Is This Our Best $500 Gamer Ever?
With a number of new benchmarks added to our suite, we have to skip the full performance comparison this quarter. Fortunately, our two platforms and their Sandy Bridge-based Pentium processors are separated by a scant 100 MHz. So, the most important data to look at comes from our games.
We'll start by summarizing average frame rates in the two titles we used last quarter and today, Battlefield 3 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, using the older stock $500 system as a baseline.
When we average all four resolutions, and include mid-range and high-end detail settings, we end up letting a number of bottlenecks affect our results. It's pretty amazing, then, that we see a 12% frame rate boost favoring our current PC, even besting last quarter's overclocked setup. Even more impressive is when we start tuning the Radeon HD 7850.
Now let's factor out the CPU-limited low-resolution tests and focus purely on the settings we'd actually use for gaming.
Just look at that beat-down! It’s pretty obvious why AMD's Radeon HD 7850 is our new favorite in the sub-$200 graphics card category.
It's a shame that we're only comparing two games. But when we look to the past, Battlefield 3 historically favored Nvidia's hardware. It appears safe to say that the Radeon HD 7850 and Catalyst 12.10 driver package, together, generate more bang from our $170 graphics budget than any card before.
Intel’s Pentium G800-series processor repeatedly prove themselves as capable foundations on which to build a gaming machine. There's a reason that, month after month, they secure the first recommendation in Don Woligrowski’s Best Gaming CPU For The Money column. But what we like most about the Pentium G850 is its $70 price tag. That allowed us to free up additional funds for a higher-end platform, more system memory, and the stellar Radeon HD 7850. Of course, prices change on a daily basis, and we're amused to see the Pentium G860 selling for even less just before publication.
We're disappointed that AMD's Athlon X4 750K is still unavailable here in the U.S. But we're thrilled to present an improved gaming PC based on Intel's Pentium family. This rig sets a new baseline for performance at our $500 price point. There's certainly room for improvement in productivity and content creation apps, but we at least have a good understanding of what we'd give up in the future if a pricier CPU draws budget away from a great graphics card.