While console gamers are eagerly awaiting more information on exactly what power is under the hood of the Xbox One and the PS4, PC gamers are sizing up their rigs and looking for ways to upgrade the components on board. If, however, you’re looking at making your first foray into PC gaming or you just want to build a new rig from scratch then this post is for you – running down CPUs, graphics cards, and power supplies.
While the two processor giants have both put out some truly eye-wateringly powerful chips over the last five years, Intel’s optimum single-core performance means that both low-end and top-end setups fare better with these CPUs. AMD tend to dominate the middle ground, with even their eight-core processors reasonably priced.
Good: Intel i3 3240
The i5 and i7 CPUs can get pricey for a budget build, but the i3 3240 is the fastest ‘low end’ processor that Intel do and represents fantastic value for money in terms of cost vs. performance. At 3.4GHz it’s a nippy bit of kit and, with the right GPU, will serve you well with current and upcoming releases.
Better: AMD FX-8350
AMD tend to dominate the mid-range, with their eight core processors offering fantastic clock speeds for the money; you’ll generally be able to spend less than £200/$200 for some of the best gaming CPUs around. Not quite in the same league as Intel’s i7 Ks, but a great processor for the money.
Best: Intel Core i7 4770K
As it stands, high-end Intel processors offer better single-core performance over their similarly priced AMD counterparts and the latest Haswell i7 processor offers better performance, less power consumption and those all-important overclocking capabilities.
This is the big one, guys – this is where a bulk of the work is done. All that processing oomph and double-digit RAM can all go to waste if your graphics card is not up to the job. If you’re not running GDDR5, or your existing card has only just hobbled through the last 6 months of games, then read on!
Good: Nvidia GTX 660 Ti
With the 760 and 770 being premium cards, the 660Ti strikes the perfect balance between budget and power. 2GB of GDDR5 sits under the hood with impressive clock speeds that have great scope for overclocking on a lot of models, and the sub-£200 price point definitely makes it one of the more affordable cards on the market that still has the power to keep up.
Better: Radeon HD 7950
3GB of GDDR5 on board and impressive base and core clock speeds yield silky smooth frame rates on even the most demanding games and highest resolutions; in Tomb Raider’s benchmark it managed around 90FPS on Ultra, 47FPS in Sleeping Dogs’ Extreme benchmark and almost 70FPS in the Bioshock Infinite benchmark.
Best: Nvidia GTX 780
This card packs a real punch; 3GB of GDDR5 memory on board as standard, impressive clock speeds and performance, and great scope for overclocking (providing your system can handle it!). Despite being almost half the price of the GTX Titan, it’s within five to 15 percent of it in virtually all major high-end benchmarks. Just one of these cards is impressive; two of them in SLI are unstoppable.
Of course, you’re going to need amble power to support all this processing oomph. No-name PSUs should be avoided, and if it looks too good to be true it probably is – stick with reputable brands and remember you get what you pay for. You don’t want to destroy your new precious rig!
Good: Corsair CX600M
A good gaming setup will need 500 watt as an absolute minimum, and with the price differences among different models in Corsair’s builder series, the semi-modular 600W model is the way to go. A reliable power supply delivering enough for a reasonably priced rig running, and some benefit of a part-modular setup make for a great entry-level PSU at less than £60.
Better: OCZ ZT 750W
Sitting squarely in the middle ground for PSU price is this 750W offering from OCZ. It might not be modular, meaning you might have to do a bit of fiddly cable management, but it’s an 80 Plus Bronze rate PSU offering plenty of power for a majority of rigs at a really affordable price point. At less than £70, you can’t go wrong!
Best: Corsair HX1050
This ‘Professional Series’ PSU from Corsair is nothing short of a beast, providing more power than most rigs need, but giving plenty of room for SLI graphics cards, overclocking and additional components. It’s expensive compared with other supplies, but delivering 1050 watts of power in a semi-modular setup for well under £200 really can’t be beat, and it’ll handle multiple graphics cards with ease.
This guest post was written by Tom McShane – an avid PC gamer, tasked with beefing up his current gaming PC in preparation for the onslaught of new games at the end of the year. His CPU and graphics card were his main focus, and would recommend Fierce PC for anyone looking for components or pre-built gaming PCs.