Skip to main content

System Builder Marathon Q4 2014: Budget Gaming PC

Do We Miss the Trimmings?

Performance

The new machine tops the average performance chart thanks to beefier graphics for high resolution gaming. Credit this improvement to falling Radeon prices, plus the adequacy of its Pentium processor.

Efficiency

A change in power supply, plus higher consumption under 3D loads, knocks down our new machine’s efficiency. However things even out once both rigs are overclocked, as this quarter’s more conservative approach increased efficiency rather than hindering it.

Value

I didn’t feel the need to spend my whole budget this quarter, and got a bit lucky too. First the Pentium G3258 required less voltage to get within 100MHz of last quarter’s best efforts. Next, graphics pricing fell and we weren’t slapped with any significant cost increases to spoil that fun. At the same time, $20 additional was shaved off the overall system cost simply by grabbing an entry-level mATX enclosure, easily able to meet our needs. Applications performance dropped a bit, but at the same time high resolution gaming jumped by an even greater amount. Value was increased, as our new PC was not only cheaper, it also won the performance race, too. Yet, both machines share a similar weakness: they’re outfitted with a dual-core Pentium, which is only capable of juggling two threads at a time.

Conclusion

This latest PC is a highly affordable, and often extremely capable, Full HD gaming box. We could (almost) justify reasons to stuff in even beefier graphics. In most games, we have an adequate CPU, clocked at just 4.0GHz, but a graphics card which couldn’t max out our native resolution, or keep high details when outputting to three panels.

However, the specific games of interest will dictate where your funding is best spent. The G3258 is strong at Arma 3, StarCraft 2, or any CPU-demanding title which only hits one or two processor threads hard. But its weakness will be exposed in heavily thread-dependent games like Watchdogs or Crysis 3. I fired up the later, and found this mildly overclocked PC was best suited for medium details at 1920x1080. At high or very high, its dual-core processor started to choke at the lowest of resolutions. The safest bet is to grab a more potent processor right from the get go. But if funding is tight, then the Pentium may be just your ticket to native resolution, high detail gaming.

A final thought to consider is at what point will the next big game on your radar force an early upgrade to Core i5? It might not be too far off, as Far Cry 4, which launched a week after we ordered this machine, completely lacks official support for dual-threaded processors.

  • airplanegeek
    Why is the PSU fan facing up instead of down? Doesn't that affect the cooling of the PSU?
    Reply
  • sea monkey
    Upon submission of the form:

    The Sweepstakes opens on September 23, 2014 12 noon PDT and closes on October 6, 2014 12 noon PDT.

    Umm...
    Reply
  • pauldh
    Yes it would. And it is facing down, just hidden from sight in the photo. The PSU fan's venting holes are flush with (and actually a part of) it's shell.
    Reply
  • Zeh
    Just a hint: you SHOULD be using an air conditioner so you can have the same room temperature over the year.
    Preferably one with Inverter technology, which will decrease the temperature delta (it doesn't start-stop once it reaches a given temperature threshold).
    Reply
  • Onus
    Hmmm, I see some kudos for the VP-450 in here, being remarkably efficient despite not being 80+ (it is disqualified for 80+ for not having Active PFC).
    Since the purpose of these SBM machines is (imho) to learn things, I would have liked to have seen a different mobo used, for comparison.
    I appreciate the thoughtful approach to overclocking that was used here.
    The only niggle I can't resist is the $18 for the optical drive. For months, I've been seeing one or another of them for around $13-$14. That seems a small thing, but that $4-$5 plus the leftover may have bought either a better cooler or a faster HDD.
    Reply
  • sea monkey
    totally disappeared from site

    sight

    while monitor temperatures

    monitoring

    to be sure it could bee done

    be

    none the less

    nonetheless

    it’s R9 270X graphics card

    its

    Yet, both machines share a similar weakness, they’re outfitted with a dual-core Pentium capable of juggling only two threads at a time.

    comma splice

    outputting to 3-panels

    three panels
    Reply
  • codyleemanofaction
    Darn those moving prices! I was hoping to see the R9 280 make it!
    Reply
  • lesmore2222
    I agree with cody. I really wanted to see the difference a r9 280 would make as well. This was just too similar to the last build. Should have bought the r9 280 anyway and fibbed on the price a little. ;)
    Reply
  • ingtar33
    A final thought to consider is at what point will the next big game on your radar force an early upgrade to Core i5? It might not be too far off, as Far Cry 4, which launched a week after we ordered this machine, completely lacks official support for dual-threaded processors.

    same with the game of the year, Dragon Age Inquisition.

    I suspect it's time to drop dual cores as a build suggestion.
    Reply
  • BoredSysAdmin
    Great build. I would probably never built it exactly like the article (more ram, sdd - etc), but it provides great bones to build upon.
    Reply