Hello buys and girls, welcome back to the System Builders guide. We have a lot of changes happening in the high-end space, but the low-end product ranges stay the same for the most part. However, I’m swapping up a few things here and there and changing my recommendations. The Dollar-Rand exchange rate changes weekly now and it’s never a sure thing about when’s the best time to buy your system – but I say that the best time is now.
So, the past few weeks have been very interesting. Not only do we have Intel’s Haswell processor family that was recently launched, we also had the new Richland processors from AMD and the Geforce 700 series family from Nvidia. There’s a lot that was also announced at Computex and I suspect that while this doesn’t have much of a bearing on the guide now, in a few week’s time a lot of things will change.
Change? Well, I’ve just received word from two of my sources who both say that prices for SSD NAND chips are going up by 10% on average at the end of this month. That means that you may be paying anywhere from R150 to R250 more for your SSD in the future. Coupled with the price hikes we’ve had recently and our volatile exchange rate with the American Dollar, we’ve hit a particularly tough spot. I expect that we’ll see some price-gouging from distributors with the Geforce GTX780 cards and the new Intel Haswell chips and compatible motherboards as retailers attempt to drop prices on Ivy Bridge products to clear out stock.
In addition, I’m seeing some worrying behaviour from AMD products lately. Socket FM2 boards and the APUs are generally available now, but four, six and eight-core processors are available in limited quantities today and a lot of AMD’s high-end Radeon HD7970 and HD7950 cards are showing as out of stock or “contact for availability” with some online retailers. I hope that this is only a temporary hiccup, but if we’re seeing constrained supply as a result of AMD shifting attention to specific markets to combat Haswell and the Geforce 700 series then that means that smaller markets like ours will be left with less choice.
Doom and gloom over, it’s time for the builds!
R4500 Budget: (720p and medium-to-high settings with 2x AA, 1080p and low settings with no AA)
Some compromises needed to be made as the price for computer hardware increases as a result of our fluctuating exchange rate value with the US Dollar. In spite of that, we have a good general increase above the system we had here last month, which used an Intel Celeron processor and the Radeon HD6670. While it would be fine for most games, it wouldn’t be a very powerful system and would almost definitely stutter when asked to run CPU-intensive games.
With more boards and better memory available for the AMD FM2 platform, we can finally move the baseline recommendation to one of the company’s APU chips. This includes a quad-core processor with an unlocked multiplier and a built-in GPU that would be somewhere in between the HD6570 and the HD6670 in terms of performance. There’s no need for discrete graphics to be able to play games in this system, which makes it an ideal buy for budget-conscious buyers and first-time PC owners.
Sticking with AMD has some merit, as the price of the FX-4130 allows us to stay very close to our budget and retain our quad-core advantage over Intel’s hyper-threaded Core i3 processors. While the FX-4130 is based on Bulldozer and not Piledriver, it is cheaper than the FX-4300 right now and it doesn’t use that much power to boot, thanks to mature production processes and better power management. With the larger budget we upgraded the motherboard as well but stick with the same memory, as we can now use the G.Skill kit at its full rated speed.
Our previous episode of the System Builders guide at this same price point was also published before AMD launched the HD7790. Part of the Bonaire family, the HD7790 is the same graphics chip that appears in the Sony PS4 and the Xbox One, and sits between the two in terms of performance. It usurps the HD7770 as the best and cheapest mainstream GPU on the market and will run most games at their highest settings at 1080p. Its quite a jump up in terms of power and it’s the equivalent of the HD6870 and in some cases the HD7850 1GB.
Elsewhere, we move to a slightly larger chassis and this is also made easier with the 3.5-inch USB 3.0 adapter. Now that the standard is picking up some serious pace, we can opt for a better chassis with USB 2.0 ports because the adapter solves our current issue with few cases supporting the 3.0 standard. Corsair’s VS450 also supplies more than enough juice for this rig and also opens up some overclocking headroom as well.
The equivalent Intel rig swaps out the motherboard and processor for the Intel Core i3-3225 and the MSI B75A-G33. With everything else equal the systems will run games in mostly the same fashion, although once again games that prefer four physical cores will run better when in heavy firefights on the FX-4130 thanthe Hyper-threaded Intel chip.
R8500 Budget: (1080p on High details and 4x AA, 2560 x 1440 with low to medium details and no AA)
For this price point things change a lot, accommodating our first Haswell-based build. Ordinarily the AMD FX-6300 sits in this spot and slips in a faster graphics card, but due to stock issues with the FX chips and the PowerColor HD7850 I usually recommend, I decided to slot in the Geforce GTX650 Ti Boost. Its faster than the HD7850 and consumes less power, which is always a bonus. However, the card does not come with any games bundle and if that appeals to you more, I’d swap in the ASUS HD7850 instead.
But let’s focus on Haswell for a minute. Here we have the Core i5-4570 that boosts up to 3.6GHz and a Gigabyte board with the LGA1150 socket and the new P85 chipset. Obviously, there’s no overclocking action going on here and there’s little leeway for any tweaking. You’re left to memory profiles and overclocking the GPU for more performance and for most people that would actually be fine. The Core i5-4570 consumes more power, produces more heat and is faster than the i5-3570, but it is on a new socket with an expected two-year life, so there’s still an upgrade path if you’re interested.
An equivalent AMD build, however, solves all of those issues. Chuck out the motherboard and processor and throw in the FX-8320 and the ASUS M5A97 R2.0. That combination would perform on par or better in most games and when it comes to multi-threaded applications and photo or video editing, the extra four cores in the FX-8320 help it streak past the Core i5-4570.
That’s all for this week guys and girls. Tune in next time for the next episode in the guide, moving between R10,000 the R15,500 price points!