Forget next-gen consoles: build a power PC for less

Bench 1


There are obviously alternatives to the components we've used. You could pick up a cheaper Intel i3 CPU for £100 for example, sacrificing some of the general performance, but still keeping most of the gaming performance.

Upgrading the GPU is tougher though, as you'll need a beefier PSU with at least one six-pin PCIe connector, and currently there aren't any more powerful half-height graphics cards. The Element Q should cater for larger cards, but the 220W PSU inside isn't going to.

The CM Elite 120 will house a full ATX spec third-party option. Pack in the Silent Storm 500W PSU that we've got in the budget build with the Elite 120 chassis and you'll be able to choose a modern GPU to jam into the mini-ITX build.

The budget option

Console yourself with and affordable gaming PC

Setup 2

One of the big perceived barriers for PC gaming has long been a question of price. At the beginning of the last generation of consoles we were still sitting on DirectX 9 graphics hardware and the majority of our gaming PCs were dual core at best. It took a little while for the mainstream PC hardware of the time to catch up with the pseudo DX10ish Xbox 360, and even then it was much more expensive to get to the same level of performance.

How times have changed… the next-gen consoles are set to ship at the end of the year with current, mid-range PC components and a touted price tag of between £300 and £400. To us that seemed like a challenge: build a gaming PC for less than £400 that will still be happy gaming at full HD resolutions when the new consoles tip up.

When it comes to pricing, the erstwhile budget hound will find a home with AMD. It's no surprise then AMD is supplying the hardware for both the PlayStation 4 and the new Xbox. Of course, that also comes down to Intel and Nvidia not wanting to surrender its hardware wholesale to Microsoft or Sony.

So we've built a six-core machine running AMD's 970 chipset and the latest Piledriver FX-6300 running at 3.5GHz. Coupled with a £100 HD 7770 this is a machine that's capable of hitting over 40fps, on very high DX11 settings with tessellation, in the likes of Batman: Arkham City. In fact we even topped 70fps in DiRT Showdown with 4x MSAA - that's some proper gaming chops right there.

Now, these settings aren't the top options in the benchmarks, but are still only one rung down the ladder with post processing effects on.

The shopping list

CPU: AMD FX-6300 @ 3.5GHz - £100
Motherboard: Gigabyte GB-970A-DS3 - £50
Memory: Corsair XMS3 4GB @ 1,600MHz - £20
Graphics card: AMD HD 7770 - £100
Storage: Seagate 1TB HDD - £53
PSU: Storm Silent 500W - £14
Chassis: Silverstone PS02B - £30
Total: £367

Technical analysis

Despite being a cheaper rig than the small form factor machine, the full-size graphics card means that it comes with better performance at the same graphical settings. You can increase the gap even more with a £25 upgrade to the HD 7850 1GB card, adding between 10 and 20 per cent extra performance.

bench 2


Again there are other options, notably the amazing HD 7850 1GB edition. For just £125 it's a fantastic graphics card, capable of running games on the very highest settings at playable speeds. At just £25 over the HD 7770 it means we can still stay below the £400 upper limit.

The only serious compromise on this build is the lack of an SSD, opting for the 1TB HDD instead. You can pick up 120GB drives for about £70, but that's barely enough for an OS and a few games, making it very much an unnecessary luxury in a budget build.

Full-blown gaming

The serious gaming behemoth

setup 3

The depth of hardware available to PC gamers is immense, and means we can put together gaming rigs for as little as £367 or spend an absolute fortune. Potentially, you could spend thousands on an eight-core Xeon for your X79 with four GPU cores thrumming away in your solid gold chassis.