And we’re back boys and girls with another month focusing on desktops and their components. Following a hectic weekend at rAge spending some intimate time with AMD’s Trinity APU, I can confirm for the first time that they will be getting a spot somewhere in my guide in future. Playing Borderlands 2 in 720p with high settings on the A10-5600K together with the HD6670, it was really pushing enough performance for you to forget what kind of hardware is powering the game. For gamers on a budget, Trinity and FM2 will be a real treat. This month also marks the first time Intel’s Ivy Bridge will fill in the blanks in just about every single category, from the bottom-line Pentiums all the way up to the Core i7 family. So if you’ve got some money to burn this month, follow me to see how you can do!

R4000 Budget: (720p and high settings, 2x AA or 1080p medium settings, no AA)

Intel Pentium G630 @ R614 (AMD APU A6-3500 @ R704)

MSI PH61A-P35 (B3) @ R509 (ECS A75F-M2 @ R639)

TEAM Elite DDR3-1600 4GB @ R197

Sapphire HD7750 GHz Edition 1GB DDR5 @ R1159 (KFA² GTX550 Ti 1GB GDDR5 @ R1169)

OCZ Agility 3 60GB SSD @ R645

Western Digital Caviar Blue 250GB @ R591

LG GH24NS90 @ R169

Cooler Master GX 400W @ R507

Cooler Master Elite 311 @ R320

Total: R4711

I know, I’m just as astonished as you. A SSD in a budget gaming rig? No way! But there it is kids, as bright as day. With the recent price drops across the board that Intel’s Ivy Bridge has forced in the low-end, we’re now able to squeeze in a little bit of luxury for some extra speed. With a SSD, any apparent indication that you’re using a cheap rig goes right out the window.

With that said, however, some may ask what they could instead include if they didn’t want the SSD or already have one: good question! And the answer is thus: swap out the Pentium G630 for the Core i3-3220 thinly disguised as a Pentium G2120, squeeze in another set of RAM along with an upgrade to a 500GB Caviar Blue drive. Yeah, its not much of an improvement, is it? Keep the SSD, you’ll thank me later.

You might also notice the return of AMD alternatives mentioned here. While I do keep those going in the linked thread on the forums, with Trinity’s retail availaibility hitting stores later this month I decided now was the perfect time to show people what the red camp will offer. In two month’s time, this category may even belong to an APU with an unlocked multiplier! On that note, the HD7750 and the GTX550 Ti I’ve linked perform almost identically, so either one will do.

R6500 Budget: (720p and Ultra settings with 2x AA, 1080o and High to Ultra settings with no AA)

Intel Core i3-3220 Ivy Bridge @ R1289 (AMD FX-4100 @ R1141)

MSI H77MA-G43 @ R907 (MSI 970A-G46 @ R922)

TEAM Elite DDR3-1600 8GB @ R394

Sapphire HD7850 1GB DDR5 @ R2393

Western Digital Caviar Blue 500GB @ R650

LG GH24NS90 @ R169

Cooler Master GX 450W @ R584

Cooler Master Elite 311 @ R320

Total: R6706

Here I had a slight struggle with choosing components for the build. I initially decided to try squeeze in a 128GB SSD but that train derailed once I saw the HD7850 for under R2400. Right now, its an absolute bargain and definitely worth picking up if you weren’t sure what to buy. Easily besting the GTX560 Ti’s in the same price range, this card simply takes off once overclocked. The 1GB frame buffer might be a slight hassle, but only if you play games with high amounts of AA enabled. If that’s the case, the 2GB version would be better.

Looking elsewhere, Ivy Bridge has finally reached the Core i3 family, bringing better performance at lower power outputs along with a cheaper launch price than its predecessor. Coupled with that, MSI’s H77 board finally fell into the same price range as the popular B75 chipset, a board that strips down H77 to fit into both a business environment and a lower price point. The rotated SATA ports, Gigabit LAN and PCI-Express 3.0 round up a very feature-complete offering.

On the AMD camp, the FX-4100 struggled enough with the Sandy Bridge Core i3 chips and now has to contend with the Ivy Bridge usurper. Clocked at 3.6GHz by default, it should actually draw alongside the chip with near-identical performances in GPU-bound games. In CPU-bound titles, the Core i3 shoudl maintain at most a 15% performance lead, all things considered. Then again, with a HD7850 at the helm, very few games will feel slow at all.

That’s it for today kids, clock in next week Tuesday for my return to regular articles in this series. We’ll be stretching wallets from R8500 to R11,000 and we’ll be seeing some interesting hardware combinations there!

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