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System Builder Marathon, Q3 2013: $350 Bonus Entry-Level PC

Results: F1 2012 And The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Last quarter’s $400 PC wasn’t built to be a workhorse. It was built to game, and to take up very little physical space. Outfitted with a dual-core processor, it had no chance to compete with a quad-core Trinity-based APU in threaded workloads. But now we are stepping into a different arena, one where the Pentium processor is far more comfortable. Here, all the Pentium needs to do is keep up with its low-profile Radeon HD 7750 graphics card.

On the other hand, the $350 PC was built for general use on a tight budget. While that scope includes far more casual gaming demands, we don't hold out much hope for the APU in our grueling SBM suite. The on-die Radeon HD 7660D has nowhere near the graphics muscle as the discrete Radeon HD 7750. A word of warning: this gets ugly, so we're starting with our two least-demanding titles.

F1 2012

This is at least a respectable start for our APU. The $350 PC is fully capable of handling F1 2012’s High graphics preset at lower resolutions (though gamers who want to run at a native 1920x1080 on larger panels will likely need to drop detail levels a bit). Last quarter's $400 PC was CPU-bound to around 60 FPS, but still able to maintain a minimum 40+ frames per second at all resolutions.

Subjected to the increased graphical demands of the Ultra quality preset, our APU’s on-die graphics chip has no chance of delivering smooth frame rates at any resolution. In contrast, last quarter’s discrete GPU survives all resolutions without cutting back on anti-aliasing. It did require overclocking to run smoothly at 1920x1080, though.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

As long as we stick to 1280x720 and disable anti-aliasing, AMD’s A10-5800K APU can handle The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim at the High detail preset. With a little GPU and memory tweaking, you may even be able to raise the resolution a bit. However, the $400 machine is far more capable. Even in stock form, the Pentium-based system delivers a minimum of 45 frames per second through the highest resolution tested.

At Ultra quality, our slim $400 PC came up a bit short last quarter, requiring a lowered 4x MSAA setting to maintain smoother framerates. Once again, AMD’s Trinity APU just isn’t equipped with enough graphics horsepower for maximum details.

  • slomo4sho
    Nice choice in parts (unlike their mid/high end counterparts, the low end MSI boards continue to disappoint. Maybe consider Biostar, ECS, or ASRock in future low end builds) . However, those wanting to cheat can pickup a 750K with 7770 within $20-30 of the price of the APU for overall improved gaming performance. It is interesting what $40-50 can accomplish in these low budget builds :)
    Reply
  • internetlad
    Have to admit, I like where this went. This is a little higher than a similarly priced build I was looking at for my brother in law about a year ago
    Reply
  • rolli59
    Well throw in a HD7750 (can be had for $50 after MIR) and it will keep up with the $400 system in gaming. Since MIR do not count reduce the ram to 2x2GB (Q2 $400build) to offset the cost.
    Reply
  • pauldh
    The promo is now back, so the A10-5800K was (for us) and is once again $110 from Newegg no rebates. We can't match that price too easy with HD7750/7770. Although as rolli said $50 after $30 mail-in rebate + a Pentium gets close (AR).


    EDIT: My mistake! Actually this is a different promo. A $20 gift card. When we chose this part, the savings instantly removed $20 from the shopping cart total.
    Reply
  • sicom
    So a $350 PC has better performance than an Xbox 360, and a $400 PC blows it clear out of the water. Cost of operating system not withstanding. I realize this console generation is nearly ancient history by now, but I still find that interesting, and perhaps because it's not ancient history yet.

    Note of reference: BF3 plays at 720p @ 30 FPS at about medium'ish settings on 360/PS3.
    Reply
  • pauldh
    11609414 said:
    Nice choice in parts. However, those wanting to cheat can pickup a 750K with 7770 within $20-30 of the price of the APU for overall improved gaming performance. It is interesting what $40-50 can accomplish in these low budget builds :)

    That must be a pretty big cheat. ;) But that pairing sure stymies the 6800K's appeal doesn't it.

    You are so right, $40-50 more does wonders. We could make a fun poor man's marathon out of exploring that alone.$400/450/500 gaming faceoff? :D
    Reply
  • aggroboy
    11609551 said:
    So a $350 PC has better performance than an Xbox 360, and a $400 PC blows it clear out of the water. Cost of operating system not withstanding. I realize this console generation is nearly ancient history by now, but I still find that interesting, and perhaps because it's not ancient history yet.

    Note of reference: BF3 plays at 720p @ 30 FPS at about medium'ish settings on 360/PS3.
    You're using 2012-2013 components to compare against a 2005 console.
    Reply
  • itzsnypah
    750K HD7750 4GB RAM and you have much better computer (overall and gaming) for the same price.

    750K vs A10-5800K (CPU wise)
    The same (except 750K no graphics to cool)

    7750 vs 7660D
    512 vs 384 shaders
    GDDR5 vs DDR3
    800Mhz vs 800Mhz

    Did you even consider this or did you go into this budget with your heart set on an APU?
    Reply
  • pauldh
    11609701 said:
    750K HD7750 4GB RAM and you have much better computer (overall and gaming) for the same price.

    750K vs A10-5800K (CPU wise)
    The same (except 750K no graphics to cool)

    7750 vs 7660D
    512 vs 384 shaders
    GDDR5 vs DDR3
    800Mhz vs 800Mhz

    Did you even consider this or did you go into this budget with your heart set on an APU?

    That's an easy answer. The math simply didn't (and still doesn't) add up.

    The cheapest 7750 was $85, the 750K was also $85. That's $170 when the 5800K was $110 with a promo code anyone buying one would have used to save instantly before checking out. The goal was $325 factoring that promotional instant savings.

    And as mentioned in the text on page one, a 4GB mem kit saved only $10, meaning 750K+7750 was still $50 over, which is huge on a $325 budget.

    Although, I knew before order time playing by the rules we'd call this a $350 PC. Hope that all makes sense.
    Reply
  • Memnarchon
    The current APU costs $130. And the memory costs $50. Total: $180.
    Now if you place an Athlon X4 750K 3,4Ghz for $80 or an Ivybridge Pentium G2120 3,1Ghz $70, using a HD 7770 for $90 and for memory 4GB (2 x 2GB) for $35 it will be total: Intel: $195 ($15 more) and AMD:$205 ($25 more).

    Now for $15/$25 you can have double or more performance on games. Why to go with an APU???

    edit: I actually read the article and didn't read all the comments.
    But even if you choose not to go with 7750, according to Tom's hierrarchy chart the 6670 (even the DDR3 version) is still two tiers faster. And I can't remember even prvious month the 6670DDR3 to cost more than $60 (maybe less with some AR) So a 750K or a G2120 (or a bit lower) will still offer better performance at almost same price (the pentium will be the same price) with 4GB RAM.
    Reply