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System Builder Marathon Q3 2014: Budget Gaming PC

Results: Arma 3 And Battlefield 4

Arma 3

Our Infantry Showcase test is most effective when comparing graphics cards, but doesn’t properly reflect just how taxing Arma 3 can be on the processor. To compensate, I shoot for an average of at least 50 FPS, though I ultimately base my conclusion on time spent playing Altis Map showcases like Fixed Wings and Gunships.

Both rigs survive through 1920x1080 at the standard defaults, though this quarter's PC delivers higher average and minimum frame rates, regardless of the scenario or showcase I loaded.

At 4800x900, last quarter’s AMD-based box suffered frame rate drops down into the teens. Overclocking its graphics card yielded no improvements. Rather, the game needed us to crank Trinity’s frequencies up to help smooth out performance. Intel’s Pentium G3258 proves to be more capable of withstanding the demands of three displays.

Ultra quality was too much for last quarter’s PC, even overclocked. The new machine outpaces it with ease, but leans on overclocking to smooth out the more demanding sequences. Lower resolutions become playable, though 1920x1080 requires a drop to the game’s High quality defaults.

Battlefield 4

Barring any frame pacing or micro-stuttering issues, an average of 40 FPS in this demanding sequence should prove playability through the entire single-player campaign.

Battlefield 4 favors last quarter’s quad-core AMD processor, at least until we raise the resolution enough to shift the bottleneck to our graphics hardware. At medium-quality default settings, both rigs remain fully capable through all tested resolutions.

The demands of DICE's Ultra preset reward my decision to shift funding away from the platform and over to the graphics card. Both processors keep up, but this quarter's Radeon R9 270 survives more definitively at 1920x1080. In order to remain playable, last quarter’s R7 265 needed overclocking and a drop to 2x MSAA.

We did face one issue when running Battlefield’s campaign. Each and every time we entered the game and loaded up the Tashgar level, there was a one- to two-second pause during the loading scene, where the sound hung and stuttered. Thankfully, the issue disappeared once we were in and playing.