CPU, Cooler, Motherboard And Graphics
Processor: Intel Core i3-4150
Time and again, we've seen Intel's Core i3 processors prove themselves in budget-oriented gaming builds. Although the fourth-gen Core i3-4150 cannot be overclocked, high per-clock performance and a respectable 3.5GHz operating frequency make this chip a worthy foundation on which to build an affordable PC. Its pair of Hyper-Threaded cores is capable of scheduling four threads at a time, putting it out in front of Intel's dual-core Pentium processors in our favorite AAA titles. However, priced $50 more, how well does it compete in terms of value with the unlocked Pentium G3258 we've used two quarters in a row?
CPU Cooler: Intel Retail Boxed Heat Sink & Fan
Once we drop under Intel’s Core i5 family, only the enthusiast-friendly Pentium G3258 includes a copper slug-endowed heat sink. Instead, the Core i3’s familiar-looking cooler consists of a low-profile aluminum orb-style sink, a PWM-controlled fan and a push-pin mounting bracket.
Motherboard: ASRock H81M-HDS
An entry-level H81 Express-based motherboard represents the starting point when setting out to build an LGA 1150–based platform. Although these boards lack in overall connectivity and features compared to pricier options, they’ll usually sport all of the basics, including SATA 6Gb/s, rear USB 3.0 ports and a pair of PCI Express slots. We also retain dual-channel DDR3-1600 compatibility, but only across two modules. Although H81 Express natively supports USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gb/s, connectivity is often limited.
ASRock's H81M-HDS wasn’t the least-expensive option at our disposal, but it stands out from the crowd by also offering front-panel USB 3.0 support. Its four-phase power design is modest, though slightly beefier than the three phases found on our previous build’s MSI H81M-P33.
Graphics Card: Sapphire Dual-X Radeon R9 280 3GB
The Sapphire Dual-X Radeon R9 280 sports a Tahiti GPU running at up to 940MHz and mated to 3GB of 1250MHz GDDR5 on an aggregate 384-bit memory bus. Like our previous R9 270X, it requires a pair of six-pin power connectors.