Friday, August 6, 2010

Powerful and Affordable

It's that time again. Competition is once again working in our favor, and prices for gaming PCs are very attractive right now. Here is an example of a powerful machine for less than $500:

Bargain Gaming Rig

CPU: AMD Phenom II 550 - $88
Motherboard: ECS IC780M-A2 AM3 - $60
RAM: OCZ Special Ops Edition 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 1600 - $65 (after $20 rebate)
Video Card: SAPPHIRE 100283-3L Radeon HD 5770 1GB - $135 (after $15 rebate)
Hard Drive: WD Caviar Black WD6401AALS 640GB/32MB - $55 (after $20 promo - ends 8/9)
Power Supply: OCZ ModXStream Pro OCZ600MXSP 600W - $50 (after $20 rebate)
DVD Burner: LG Black 22X SATA DVD Burner - $18
Case: Antec Nine Hundred - $65 (after $20 rebate, $15 promo - ends 8/6)

Discount: $60 ($40 MB/PSU Combo, $20 RAM/GPU Combo)
Shipping: $9
Total: $485

Frankenstein Rig

If that's still too much for you, I have an even better deal for you. Right now, I have some used hardware I'd like to sell due to upgrading. I've never had any problems with it (otherwise I wouldn't risk selling it) and it's all performed very well. Here they are:

Video Card: ASUS EN8800GT/G/HTDP/512M GeForce 8800 GT 512MB - $60

You can see some of my testing with it in my last blog post. It runs very cool and very quiet.

RAM: OCZ Platinum Revision 2 2GB (2 x 1GB) DDR2 800 - $20

Pretty straightforward. It's good memory and it's cheap.

Power Supply: KINGWIN ABT-450MM 450W - $20 (used by me)

The PSU also runs very quiet. It has PCI-e connectors for video cards, and SATA connectors for SATA hard drives, meaning you won't need adapters.

All three of these components have been used for about two years without incident. If you buy all three, I'll knock off $10 for a total of $90. If you want to build a new computer out of them, I'd suggest the following:

CPU: AMD Athlon II X2 245 Regor - $59
Motherboard: BIOSTAR A770E - $70

Discount: $25 CPU/MB Combo
Shipping: Free
Total with used parts: $194

This assumes that you'll reuse an old case, hard drive, and CD/DVD drive. The motherboard has an IDE slot, and IDE ribbons can support two devices. (I also have a PCI IDE card if you need it.) If you don't have the components to reuse, perhaps grab something from the bargain rig above.

Yes, but can it play... Starcraft 2?

If you're wondering how all the hardware above will run Starcraft, see the following:

CPU Benchmarks
High-End GPU Benchmarks
More GPU Benchmarks

Some relevant points to take away:

1) The HD 5770 Will run it VERY smoothly, even at the highest resolutions.
2) The 9800 GTX+ also runs it smoothly at high resolutions. My 8800 GT should deliver about 80% of the performance of a 9800 GTX+.
3) The amount of video memory really doesn't matter, even on Ultra High Details.
4) The Athlon II 245 should deliver above 70% of the performance of a Core i5-750, which is basically the best gaming processor available. That's with a high end video card running at a low resolution, forcing the processors to bottleneck. Therefore, real world results will be much closer.
5) The Phenom II X2 550 really won't be much faster than the Athlon II, and that's under the same bottleneck conditions. Pick whatever Athlon/Phenom flavor floats your boat.

Also, if you don't have an operating system to reuse, I hear that Starcraft 2 runs well in Linux using Wine. Just sayin'.

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