With a new console generation upon us and all the major hardware companies announcing their latest ranges, many PC gamers and enthusiasts alike will be considering upgrading their system to keep on top of the hill when it comes to computer tech. Depending on your price range there are plenty of options in all component departments, so with that being said I have decided to construct a list of recommendations for those with a budget but still want a powerful system. Once that is done I shall also begin work on a list for the ‘money no object’ enthusiast who wants a system with enough computing power to launch their own space program.
The heart of your system should generally be as powerful as you can afford. AMD and Intel are the two companies fighting for your purchase in the processing department and both offer a wide range to choose from. AMD seen to offer the more value for money options whilst also supplying a higher core count for multitasking. Intel meanwhile are more expensive but offer more power efficient CPU’s whilst still being as powerful as an AMD system for single tasks through their use of advanced threading.
Clock Speed- 4.0 GHz
AMD’s current mid price processor is actually quite a bargain. Based on AMD’s 8 core bulldozer architecture the FX8350 is one of the only octo core processors in production providing plenty of multitasking potential with each core running at 4.0GHz with the potential to overclock up to 4.2GHz. Most benchmarking systems run their statistics on a core to core basis meaning that in terms of outright power the FX8350 comes off second best when compared to the equivalent Intel CPU. Whilst it may not be on par with Intel’s offerings in singular computing power that the benchmarks test for, it is the multitasking department where AMD’s processors shine through utilizing its higher core count to push it ahead in this department.
The main downside to the amount of cores here is the amount of power required to run them, with a power requirement of 125 watts it comes of as more power hungry then the more efficient Haswell processors provided by Intel. Another problem that has been reported by a few people was the need for an aftermarket cooling system as the stock heat-sink and cooler struggles under intense load. A new Cooler is a must if you intend to overclock the CPU, but that goes without saying for any processor that has been overclocked.
Socket- Ivy Bridge
Clock Speed- 3.40GHz
When it comes to Intel’s mid range offering, many gamers swear by Intel’s 3rd generation i5 3750k. Now we have the 4th generation equivalent, utilizing Intel’s Haswell architecture resulting in greater power efficiency whilst still increasing the processing capabilities of the cores. The i5 series only offers a quad-core set up but does make the most of them by producing a more focused single task experience through multi-threading, this being the main reason many gamers chose it.
As always the main downside with an Intel processor is the price, when compared to AMD’s offerings Intel’s systems seem to charge a premium. If you want an Intel processor many would suggest buying the 3rd generation i5 I mentioned earlier over the 4th due to the fact that apart from the increased efficiency in power consumption and overclocking potential the 3rd gen works just as well and is around £20-£30 cheaper.
When it came to graphics cards, we used to be in a similar state as the processor market, with Nvidia offering the more expensive cards for better performance and AMD offering their cheaper but still effective options, but since then, particularly in the mid-range we have seen a more balance fight when it comes to pricing and performance.
Memory- 2GB GDDR5
Nvidia’s cards by far come with the most bells and whistles, boasting features such as Nvidia’s PhysX particle engine and their 3D support; in most cases the price of their cards will reflect this. Thanks to them releasing the GTX 700 series however we can now purchase the 600 cards for much cheaper for roughly the same benefits and performance benchmarks. You see Nvidia have done the same as Intel here, changing the cooler case to the more sleek Titan Esq style and eking a bit more performance out of the GPU, to make a new series of cards that we had been waiting on for some time now, and as such the consumer can make a reasonable saving on buying the older generation card with few draw backs, as such I would opt for the GTX 660, it allows for overclocking and will run just about any current release in ultra and high settings with a high frame rate.
Memory- 2GB DDR5
Whilst AMD’s offerings are not as fancy they do get the job done for usually a third of the price and it is this saving that makes them the usual choice for budget builds. The 7870 is AMD’s equivalent to the GTX 660 in terms of graphical output. AMD cards come with AMD’s Turbo boost system installed which will actively boost the speed of the GPU depending on what process you are running, this adaptive form of overclocking makes it a good card for people who are uncomfortable with overclocking their system on their own. With AMD recently announcing their next series of cards earlier this month we can expect the HD 7000 cards to come down in price even more making them even better value. With this announcement also came the news of a API that aims to replace Direct X as the leading Games driver for Windows, this combined with an AMD CPU will allow for better synergy between a PC system and the next generation of consoles which will be using AMD components and an x86 architecture, as a result we can expect ports to run marginally better on an AMD system due to this synergy.
In all, upgrading both your processor and graphics card will set you back around £300 which is the same price as a next gen PS4. Yet when you look at it you are getting more versatility and of course power from your purchase. The Pricing of the components may not be an issue for those who are brand loyal or those who don’t want to change their motherboard to accommodate the different sockets used by each company but needless to say you will reap the benefits from upgrading your system no matter which brand of component you opt for. There are going to be a few more advantages to owning a pure AMD system in the coming months but expect the other company’s to be back on the same level once they have worked out how to optimize to the new Mantle API AMD will be providing.