Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the final episode of the System Builder’s Guide for October. Its a special day today because Battlefield 4 is now out and available! Although we won’t get the game for a while yet locally (its a 1st November launch for us) it’s still one of the most anticipated games of this year and will surely accompany a flurry of upgrades and new systems being built to power the online wars that will be played out on the DICE servers. Its also a pretty demanding game in its own right and looks incredible, especially in the single-player campaign. So lets get down to the high-end builds where it’s all about the speed.
R19,000 Budget: (2560 x 1440p with Ultra details and 2x AA, 5760 x 1080p with Medium to High details and 2x AA)
With no reason to move up to the X79 platform just yet, in the R19k budget we’re sticking with the Haswell-based Core i7-4770K and a decent Z87 motherboard. The fact is that there’s no compelling reason to go any higher than this for gaming. If we could afford a Core i7-4930K then sure, but for most people it’s not going to be worth the effort unless they are doing things like recording with FRAPS, or video editing, or something else that needs a lot more oomph.
For the rest of the build we’re sticking to familiar parts – 8GB of DDR3-2133 memory (in red), a 240mm all-in-one watercooling setup and the MSI Z87-GD65. We’re pairing up the Gaming-series motherboard with the MSI R9 280X from the same Gaming series family to make the build match and fit in with a black and red theme. The build is a little over budget as a result, but it will look great when you show it off.
On the subject of the GPU, we’re sticking to the R9 280X which is a rebranded and slightly underclocked version of the Radeon HD7970 GHz Edition. Its really good value for money and prices for Nvidia GPUs have yet to drop locally to match it. Eventually we’ll see the GTX770 competing at the same level, but that will take weeks to settle down.
The rest of the build is only a minor upgrade from the last one at the R16,000 price point. There’s only a larger SSD and a slightly improved chassis. Nothing really exciting when you think about it, because all the action happens with the other hardware. Do we have alternative AMD builds? No, not yet. We won’t have a competitive answer from AMD for a while yet.
R23,000 Budget: (5760 x 1080p with High details and 8x AA, Ultra HD 4K with Medium details and 2x AA)
Moving up the budget you may be forgiven for thinking that I’ve made some mistake but there really is only one change to take note of here. Because there’s enough room for overclocking the processor and because many people still dislike dealing with lingering issues of driver support and scaling with SLI and Crossfire I’ve taken the liberty of instead upgrading to the biggest, single GPU behemoths available.
The Radeon R9 290X is a new card from AMD that smacks up the GTX780 and frequently calls the GTX Titan a ninny. Its an engineering marvel with a 512-bit bus, 4GB of memory as standard and power consumption that’s only a tiny bit higher than the competition. In return, the performance no offer is staggering and in most cases it’s the GPU cooler that holds it back. Its also priced quite competitively in the US and Europe, but here in SA things somehow get swapped around and it now competes directly with the GTX780 on price.
Make no mistake though, this is the better card if you want better performance. Should you prefer the quieter solution that also enables options like Physx and Nvidia-specific optimisations in games, then the GTX780 is your best pick. Nvidia also has a very good value package with Geforce experience and as a bonus has compatibility with Shield and free features such as Shadowplay and direct streaming to Twitch.tv without incurring any frame rate hits.
R30,000 Budget: (5760 x 1080p with Ultra details and 4x AA, Ultra HD 4K with High details and 2x AA)
The super high-end build returns with a slight twist to the story. I earlier reasoned that the X79 platform and a Core i7-4930K was only going to be of use to anyone who needs the power to do things like recording with FRAPS, or video and sound editing, because that’s where the twelve threads really come in handy. So for people who do that on a daily basis for a living or on a pro-gamer level, this is what you’d need.
Once again I have to nit-pick on the platform differences here, though. Its a pity that along with the Ivy Bridge-E family that Intel elected not to upgrade the X79 platform to bring it to parity with the desktop Z87 chipset. X79 is outdated today and it’s not as supremely flexible as before. But the use-case is there and it’s a very valid one for a lot of people.
Graphics-wise we’re remaining with the R9 290x and the GTX780. There’s little need to move onto a Titan, GTX690 or a HD7990 because they all have cons that exclude them from being considered for this budget, not least because they’re all too expensive. But should you want to dabble in multi-GPU configurations (along with the occasional grey hairs) there are some options to consider.
For the same price as a Radon R9 290X one could move to two Radeon R9 280X or HD7970 cards in Crossfire, or alternatively two Geforce GTX760 4GB cards in SLI. The latter option would not be VRAM limited but would suffer performance issues because it’s a weaker GPU. Two GTX770 4GB cards would be a better pick, but those are horribly priced at the moment. AMD is winning the price war locally for the most part.
In the rest of the build I’ve added in a slightly larger SSD and a more capable chassis to keep everything cool. This build isn’t as insane as some would expect from the price tag, instead turning into a rather sensible affair. Gamers have a lot of options to choose from these days and there’s something for everyone at every price point. And if the consoles enjoy moderate sales success over the November and December months, we may finally see a price drop on computer hardware as manufacturers move to stem the tide of next-generation consoles that offer similar visuals to what PC gamers currently enjoy for a lot less money.
That’s all for this month folks! Tune in when we return in December for a festive version of the guide with a few twists here and there. Its going to be an exciting end to the year!