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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.

  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • sbudbud
    10984766 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..
    Reply
  • thasan1
    ahh finally, i was wondering what happened to system builder marathon..
    Reply
  • thasan1
    but why mini ITX rigs?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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 ><
    Reply
  • ARICH5
    jeez, it sounds like your face-palming yourself for getting the i3 through this whole article.
    Reply