We put together an affordable machine that can run Battlefield 3 with all the bells and whistles.
Thanks to EA’s decision to make the PC the lead platform for Battlefield 3 (BF3), unlike nearly every other game that came out in 2011, it's an absolutely groundbreaking game when it comes to graphics technology. The Frostbite 2 engine is capable of rendering massive open battlefields several kilometres wide, yet they’re stuffed with more realistic detail than most games a tenth of its size. Especially impressive is the amazing dynamic lighting engine, which renders dozens of independent, moving light sources at any one time. Throw in one of the most advanced animation systems ever used in a game, and the end result is the best eye candy ever seen. It comes at a price though; to see this game running at Ultra, with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and anti-aliasing, requires a modern gaming PC. Our BF3 beast is easily capable of running the game at full detail, vsync locked to a silky smooth 60fps.
CORE SYSTEM COST: $1,787
CPUi5-2500k -- $220
This chip overclocks like a demon, making it the best bang-for-buck CPU for gamers. With just 10 minutes of tweaking you’ll easily hit 4.4GHz, demolishing any graphically demanding game you can throw at it, including BF3.CPU COOLERNoctua NH-D14 -- $100
It might be the size of a small child’s head, but this twin-fan behemoth is the current air-cooling king. It’ll easily tame the heat thrown out by your scorchingly fast CPU, yet amazingly it remains nice and quiet while it works.MOTHERBOARDASRock Z68 Extreme4 -- $130
This cutting-edge motherboard packs the excellent Z68 chipset from Intel and is armed with dual PCI-E slots, crucial for the powerful graphics card setup we’re going for. It also has plenty of extra features such as high-end capacitors, that would normally only be found on more expensive motherboards.MEMORYCorsair 2x 4GB DDR3 1,600MHz -- $70
With RAM this cheap why not splash out and get more than enough. Now we’ve got a worthwhile 64-bit OS, you’ll finally make the most of this much memory and BF3 will easily fit inside this amount with plenty of room left over for other apps.GRAPHICS
2x ZOTAC GTX 570 -- $720
We’re going for twin graphics cards as BF3 scales beautifully when SLI is enabled. While one card is enough to run the game on high, you absolutely need two to run it on Ultra, and the GTX 570s offer much of the performance of the 580s, but at a much more reasonable cost.AUDIOASUS Xonar DX -- $95
It’d be a crime to waste this game’s amazing audio on a rudimentary motherboard audio chipset or USB headphones, so whack one of these in your case to hear every bullet fly by. This card can output game audio in 5.1 over optical (many soundcards can’t), and can also do Dolby Headphone surround. HARD DRIVE 1OCZ Vertex 2 60GB -- $125
This drive is scorchingly fast, but is nice and cheap as it’s a generation old. It’ll give just enough space to install Windows and BF3; all your boring other programs can go on the cheaper mechanical drive.HARD DRIVE 2Seagate ST31000524AS 1TB -- $62
Don’t let the price fool you -- by mechanical drive standards this whopper is still quick off the mark. A full terabyte of storage will give you plenty of space to store your BF3 headshot videos.OPTICAL
ASUS DRW-24B3ST -- $25
Considering you probably bought your copy of the game digitally through EA’s origin, this drive isn’t necessary, but it’ll come in handy when you want to install your old Battlefield games for a frag down memory lane.POWER SUPPLYCorsair 850W Modular TX Series -- $175
You’ll need a quality PSU to supply a stable supply of juice to those two video cards and overclocked CPU, and we’ve used the Corsair to drive a similar system with perfect results. Don’t scrimp on the PSU, as doing so is a great way to have a PC that crashes every few minutes.
CASEBitFenix Shinobi -- $65
This simple case looks good and is big enough to house that huge heatsink and both video cards. Install a couple of case fans for good measure.
EXTRAS: MONITORAcer B273H 27in -- $350
If you’ve got the money, go for a cheap HD projector like us. If not, this large slab of screen estate will do almost as good a job, provided you sit close enough to it. Don’t be tempted to go to a 30in monitor -- the extra resolution will prove too demanding, even for this ninja PC.KEYBOARD/MOUSERazer Lycosa keyboard and Razer DeathAdder mouse -- $130
Your next headshot is only as good as your keyboard and mouse combo, and this package will provide premium gaming performance without a ridiculous price tag.OPERATING SYSTEMWindows 7 Home Premium 64-bit -- $299 (full version)
You’ll need this OS for a couple of reasons. Firstly, BF3 is a DirectX 11 game, hence the need for Windows 7. Secondly, you’re going to need a 64-bit OS to handle all that memory.