates though Ultra quality details with 8x MSAA. Even the stock $500 PC never drops below 45 FPS at 1920x1080.
The slim $400 build comes up a bit short, requiring lowered anti-aliasing settings to maintain smooth framerates. But, on my couch in front of our 40” 1080p TV, I’d certainly be happier with this overclocked $400 PC at Ultra details, 4x MSAA, and 16x AF than a current-gen console.
- An Inexpensive Console-Sized Gaming PC
- CPU And Cooler
- Motherboard And Memory
- Graphics Card And Hard Drive
- Case, Power Supply, And Optical Drive
- Assembling Our Little Budget Box
- How Small Is It, Really?
- Limited Overclocking
- Test System And Benchmarks
- Results: Synthetics
- Results: Audio And Video
- Results: Adobe Creative Suite
- Results: Productivity
- Results: Compression
- Results: Battlefield 3 And The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Benchmark Results: F1 2012 And Far Cry 3
- Consumption And Temperatures
- Performance Summary
- Can Less Equal More?