NAG Online > Technology > System Builders Guide: August R4500 to R8500

System Builders Guide: August R4500 to R8500

Its August! We’re past the halfway mark for the end of the year,  NAGlings. rAge is only two months away as well and things are really getting heated up towards the end fo this year. It might be the most exciting time for enthusiasts to be keeping an eye open for new hardware and bargains. For this month however, we’re entertaining budget buyers again with cheap set-ups that will play most games you throw at it. These machines typically offer incredible bang for your buck and the low entry cost here makes the decision between one of these rigs and a new console more difficult. Onwards past the break!


Part of the problem we’re going to have this month is that two things are stagnating – memory prices and new things from all the companies in the industry. DDR3 and SSD prices are going to stay at the same level they currently are for some time until memory manufacturers make back some of the money they’ve lost because they flooded the market with too many cheap chips. Not only will this affect RAM and SSDs, but graphics cards as well, because GDDR5 is based on the same technology and silicon as DDR3. You may have noticed a slight jump in prices of low-end graphics cards and I expect AMD and Nvidia to counter this by using up their stock of GDDR5 chips on cheaper, newer models as time goes by.

As for new products altogether, we will mainly have the Haswell-based Core i3 family along with its Pentium and Celeron brethren. But Haswell isnt’ significantly faster than Ivy Bridge – in fact, it’s just a little hotter instead and consumes slightly more power. For the interim, Ivy and even Sandy Bridge are better choices if all you’ll be doing is gaming. Finding the latter will be difficult though, but Sandy Bridge Core i5 and i7 processors do overclock better. AMD still has nothing new for the AM3+ socket and although socket FM2+ and Kaveri are coming out later this year, they have nothing new to offer to fans this month. Maybe that’s a good thing, but it makes for a dull month when there’s nothing really new.

R4500 Budget: (720p and medium-to-high settings with 2x AA, 1080p and low settings with no AA)

AMD Trinity A10-5800K @ R1686

MSI FM2-A75MA-E35 @ R800

G.Skill Ares Blue DDR3-2133 8GB @ R899

Seagate Barracuda 500GB SATA HDD @ R651

ASUS DRW-24D3ST @ R190

Thermaltake V2S w/ 350W PSU @ R423

Cooler Master USB 3.0 Adapter @ R120

Total: R4769

Price increases all-round make things more harder than before. Budget users are stuck between a rock and a hard place – pay the premiums for better hardware, or limit your choices and try make the best of lesser-performing parts. This makes being an AMD fan particularly difficult because economies of scale allow Intel to charge lower prices locally to beat out the competition. But this comes at a cost that Intel can’t yet account for – a Core i3 dual-core will perform similarly to the A10-5800K, but it won’t have enough graphics horsepower to make it a viable option for cash-strapped gamers.

Our budget rig starts off with an unlocked AMD A10-series processor and a socket FM2 motherboard. We’re shoving in some super-fast dual-channel DDR3-2133 memory to feed the built-in graphics  properly. The rest of the rig is pretty standard with a 500GB hard drive, a run-of-the-mill DVD writer and a cheap chassis with a bundled PSU. Those are never spectacular, but for the job it’ll be doing it’ll work just fine. A front-panel USB 3.0 adapter rounds up the build so you won’t have to stretch all the way to the back for the USB 3.0 ports.

If one had to move to Intel, I’d recommend swapping out the motherboard and processor for the Intel Pentium G2030 and Gigabyte’s H61M-S1. Because there’s no front-panel USB 3.0 support on this board, we can drop the adapter and use the money saved to side in a Sapphire Radeon HD7730 1GB. In graphics-bound games this combination would be a little faster, but in multi-player matches and games like Skyrim which are CPU-bound and prefer more cores, the AMD solution will perform better. Keep the G.Skill memory and underclock it to the motherboard’s supported DDR3-1600 maximum frequency, using the extra headroom for tighter timings.

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

AMD Piledriver FX-6300 @ R1686

MSI AM3+ 970A-G46 @ R943

Sapphire Radeon HD7790 1GB OC @ R1633 (Inno3D Geforce GTX650 Ti 1GB @ R1691)

G.Skill Ares Blue DDR3-2133 8GB @ R899

Seagate Barracuda 500GB SATA HDD @ R651

ASUS DRW-24D3ST @ R190

Corsair VS450 @ R422

Cooler Master Elite 311 @ R398

Total: R6822

Price increases once again force us to go over budget to preserve the performance we had in our previous Builder’s guide at this same price point. However, we have moved up to a six-core FX-6300, which should provide a nice boost in productivity apps and overall performance compared to the FX-4130 we had in here last time. Compared to the Core i3 Intel chips in the same price range, the performance on offer here is much higher than what a dual-core quad-threaded chip can achieve.

For the first time, we also have parity in the mid-range between the Geforce GTX650 Ti and the Radeon HD7790. Both cards perform similarly, consume similar amounts of power, have similar hardware capabilities and both are well-suited for gaming at 1080p. The only differences here are that the Geforce offers accelerated Physx and CUDA capability, whereas the Radeon promises better OpenCL performance for a wider range of applications and will fare better with options like TressFX enabled in Tomb Raider, as well as Global Illumination in most games. Pick your poison and move on.

The rest of the rig is still pretty basic. We’re still dealing with budget constraints here, so wherever there is space for stripping away things that aren’t necessary, its used. Hardware upgrades will be limited thanks to the power supply, but the rest of the build is solid. The Intel alternative would be to use a Intel Core i3-3240 and ASUS P8B75-M LE. That brings us under budget and also requires the Cooler Master USB 3.0 Adapter for front-panel USB 3.0 ports.

R8500 Budget: (1080p on High details and 4x AA, 2560 x 1440 with low to medium details and no AA)

Intel Core i5 3470 @ R2246

MSI Z77A-G43 @ R1125

G.Skill Ares Blue DDR3-2133 8GB @ R899

PowerColor Radeon HD7870 GHz Edition @ R2399

Seagate Barracuda 500GB SATA HDD @ R651

ASUS DRW-24D3ST @ R190

Corsair VS550 550W @ R562

Corsair Carbide 200R @ R586

Total: R8658

In our last episode of the guide, I had a Haswell system here. It wasn’t a very good build because not only were Haswell chips themselves more expensive, I was also limited by the rather crappy (by comparison) H85 chipset. This time round, I switched back to Ivy Bridge. Not only do we have a better motherboard in the form of the Z77-based MSi Z77A-G43, we also have some overclocking ability with the Core i5-3470, something that Haswell doesn’t offer.

The rig is also complemented with the return of PowerColor, dropping prices heavily on the GHz Edition Radeon HD7870. Its more powerful than the similarly-priced Geforce GTX650 Ti Boost cards floating around and its even a better deal than most HD7850s as well. And lets not forget the other reason why AMD is popular with cash-strapped buyers right now – a free games bundle consisting of Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3 and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. That’s value that Nvidia can’t match right now.

An AMD alternative would be to swap out the board and processor for the AMD FX-8320 and the ASUS M5A97 Evo R2.0. That’s a potent combination not just for gaming, but also for productivity, since there are an extra four threads available that the Core i5 won’t be able to address. That makes the FX-8320 ideal for multi-threaded work and use with virtual machines and video transcoding. Having more cores is also essential for making FRAPS recording more seamless, as more and more gamers are joining others broadcasting their gameplay on Twitch or Youtube.

That’s all for this month, everyone! Tune in next week for a look at the mid-range segment, where price hikes are hitting enthusiasts especially hard. Don’t miss it!

Discuss this in the forums: Linky

  • CakeSlice

    Is it just me, or is that HD 7870 GHz insanely cheap? The equivalent on newegg is $235 = R2320, which excludes import costs AND the FOUR games! Maybe I’m confused?

    • Wesley Fick

      The cards on Newegg still qualify for the Never Settle Reloaded bundle. The PowerColor is so cheap because its imported directly from Taiwan by Esquire and Wootware. No working with the Dollar exchange rate, and the cards perform just as well as any other Radeon out there.

      And yes, its insanely cheap. Its practically a steal at that price.

  • Alex Rowley

    HHmm looking at these specs and the pricing I wonder how well these PCs will do against the next gen consoles. I’m pretty sure they will require an upgrade at least for the GPU in like 2 years which has always been the case but we shall see I suppose.

    • Wesley Fick

      The R6.5k rig would definitely fare just as well as those consoles because its essentially the same hardware (including the fact that both console’s GPUs are based on the HD7790). Gaming rigs these days are expected to deliver acceptable performance for at least 2-3 years, so that’s what I was aiming for here.

      • Alex Rowley

        well what I’m wondering is how long will these consoles last? Even though I spent round about R70000 on the PS3 when it came out I consider it a good buy because the thing lasted nearly 8 years (The Last of Us killed it off with YLOD). When the PS3 came out it was better than a lot of PCs at the time but now there are graphic cards that are quite a bit powerful than the PS4 but also cost almost as much as the console does. Does this mean the console cycle will be shorter than the current one? I hope not but I think it will be if the PC hardware keeps outpacing the consoles.

        I always count a consoles lifespan as a thing consoles have over a PC since it will never need to be upgraded and the games will always work on it. No worrying about system specs.

  • Jonathan King

    Nice guide, um what would you recommend for a 15K build?

    • Wesley Fick

      I covered that price point in a previous SBG. My recommendation doesn’t change much from the Haswell + HD7970 rig that I had there, so that’s what I’d be looking at. I’ll be releasing an updated version of those price points next week Tuesday.

      • Jonathan King

        Thank you!

  • Callum Grey

    Well done on all the guides. keep it up! I have a question, what would you recommend for a mini ITX gaming build in the R6500 price bracket??

    • Wesley Fick

      You’re pretty limited in choices there. I’d probably start with the Cooler Master Elite 120 (R522) and the Be Quiet SFX 350W PSU (R598). Then you add in the MSI B75IA-E33 (R859), the Core i5-3330 (R2157), 8GB of Transcend DDR3-1333 (R802), a 1TB hard drive (R784) and finally either a Radeon HD7790 or a Geforce GTX650 Ti. That brings you to about R6500, give or take.

      Fitting in an AMD processor in the same space will be difficult as there aren’t very many ITX socket AM3+ motherboards out there. The only option in that case is an APU, which wouldn’t be as powerful as the Core i5. There aren’t many ITX Haswell boards available either, so Ivy Bridge is your best bet.



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