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System Builder Marathon, Q3 2013: $650 Gaming PC

Results: Battlefield 3 And The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Battlefield 3

At higher resolutions, frame rates in our Battlefield 3 single-player test sequence are typically limited by graphics hardware, and not by our choice of processor. To better correspond with the loads you experience in-game, we’re shooting for an average of about 45 frames per second as a reasonable target.

Of course, we aren't able to isolate every variable, since we switched graphics hardware and drivers from AMD to Nvidia. But there's evidence that the FX-6300 is limiting average frame rates at lower resolutions. The current PC only secures a single victory, at 4800x900, and only once we factor in overclocking.

Some data is missing for the $600 PC, which was tested prior to our adoption of two new resolutions. At 1920x1080, its Pitcairn-based Radeon HD 7850 is already dropping away from the pack at the Medium quality preset, but bounces back well when we overclock.

The GeForce GTX 760 shines under increased loads. Subsequently, at Ultra details, this quarter's rig holds a small lead through all resolutions.

While every one of these configurations is capable of 1920x1080, only our current machine, overclocked, survives through 4800x900. Last quarter’s overclocked Tahiti LE-based Radeon required a drop to 2x MSAA, where it mustered an average of 44.6 FPS.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

A lot of PC games still don't effectively utilize more than a couple of CPU cores, and Skyrim is one of them. Thus, Ivy Bridge's superior per-clock performance yields the highest frame rates. Our two newer systems are easily adequate through all tested resolutions, and mainly CPU-bound, while the $600 PC’s beefy Core i5 processor outpaces its weaker graphics pairing at stock settings.

Looking specifically at 1920x1080 at Ultra details (the way we’d assume most folks would play Skyrim on these rigs), the current PC trails last’s quarter’s efforts by about 10 FPS in both minimum and average frame rates. It does grab a few back when we overclock, though.

  • Darkerson
    Not a bad little entry system. Im sure it will get picked apart here in the comments soon, but for the price, its not that bad at all.
  • iam2thecrowe
    I think this time you chose the perfect balance of cpu and gpu at this price point. The Athlon 750k is far too weak, please don't use it next month, even an fx41xx or 43xx would be a better choice. The Haswell i3 would be interesting as we might be able to get some overclocking wby increasing base clock strap settings
  • Onus
    It looked great until I saw the mobo, then I thought "oops..."
    Based on and I would have gone with instead; it has a heatsink on its VRMs, and it currently offers free shipping and is $2 less (it's been that way for a while now; I've had my eye on it for recommendations). I'm concerned that the cheap MSI will pop in the middle of a long gaming session. Did you by chance point an IR thermometer at its VRMs during your testing?
    Otherwise, it's nice to see the FX-6300 get a workout in which it performs in the same ballpark as its competition, maybe a little less "raw," but with higher bang/buck.
  • noob2222
    its crazy how fast memory prices change, that kingston kit is now $84 and the team vulcan 2133 and 2400 are <60.
  • designasaurus
    I'd be interested in seeing an FX 8-core more than the FM2 Athlons. In general though, it would be nice to see an AMD processor in these quarterly builds more regularly. I know you guys treat it as a competition, but, for readers like me, it's more informative to see how the competition shapes up rather than seeing 5% boosts from the latest Ivy-to-Haswell iteration. The higher budget guys are pretty much exclusively using Intel these days (I'll get my Haswell comparisons there), so your lower budget builds are the only place to reasonably see how a good AMD build stacks up. FX-6300 is definitely the best value AMD processor though, so it's going to be tough for you to beat this if you go up or down in cpu budget to get the Athlon or octocore.
  • Novuake
    Yeah, I would not touch that board...
  • m32
    I would have to put an fan over the VRMs to feel safe. That is just me. designasaurus, nice read and I agree.
  • ingtar33
    nice build. though i probably would have went with a 7950, and took the $50 saved to get a cpu cooler like the hyper evo 212, and a better overclocking motherboard like the m5a97 R2.0... you probably would have been able to give that fx a bit better of a chance to hit mid to high 4s on the overclock then. if you can get a 6300 up around 4.7-4.9 (obviously not all of them can get there) you can pace an i5 pretty easily... so spending a little on the board and cpu cooler is a good option.

    the 8 core 8320 is getting pretty cheap. the problem is in order to unleash that type of power you're probably going to NEED to go with a hefty cpu cooler and hefty overclocking board. so for the future i suggest you keep with the fx 6300 unless the prices on the 8320 come down a little more.
  • Lee Yong Quan
    would love to see how well does the $350 pc compare with the Q2 $400 PC! then i would know how well my pc would perform when gta 5 is out!
  • bemused_fred
    Why is everyone saying "go with the HD 7950" when they clearly said in the article that it only became cheaper after they finished the build?
    "AMD's Radeon HD 7950 now sells for even less. But at the time we picked our parts, the GeForce GTX 760 was more affordable."

    Honestly, read the article before commenting!