System Builder Marathon, Sept. 2010: $400 Gaming PC

Benchmark Results: DiRT 2 And S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of Pripyat

Recall last quarter when I asked “What good is a DirectX 11-capable card if it isn’t powerful enough to render the DX11 code path?”

While the Radeon HD 5770 in our June PC handled DX11 all the way up to 1080p, this $400 PC is limited to 1280x1024. However, forcing DX9 does allow smooth 1080p playback at these quality settings.

Remember the blow this $400 PC was dealt in 3DMark Vantage? Well, it happens again here in DiRT2 using Ultra quality 8x MSAA. Even stock, the June $550 PC manages decent framerates at 1080p. Meanwhile, the overclocked $400 PC handles 720p at best. Even in DirectX 9 mode, increasing the resolution beyond 1280x1024 requires lower levels of anti aliasing.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat gives us another look at DX11-based performance. The June PC handles 1080p quite well at the high preset, but I’ll argue the overclocked $400 PC is limited to 720p. While a 43.5 fps average at 1280x1024 may appear playable, the most demanding Sun Shafts test only yields 27.1 fps. At minimum I’d like to see 30 fps in Sun Shafts, typically signifying a 45-48 average score for the four tests.

While we won’t crowd these charts with various rendering code paths, the 48.5 fps average at 720p in DX11 using EFDL (Enhanced Full Dynamic Lighting) is roughly equal to 48.7 fps in DX10 EFDL, but jumps to 65.0 fps with EFDL under DX9. Whatever your preference for tweaking, it is clear that Radeon HD 5670 owners need to (further) reduce some settings if they want to increase resolution.

Increasing the visuals to Ultra details with 4x MSAA just about knocks performance in half. Based on previous results found at the bottom of this page, the game now runs about 8% faster in DX11 versus DX10.1. But even so, the June system would have benefited from a low 720p resolution. Similar to Crysis at Very High details, these settings are completely unreasonable for our $400 September budget box.

  • SpadeM
    Given the motherboard’s basic passive cooling measures, though, there was really no point in putting more time into lowering the CPU multiplier, pushing a high reference clock, and attempting to maximize northbridge and memory frequencies.

    +1 for making this statement, glad someone considered it at least. All in all decent build for the money.
  • AMW1011
    I'll be honest, I think a $450 budget is a little more reasonable than a $400 budget. At that price a 5750 or even a 5770 can be had, which would have worked fine with all of the other parts and likely would have matched the $550 June build.

    Even this $400 build packs a punch, you can get one HELL of a rig for the money any more. It really is insane, and that's not even considering the used or refurb market!

    Awesome article, probably one of my favorite SBM, atleast the best I've seen in a long time.
  • micr0be
    very nice build, interesting to see how much performance can be squeezed out of the budget. i was expecting worse results.
  • nevertell
    Conclusion ?

    150$ buys you a lot better gaming capabilities, and nothing else.
  • Gamer-girl
    It went $1 over-budget if we substituted in a GeForce 9800 GT.

    I doubt someone spending $400 can't afford to add an extra dollar. although i realize that the point in these articles is to stay under the budget, it would have been interesting to see the price/perforamce difference.
  • haplo602
    nice case, looks very good ... pity that rosewill does not have a downloadable manual for it ...
  • HibyPrime
    I'd be interested to know how much more overclocking headroom you could pull out of it if you left it at 3 cores - and would that net you more performance in most of the benchmarks?

    I'd bet if you could pull ~200 mhz more out of it, it would begin to match up with the missing core, and maybe start to pull away around 400mhz.
  • Proximon
    The Cooler Master Elite 460 is a falsely labeled piece of crap. You can find the review (with proper testing) here:

    You'll have to spend a little bit more there. Rosewill has a 430W (RG430 S12) unit or the Antec Neo 400W is almost the same price as the CM after a discount and rebate.
  • Proximon
    Clicked once but got a double post somehow.
  • What do the best price/performance we can have?