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System Builder Marathon Q3 2014: Budget Gaming PC

Results: Far Cry 3 And Grid 2

Far Cry 3

Far Cry 3 is well-threaded, bringing many entry-level processors to their knees. It also happens to be the most graphically demanding title these machines need to face.

In the past, I found Ultra quality too intense for dual-core processors, whether I was talking about a highly overclocked Core 2 Duo or more recent Ivy Bridge-based Pentiums. Naturally, I was eager to fire up Far Cry 3 on this unlocked G3258 and a capable graphics card.

At high-quality settings without anti aliasing, both machines are CPU-limited at Full HD. Sporting four integer cores, the Athlon is stronger right out of the box. But of course, it benefits from higher Turbo Core frequencies also. The new machine does maintain slightly higher minimum frame rates at each resolution, and both configurations remain smooth though 1920x1080.

I had to overclock last quarter’s machine to stay above 30 FPS at 4800x900, while this quarter’s configuration doesn't drop below 33 in its stock form (and keeps its nose above 37 FPS once overclocked). Keep in mind that our benchmark is about as demanding as this game gets.

At Ultra quality, both stock configurations manage to stay above 30 FPS at 1280x720, though neither feels completely smooth. The new machine is held back by its 3.2 GHz dual-core processor, while last quarter’s Radeon R7 265 was already struggling to cope with the added stress of 4x MSAA.

Overclocked, our new PC survives nicely through 1600x900 with 4x MSAA. However, the minimum frame rate drops by about 10 when we jump to 1920x1080. It feels smooth at 1920x1080 only when we drop to Very High quality with 2x MSAA, averaging almost 40 FPS and keeping above 35.

Grid 2

In Grid 2, both machines breeze through 4800x900 at the system-bound High Quality preset.

As demands shift over to graphics hardware, the new PC distances itself from my prior effort and its Radeon R9 270 is potent enough to survive all the way through 4800x900. The machine even delivers higher sustained frame rates with 8x MSAA than last quarter’s PC at 2x.