Part of the problem in my high-end builds is that I’ve had too much choice and too many variables to make lists of what’s arguably the best setup for any gamer. At this point I know I’m looking like an Intel fanboy because of my recommendations, but that’s honestly down to AMD’s lackluster performance until recently. In my next season of the desktop builds you can expect a good mix-up of component choices, given that the recently launched FX-8350 offers compelling performance for those buyers in the Core i5 range – enough performance, one might say, to persuade those who were thinking about a Core i7-3770K to the red camp instead. But that’s in December – lets look at the final episode of the guide this month! Got money to burn, do you?
R13,000 Budget: (Any title with highest settings at 1080p and 4x AA, 2560 x 1440 at high settings and 2x AA, Eyefinity/Surround/3D capable)
With a little bit of excess over the allocated budget, I believe we have a much better value rig this month than the last. Sure, with the increase in the Dollar pricing for local products there have been quite a few price jumps, in particular with the Core i7-3770K jumping up by almost R200 to command en extremely high price premium. That, coupled now with the R1100 price difference between this chip and the Core i5-3570K means that a lot of gamers and enthusiasts will rather take the latter option, opting to splurge the extra money on a larger SSD or a better graphics card.
In that case, your two options would be to bump the SSD up to the OCZ Vertex 4 256GB or put in some more graphics muscle in the form of the ASUS HD7970 DirectCU II 3GB. Sure, its not the TOP edition in the same family, but coupled with a BIOS update and the latest Catalyst 12.11 drivers, you land up with performance generally better than the competing GTX680 in most games out there – particularly Battlefield 3, which was previously my primary reason for recommending the Nvidia cards over AMD. And since I knew a bunch of future titles will use the new Frostbyte 2.0 engine, it looked like a better option at the time. With Catalyst 12.11, AMD’s cards take the lead and offer better performance and better value, with the HD7950/HD7970 qualifying for three free games, two of which are still on a release schedule and 20% off Medal of Honour: Warfighter.
In future, the choice of going with the Core i5-3570K will give cause for buyers to stop and ponder because that’s the same range where AMD’s FX-8350 will be competing for top honours. Eight integer cores, superior multi-threaded performance and an unlocked multiplier may persuade buyers back to the AMD camp, using the savings to beef up the rig even further in other areas.
R18,000 Budget: (Any title with highest settings at 1080p and 4x AA, 2560 x 1440 at high settings and 2x AA, Eyefinity/Surround/3D capable)
So, there’s what you should be doing if you have R18,000 to spend. Generally one should be looking at running dual graphics cards to overpower the high-priced single-core options like the HD7970 GHz editions and Nvidia’s GTX680. With this kind of kit, you can expect performance levels to be somewhere around what a GTX690 can deliver. Overclocking the Core i5 3570K to stratosperic levels of at least 4.5GHz would also give the rig a welcome boost for games that tax the processor.
The rig would also be significantly faster than the R18,000 one I posted up in August, though that one was cheaper overall. However, given the issues the bandwidth-starved GTX660 Ti faces, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone simply canned them for a single card with better throughput, considering that you’d be running something like triple monitors with a beast of this nature and the 192-bit bus of the GTX660 Ti wouldn’t be able to keep up with such a high resolution.
There’s also the chassis to consider and I’ve always recommended NZXT’s Phantom in this price bracket. Well that’s no more, as the full-tower Silverstone Raven is locally available and fits in a lot more stuff with better cooling to boot. The motherboard is rotated clockwise by 90° and the chassis uses the same kind of fans used for server chassis. Because of the design’s nod to heat convection, hot air is pushed from the bottom from the chassis to the top instead of front to back. A high-end rig deserved an equally high-end chassis.
That’s all for this month folks! Next month we’re back to notebooks and more mobile options and with Windows 8 and AMD’s Trinity APUs cutting up the landscape, there’s going to be a lot of options to choose from and a good deal of confusion for those of you who don’t yet know what they’re looking for. Have no fear, for my guide will take you through it.