Do We Miss the Trimmings?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Preferably one with Inverter technology, which will decrease the temperature delta (it doesn't start-stop once it reaches a given temperature threshold).
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.
same with the game of the year, Dragon Age Inquisition.
I suspect it's time to drop dual cores as a build suggestion.