New Year’s High Def Resolution: Mid Range Gaming PC
The mid range is like the no-man’s land of PC components; one wrong step and you might find yourself on a budget landmine which promptly takes out your favourite gaming leg, with you begging for your Google mother to find out why you’re not getting the gaming grunt you wanted. Conversely if you quickly charge the gaming frontline cocked, locked and ready to rock with your massive pulsating GPU mini-gun, you will get taken down a few frames because your slower support components are still in their foxholes praying for cooler temperatures and dust-free conditions.
Basically what I’m saying is that in the mid range you need to find a balance between price and performance, with some upgradeability and overclockability thrown in so that you can game comfortably in games near their highest settings at a full 1080p or even at high settings in 1440p.
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How much will this war effort cost you? More than I would like it to, sadly.
Compared to the last mid range guide I did the budget was R12,000, where this time I have to stretch it up a tad to at least R14,500 to take into consideration the abomination that is the current Rand/ Dollar/Euro exchange. But hey, when times are tough people seek entertainment from cheaper sources, and gaming is arguably a cheaper form of entertainment than going on a holiday, or going to the movies, or the mall once a week to buy whatever it is mall rats buy.
Seriously, what is there to do at a mall nowadays?
To up my cynicism a notch, why even waste time watching a two hour action movie when you can create your own deeper, infinitely more thrilling and personally meaningful narrative while playing Day Z with mates? Anyway, basically people want to entertain themselves and I feel gaming is a cheaper–and possibly more rewarding–experience compared to alternate forms of entertainment. Sure, the next gen consoles are out, but what if you want to wait for more games, or actually want to determine what setting you play games at.
|CPU||Intel 4670k 3.4Ghz||R3,106|
|Motherboard||ASrock Z87 Extreme 4||R1,999|
|GPU||Powercolor R9280x OR MSI GTX 770 OC||R4,300 / R4,756|
|RAM||Team Vulcan 2x4GB 1600Mhz||R945|
|SSD||Samsung 840 EVO 120GB||R1,201|
|CASE||Cooler Master 690 III / Corsair Carbide 400R||R1,140 / R1,091|
|Powersupply||Antec Neo Eco 620W 80+ Bronze||R839|
|HDD||Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB||R776|
|Total||R 14,306 to R14,762|
The Support Troops: CPU, Motherboard and RAM
Calling your CPU, Motherboard and RAM support troops is exactly what they are; they are there to provide ample throughput which allows your GPU to perform optimally. Imagine your GPU as the Machine Gunner, just shooting frames and pixels indiscriminately at your face. Then imagine the Motherboard as the bunker, the CPU as the ammo and the RAM as the ammo loader. Obviously people love the Machine Gun and are naturally drawn to buying the biggest and most bad ass one, thinking it will shoot down any game you throw at it. People often forget you need the support troops, those unremarkable cogs in the machine that make the gun impressive in the first place. So why this long-winded warfare metaphor? Balance son, balance. And the parts I’ve chosen will provide plenty of that.
Firstly, you get an overclocking-friendly Quad Core 4670K 3.4GHz i5 processor that will run rings around any modern and future game you throw at it. Secondly, you get a feature rich full ATX motherboard that has some overclocking chops under its droll brownish PCB. It should easily take your 4670k above 4Ghz if you research some of the dark arts of Haswell Overclocking. Techpowerup has a nice Guide here. The motherboard comes with some expandability options in terms of three 3.0 PCI Express slots to extend your e-peen into others faces, eight SATA 3 ports for all your HDDs, enough USB ports for as many peripherals you can fit on your desk. There are also four RAM slots, should you ever feel the need to have more than 100 Google chrome tabs open at once.
The return of Team Vulcan’s 2x4GB set is purely because paying any more for a Corsair or G-Skill kit operating at the same frequency and timings does not make sense. So welcome back Team Vulcan, you know where your seat is.
The Big Guns: The Graphics Card
This is the one weapon in your arsenal that will allow you the best chance to claim victory over those elusive frame rates and image quality settings. This was supposed to be an easy choice, but due to a worldwide shortage of AMD cards, courtesy of crytominers, I have had to consider a more expensive option in the Nvidia GTX 770 card instead of the AMD R9 280x. This is not to say that the R9 280x is faster than the MSI GTX 770, but it is a little cheaper while offering comparative, yet still lower, performance. I can offer some insight not only into the performance realm, but into the value added and experiential realm.
If you are going to be joining the massive ranks of YouTubers, who do “Lets Plays”, or Twitch streamers I would wholeheartedly suggest you side with the green team as the GeForce experience is just…beautiful. It records gameplay using ShadowPlay without any hint of a performance hit, and it is remarkably intuitive. AMD has Raptr which is a tad clunky and less sleek than Nvidia’s offering, but is basically the “same” software minus the amazing recording ability of ShadowPlay. If your heart is set on AMD, though, you will have to plough through the hordes of cryptominers who are snatching up every R9 280x as soon as they are in stock. One thing that may give you staying power is the eventual introduction (its nearly February, DICE) of Mantle for use in DICE’s Frostbite 3 engine backed games and which may offer significant performance boosts for the 7XXX and R9 series of cards. In this aspect of the build there is no “wrong” choice, only your choice backed up by more reasons than “AMD/Nvidia are teh best ‘coz AMD/Nvidia sucks“.
The Rear Guard: Storage, Case and Power Supply
Now we get to the rear guard, and the rear end of this drawn out war metaphor. Basically these are the troops that sit far off from the frontline offering varying levels of support and resources to the frontline troops. When not sipping tea, guffawing and redacting mail they do serve valuable functions for the war effort.
The HDD is like an intelligence officer, who gathers information about enemy games and stores it for later use. The Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB hard drive will provide ample storage and has a welcomed 2-year warranty. The SSDs are commandos or “reckies” who gather intelligence in the field, quickly relaying it to the upper Windows Operator system in the hope that it gets it to the frontline troops in time.
The Samsumg 840 EVO 120GB is up to the task. It is “last year’s” model but there is really not much to differentiate SSDs now that they are all starting to hit the bandwidth wall on the Sata 3G port, of 600mb read speeds. The controllers do matter, but they have matured to the point where the performance is all within margin of error. Price, then, becomes the deciding factor and the Samsung offers good performance at a very good price.
The Cases are the pin-up soldiers with a lot of hot air who just have to look pretty, sit still for a photographer, and act charming in an interview. They function to make the entire gaming battlefield look attractive. I seem to really like the stuff from Cooler Master and Corsair, and I am not ashamed to admit it but I am a case fanboy and thoroughly enjoy great looking and feature rich cases. Either of these cases offer a plethora of upgradeability options and decent feature. If I had to choose I am slanted towards the Cooler Master case, as it is newer and has some superior cooling, but the Corsair Carbide is just as capable.
The Power Supply is the lifeblood of the whole war effort, without a constant stream of resources like army issued electron packs or E-rations the whole war effort would come to a grinding halt. Now since this is a mid range war we don’t need the likes of an American “Super Power Supply” at 1,000kW. A more adequate mid range 600W power supply will work just fine. Once again, the PSU I wanted is out of stock (seems like this brand is permanently) so I have gone with my second choice, an Antec Neo Eco 620W which is still a bronze rated unit, a minimum for any mid range gaming PC.
And that is how you wage a successful war on games, by focussed and balanced deployment of resources and PC power. This PC will not have any trouble playing demanding games like Battlefield 4 on ultra settings at 1080p at 60FPS, with 4X Anti-aliasing to smooth out any jaggies that may blemish your gaming experience. Gaming at 2560×1440 is also possible, but you will have to set your visuals more conservatively.
If this build is too pricey, have a look at the recent budget build.