HALF A GRAND OF GAMING GOODNESS
THERE YOU HAVE IT: your very own budget 1080p gaming machine. It’s versatile, compact, easy to build, and looks darn good, given the limited funds we had. We could have whacked in an Intel Core i3 quad-core part or a GTX 1060 to bolster performance—two very smart moves—but that would mean a bigger budget, and not everyone has that kind of cash lying about.
We managed to stick to our $500 hardware budget fairly well. In fact, if you’re interested in checking out where we sourced the parts for this build, head to https://pcpartpicker.com/list/3YQfFt for a full breakdown. Don’t worry, there are no affiliates links or codes there, least not from us, although we’re pretty sure that’s how PCPartPicker makes its money. Anyway, you can see what we chose, at what price, and where we’d pick it up from.
But enough of that—was this build a success? Yes. It was never going to compete with our zero-point—that’s a $1,100 machine packing a six-core processor, 16GB of DDR4, a PCIe SSD, and an Nvidia GTX 1060, after all—but for the price, it actually held its ratings fairly well, and despite the lackluster computational performance, the effect on real-world feel and use is slim to minimal.
In game, it’s rather different, of course, with most of our tests being almost unplayable in certain circumstances, but this is where we need to get a little granular and explain the whole purpose of our build. With a system like this, you need to be a tweaker. Not necessarily of hardware or overclocking, but of graphical settings. From past experience, we know that when gaming, there are two effects that take up the majority of your processing power: antialiasing and shadows. Now, in our scenario, you’d be gaming on a 1080p 24inch panel, so turning off AA in its entirety is a bad idea; reducing it, however, is less so. But let’s give you some metrics here.
In our Ultra preset benchmark test for WarhammerII, we managed 27fps. With a few minor tweaks, shadows reduced to minimal, a slight decrease from Ultra to Medium in various textures, and a reduction in foliage/tree quality, we managed 38fps, with minimal impact on overall texture quality. Take that same logic across to RiseoftheTombRaider, and we managed 52fps. Amazingly, there’s a setting that renders each individual strand of hair on Lara’s head; although it looks breathtaking, during the middle of a game, it’s not something we particularly notice.
Perhaps the biggest difference was in GhostRecon. A demanding game at the best of times, dropping the graphical profile down from Ultra to High, and again adjusting the shadow quality (not disabling it entirely), bumped up frame rates from 5 all the way up to 40fps. That’s a 700 percent increase just by tweaking a profile. OK, it’s a bit more messing about before playing, but even at the high end, with GTX 1080 Tis and Titans, you still go through the same process anyway, so what’s so different down here at the $500 budget?
1 Hiding any excess cablesunder the hard drive caddy here is ideal for keeping things tidy, as long as you don’t have more than one 3.5-inch drive, of course.2 There are no intake fanswith this build—adding two 120mms in the front of the rig would keep temperatures down, especially during the hot summer months.3 If you’re going toupgrade your processor at a later date, remember to get a beefier cooler; this slimline stock one won’t cut it.4 We love a GPU that drawspower solely from the PCIe bus, although admittedly, it won’t be as fast as some of its higher-spec buddies.