So here we are with another System Builders guide and today we’re looking at rigs in the price range most people set aside for themselves to build a good computer that will play games for a long time to come. According to last year’s NAG survey the average spend of most readers on their rig is R13k, which we’ll actually have a look at today. Some price changes and new products have changed the value of these builds significantly, so if you’re interested, have a peek, if only to drool and day-dream!
R10,000 Budget: (1080p with High or Ultra details with 4x AA, 2560 x 1440p with Medium to High details and 2x AA, 5760 x 1080p with Low to Medium details and no AA)
Its a bit difficult extracting value from a limited budget when half the time retailers don’t stock the products you’re looking for. Most people would actually go for a Core i5 quad-core and a cheap Z77 board and be done with it because it’s so much easier to find. Even though AMD’s FX-8320 is great value for money, limited motherboard choices take most of the fun away when you’re scouting around for parts for your build. It took me a while to finally settle on everything here because although a Core i5-3450 and a Z77 board was easier to find, it seems everyone’s out of stock of Intel chips at the moment. Meh, third-world problems.
I made the switch to TEAM’s Vulcan RAM after stumbling upon it this weekend. Its stupidly good value and with DDR3 prices rising at the end of the month, it may be some time before we see something like this again. The heatsinks make your choice of air coolers a little harder, but I warrant that most buyers looking for an FX chip to heavily overclock also have an all-in-one water cooler, so it becomes a moot point. Thanks to Wootware’s PowerColor range, the HD7950 makes an appearance here and settles in comfortably, even if it is eating away a third of the budget.
Careful shopping was necessary when it came to the chassis. Corsair’s Carbide 200R is available from some retailers, but it is R60 dearer and doesn’t have the unique approach to component layout that the Outlaw does. Before I settled on the Bitfenix I was actually looking at a cheaper chassis with USB 2.0 on the front because I couldn’t find any AMD motherboards with front-panel USB 3.0 headers. Luckily it all worked out in the end. No SSD this time, I’m afraid, although if you have an extra grand lying around, use it for TEAM’s Xtreem S3 120GB model.
R13,000 Budget: (1080p with Ultra details with 4x AA, 2560 x 1440p with High to Ultra details and 2x AA, 5760 x 1080p with Medium to High details and 2 AA)
We’re back to the R13k price point and back to a cookie-cutter Intel build. For those of you who don’t know, the staple Intel build is a K-series Core i5, a Z77 board for around R1500 and 16GB of RAM. It amounts to around R5000 and fits in almost any budget with ease. The versatility of the Core i5-3570K and the fact that, once overclocked, it can take on any of its bigger brothers makes it a great choice for any gamer or enthusiast.
The HD7970 3GB makes space for itself here and it’s far better value at R4000 than the GTX670 or the GTX680. You don’t need to have the super-overclocked cards to get to 1GHz core and the fact that the card is part of AMD’s Never Settle bundle promotion makes it that much sweeter. Here in this build, it make an Eyefinity setup pretty playable although you’ll have to keep the AA levels down to avoid stuttering and running out of VRAM.
Finally, an SSD gets the nod with the 128GB Vector providing much-needed speed boosts compared to having your OS and games on a mechanical drive. Those of you who don’t care much for hard drives can dump it and make space for a 256GB SSD, like the Agility 4. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but we’re right on the edge of the point of diminishing returns – spend any more than what you see in this price point here and the performance gains aren’t worth the price you’re paying for them.
R15,000 Budget: (1080p with Ultra details with 4x AA, 2560 x 1440p with High to Ultra details and 2x AA, 5760 x 1080p with Medium to High details and 2x AA)
Total: R15, 513
With that said, there are some instances where spending more is a good idea. Case in point: a platform change to LGA 2011 for a R15k budget. My reason for this actually comes from a post on the NAG Forums by our very own Geometrix, who scored himself a neat upgrade from his aging Core 2 Quad and LGA775 board to a Core i7-975X processor and a Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 motherboard. For those of you still on LGA1366, the only incentive you’ve got to move to LGA1155 and Ivy Bridge or LGA2011 and Sandy Bridge-E is lower power consumption and temperatures. Aside from that, you’re still able to play any game and shove in any GPU for another two or so years without worrying about bottnecking – and this is a four year-old platform we’re talking about here. For the overclockers it makes more sense thanks to the unlocked multipliers, but for average Joe’s it not that straightforward.
And that’s why the rest of the build stays mostly the same, but there’s a dilemma I’ve left for you to solve. The Bitfenix Raider provides some of the best value and build quality I’ve seen in a while. It’s a regular mid-tower affair but it crams in so much stuff and it looks so neat without even trying. But then, perhaps you’d like to take your monster out with you to LANs and stuff like rAge and what better place to put it in than the Cooler Master HAF XB. You can even balance your screen on top of it to save on desk space! Both are great options and either one suits the build and its purposes just fine. Which one will be up to you.
That’s all for today guys. Next week we’re onto the third part of the guide, looking at options from R18,000 all the way to a staggering R25,000. Its anyone’s guess what kind of hardware you’ll be cramming into a budget like that.
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