Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of the System Builders Guide. We’re in the mid-range segment this week and as NAG’s previous surveys have shown, this is where most of the magazine’s readership spending power is concentrated. This also where the sweet-spot is – our R13,000 budget is the de facto standard for gaming rigs and if you’re looking for value for money, this guide will help you get all that and more. Follow me after the jump.
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)
April seems to be a terrible month for system builders because everything is suddenly more expensive. There are increases for just about everything here including the motherboard, the processor, the RAM (which is now double-priced, believe it or not) and the graphics card.
I had to done things down in a few areas. We’re no longer sitting pretty with 16GB of RAM, we’re down to eight. The PSU I had previously chosen, Corsair’s GS600, has bumped up in price by about R100 and I eventually settled for the much more attractive Be Quiet! Power L8 630W unit. It packs in everything you’d expect from a quality PSU – modular cables, 80 Plus Bronze certification and a solid three-year warranty.
On the Intel side of things, you could swap out the board and processor for the Core i5-3470 and the MSI Z77A-G45. You’re saving about R400 but you’re limited in terms of oveclocking, even though you could set the quad-core to boost straight up to 3.8GHz on all cores if you wanted to – just pack in a better cooling solution, courtesy of Cooler Master with the Hyper 212 Evo. Even though the stock cooler works well enough, overclocking an Ivy Bridge processor produces a lot of excess heat.
The stock cooling on the FX-8320 works just as well, but I’m not focusing too heavily on it’s overclocking prowess too much here – it’s included because of the extra four physical cores which could help accelerate any multi-threaded workloads you might have.
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)
The cookie-cutter Intel build returns and it’s also a victim of higher prices, although luckily some compromises resulted in going under budget for the first time in a while. The combination of the Core i5-3570K and a decent Z77-based motherboard is the de factor gaming standard and there’s enough performance here to last you a long time, possibly even up to the launch of the Broadwell successor. Even on the stock cooler, it’s quite easy to see clock speeds just over 4GHz with no voltage changes and reasonable temperatures. For the enthusiast, the K-series offers a lot of value for money.
On the graphics side of things, we have the PowerColor HD7970. Its AMD’s second-fastest GPU available to consumers and the custom dual-fan cooler helps keep things quiet and keeps temperatures in control. The bonus of three free games in the package just makes it all the sweeter: Crysis 3, Tomb Raider and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon all look fantastic and if nothing else, selling them off if you don’t need them puts more money back in your pocket. Win-win!
The drop in the SSD is a lamentable one. Before the price of flash chips for both RAM and GPUs went up, we had a OCZ Vector 128GB in here and if it was in stock, it would have made it in, no problem.But it’s not a train smash, since Intel’s offering plugs in the gap nicely and they are ridiculously predictable drives. The bonus of excellent software support tools like the Intel SSD Toolbox makes me feel less bad about it.
In a month’s time, this recommendation could once again include a Nvidia Geforce card as an alternative or a inclusion in the list. With Metro: Last Light being bundled with Geforce 600-series cards starting in May, it could swing some of the value-seekers to the Nvidia camp if they were already looking for a copy of Last Light. For AMD fans, the AMD FX-8320 and the ASUS M5A99X EVO would fit into the budget, although the FX-8350 is not out of the picture because of price increases.
R15,500 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)
A slight budget increase was necessary in light of the fact that many things saw an increase in price. Luckily though, it’s all mostly stayed the same build as it appeared in February’s guide. I jumped to LGA2011 because it’s a necessary evil considering that it will have an upgrade path in the form of the Ivy Bridge-E family launching later this year with Haswell. A couple of my usual picks for the board were out of stock across the country so I turned to an old friend – Intel’s DX79TO. Its rather unusual to see a X79 board below R3000 that has all eight DIMM slots on-board, but there you go. If you use this as a workstation, you’re in for a treat once you stick 8GB modules into each slot.
In my last edition of the builder’s guide I also has a spectacular logic fail – I never added in a cooling solution for the processor. LGA2011 chips don’t ship with coolers because it’s part of Intel’s server family and fans are usually provided by OEMs. I did put in Cooler Master’s TPC 812 to keep things from getting toasty, although you can chop more than half that price off if you use Intel’s stock LGA2011 air cooler instead. Because it lacks an unlocked multiplier, it’s not like the Core i7-3820 will be overclocked too highly anyway.
And finally, once again I’m leaving the option of the chassis up to the reader. I like the Raider and the HAF XB equally and if I had enough money I’d probably buy both. You can shove an amazing amount of hardware into either one and for the price you’re paying, that flexibility and those good looks are worth it.
That’s all for this week guys! Next Tuesday we’re looking at insane budgets again and we’ll probably see a Crossfire or SLI pair somewhere in the mix. Tune in then if you like daydreaming.
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