Battlefield 4-ready PC in under $700: Maf's (Semi-)Budget Build
The new consoles are going to be based on existing technology from Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD). Their Piledriver-based processors and Graphics Core Next-based video cards have been around for a little while, and their prices have adjusted southward over time accordingly. With that in mind, the computer I will present to you will be AMD-powered.
- Small case. At only 16.4 inches tall, it's no handheld LAN party box, but as far as gaming computers go, this isn't big by any stretch of the imagination. How can this be a good thing? With Valve's Steam Box release, expect to see much more controller support for big games. Fit this in your living room next to the television stand and fire up Steam's Big Picture Mode.
- 1080p gaming with the HD 7790. This little monster of a GPU uses a slightly modified version of the GCN 2.0 architecture that powers the rest of the 7000 series and the next consoles. The results speak for themselves.
- Trusted brands in the hardware industry. You won't find any knockoff or cheaply-made products inside this machine. It's all the real deal.
- DirectX 11.2 with Windows 8. I know, I know, Windows 8 is the scourge of the devil, but it's the future, whether we like it or not. Previous iterations of Windows are being intentionally locked out of the newest graphical features, so 8 is the way to go from here on out. Besides, it boots faster.
- The price is right. A new Xbox One will run you $500, then $60 every year to play online, and you can't even use it for anything except what Microsoft says you can use it for. This isn't just a gaming machine, but it's your computer, too. A two-in-one wombo-combo-deal powerhouse for under $700. Factor in frequent and fantastic discounts on digitally-distributed games, and this is a long-term, low-cost investment. Additionally, there will be sales later in the year - namely, holiday sales - that will knock down the price of this or a comparable build considerably.
- Upgrade flexibility - AMD makes a point of backwards-compatibility in their processors, so the AM3+ socket used by the FX-6300 is sure to fit new processors later down the line. A respectably strong power supply also allows for graphics upgrades as requirements rise.
AMD FX-6300 @ 3.5 GHz - $120
This hex-core CPU isn't the most powerful thing on the market, but for its price, it does its job. The X1/PS4 both have a high number of cores, so it's best to be prepared for the multicore optimizations that are sure to come. For most games, the graphical processor (GPU) is more important than the CPU, so this is more than enough.
PowerColor AX7790 1 GB - $120 - $20 MIR = $100
This little guy is the centerpiece of this build. At an incredibly low $100, the HD 7790 can run Battlefield 3 at 1080p and ultra settings WITH antialiasing at an average of 53 frames per second. Check out the benchmarks here.
Corsair 8 GB DDR3 @ 1333 MHz - $70
There's not much to say about this one. It's RAM, it's 8 gigabytes, it runs at 1333 megahertz. You don't need any fancy heat spreaders or other whatsits that make it look pretty. If you don't plan on overclocking your RAM, this is literally all you need. It's the same amount as is in the X1 and the PS4, and it's what I've used for years. Note that the price for the time being is driven up because of a major manufacturing plant burning down.
Western Digital Blue 750 GB, 7200 RPM, 6.0 GB/s - $80
Pretty stock and solid stuff, here. It's not quite a terabyte, but unless you download a lot of HD pornography, it should be plenty. It has all of today's standard features of a relatively high-end traditional disk drive.
GIGABYTE GA-970A-UD3 - $110
Eight USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports in the back and Realtek audio along with a PCIe 2.0 x16 expansion card slot for maximum bandwidth for your graphics card makes this a pretty easy option to take at this price. Just don't try to overclock on it; budget boards can't always handle the voltage.
Thermaltake SMART Series, 650W, 80+ Bronze - $60
I've said it a hundred times and I'll say it some more: having a quality power supply with adequate voltage and wattage is essential for the health, safety, and normal operation of your computer. Thermaltake is, relatively speaking, new to the PSU market, but they've had enough time to work out the kinks. At 650 watts with 80%+ efficiency certification, this fits the bill. The CPU is rated for 95W and the GPU uses 250W under load, so there is a safe amount of headroom.
Cooler Master Hyper TX3 - $20 - $5 MIR = 15
Simple, time-tested. It's popular for a good reason: it works and it doesn't cost a lot.
DIYPC FM08-W - $23
Granted, this case squeezes in with a heavy discount, but it's a solid one. One can easily get by with a case that goes for $20 normal price, but why should you? This guy has front USB and audio ports and dust-filtered case fans for air flow (very important in small setups). Unanimous love in purchase reviews. Its small size for a mid tower case helps it fit into the living room hooked up to an Xbox controller for those who wish to use it that way.
Windows 8 Home 64-bit - OEM copy - $96
Check out that 2.5 stars user rating. It's no secret that Windows 8 isn't very popular, but moving forward, it's the platform that Microsoft will be updating DirectX (the suite of multimedia APIs that games run on) on.
- DVD R/W drive - $20 - growing less and less relevant these days, but you can grab one with your HD 7790's mail-in rebate.
- Hold out on Windows 8 - $91 - save a couple bucks now by getting Windows 7 instead while you wait for Microsoft to release a proper operating system.
Additionally, the price of RAM has been driven up dramatically lately due to a fire burning down a major manufacturer plant in China. Once normal operation resumes, expect to see the prices on memory lower back to sane levels. Even still, powerful computers are more affordable than ever. Take another look at the HD 7790's review to prove it if you need to, because it's the biggest indicator of how this machine will run: http://www.anandtech...top-sea-islands
I hope you found this writeup useful, informative, inspirational, and/or some other positive reaction. Thanks for reading.
-Mister Maf, resident BattleStrats hardware head