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System Builder Marathon: $1,250 Enthusiast PC

Game Benchmarks: First-Person Shooters

After you have waited so patiently for the game benchmarks, let’s spoil it by starting out with the toughest game in the test suite: Crysis!

First, let’s examine Crysis performance with no anti-aliasing (AA) applied.

Wow. There’s a CPU bottleneck happening at lower resolutions, but as the resolution reaches 1920x1200, that bottleneck is completely erased and the game becomes totally video card dependent—not great news for our system seeing as how our video card overclock was virtually non-existent. While the overclocking results aren’t particularly encouraging, do take note that this system is playing Crysis at maximum detail, 1920x1200 resolution, and getting a 37 frames-per-second (FPS) on average. Not too shabby for a $1,200 system—six months ago, a $1,250 system would be crawling at under 20 FPS at this detail level. Yet, it’s playable on this machine.

Not satisfied with punishing the $1,250 enthusiast system, let’s turn on 4x AA and see what happens:

It’s a testament to the Radeon HD 4870 X2 that the scores have hardly budged. Even 1920x1200 is averaging over 30 FPS, which is on the border of playability, but it’s still fantastic that it’s handling Crysis like this.

Now that we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing our $1,250 gaming system can go the distance, let’s make things a lot easier with Unreal Tournament 3.

With no AA, the $1,250 system runs this game like a hot knife through butter, but we can clearly see the bottleneck shift over to the video card when the CPU is overclocked to 4.25 GHz. It’s only academic really, because all resolutions are quite playable. Let’s see if the trend continues when 4x AA and 8x anisotropic filtering (AF) are applied:

Here we see the maximum gaming return for our overclocking effort. With 4xAA and 8xAF, the bottleneck once again shifts from the CPU to the Radeon 4870, which can handle it just fine. At 1920x1200, the overclock doubles the average frame rate from 40 FPS to 80 FPS!

With first person shooters out of the way, let’s have a look at real-time strategy games, shall we?

    yea for that kind of money i would definatly be buying a entry lvl core i7 920 setup with ddr3 1333, 3gb memory. for gaming, maybe go with a 4870, but in my opinion a geforce 260 or 280 would be better, because it's powerfull with games and you can use CUDA. cuda is really taking off tmperg has a video encoding software withat uses the graphics card, and it gives you a +400% to rendering video and such. such as bluray- and DVD encoding
  • theblade
    Nice build, good performer for the price, looking forward for the next article.
    It would be great to see an article in which several options of cooling would be compared to see which one gives a better overclock using the 8500 or 8600, including air and water cooling, this chips are awesome to do some OC.
  • craig hallworth
    I'd be interested to see the GTX 260 (216) in SLI on the mid range build as the price for two is a bit more but still comparable with the 4870x2 and, from what I've read, should be more powerful than the radeon card.

    I don't know that you can consider the i7 a mid range platform when you have to spend ~350-400 bucks on the montherboard alone. I'd certainly use the i7 for the high end build though.

    Thank you for your efforts.
  • gallesol
    There are some of us who who receive a great deal of disconfort thinking of Intel as the only microprocessor manufacturer around. If for no other reason than to maintain some competition in this critical industry, please include an AMD based system.
  • marraco
    It look like you never waited crysis to load.

    ... and the power is far overkilling. It could be saved money on it
  • Rifte
    Would of liked to see a direct comparison to the $625 build in all but the gaming benches. Is the more expensive mobo, ram, cpu combo worth it?
    Put the 4850 in the $1250 system then do some game benches or put the 4870x2 in the $625 system.
  • derek_c
    I would definitely like to see a Core i7 configuration next time.
  • Rifte
    $276 vs $467 for a 5-8% increase in performance?

    direct comparison

    $1250 $625 %dif
    Itunes 00:49 00:52 +6.1%
    lame 01:30 01:36 +6.6%
    TMPGE 04:46 05:04 +6.2%
    Xvid 02:26 02:52 +17.8%
    Mainconcept 03:04 03:17 +7.1%
    Photoshop 01:12 01:15 +4.2%
    3d Studio 00:45 00:49 +8.8%
    Average +8.1%
    Price diff for cpu,ram,mobo +69%
  • 3lvis
    For the next build I would like to see an i7 920, a gigabyte extreme x58 board, 6GB of Gskill DDR3 1333 PC 10666 with cas 7, a pair of 4870x2's water cooled and 2,3,and 4 64GB Gskill SSD's in raid 0. As the price of SSD's comes down, my interest in how a bunch of them in Raid 0 perform goes up(inversely proportionally).
  • radguy
    I think I would have picked up a cheaper p45 board and used the extra cash to pick up a couple of fans to help with the cooling issues. Otherwise pretty nice gaming build. I don't know if Enthusiast is the name I would use with 530 bucks going to graphics but thats me. Appreciate the info. Nice to kinda be able to compare the E2180 E5200 E8500 and Q6600 all at stock and oc'ed. Core i7 would be nice to add to the list as well as phenom in your upcoming builds.