Can you really experience decent PC gaming performance for under $1,000?
While super high-end gaming machines are appealing, the associated price tag is not. The thing is, new hardware is now powerful enough that even a budget machine can run the latest games at very playable frame rates. The bigger brands tend not to dabble in the shallow end of the PC building pool, so our budget machine comes from custom PC builder, Enspire Digital. While it has a range of affordable machines available, we challenged it to build us a bang-for-buck machine for under $1,000.
All within budget, Enspire Digital squeezed loads of tasty hardware into the excellent Antec 300 case. Buried deep inside is an AMD Phenom II X4 CPU running at 3.4GHz. You also get 8GB of Kingston DDR3 RAM and an MSI 970A-G45 motherboard. A Radeon 6870 GPU with 1GB of RAM handles graphics. The 1TB HDD is partitioned into two drives, of roughly 250GB and 750GB, with Windows 7 Home Premium installed on the smaller of the two. This gives you good redundancy as you can wipe your Windows drive without affecting your other stored data. There’s also a DVD RW drive, though you’ll have to pay extra for Blu-ray functionality.
Round the back connectivity abounds. The motherboard has the usual eight USB ports (two USB 3.0), Gigabit network, surround-sound audio and even a legacy PS2 port just in case. The Radeon 6870 has dual-DVI ports plus HDMI and DisplayPort. Thanks to AMD Eyefinity technology, you can run separate monitors from each of the GPU outputs. The Antec 300 case also has front-mounted ports, with dual-USB and audio I/O.
Inside the FX, the cable management options provided by the Antec 300 are put to good use. Airflow is kept smooth and uncluttered, while any spare wires and cables are tied neatly away. You have plenty of room for expansion inside the PC, with room for two more optical drives, five more HDDs and two PCI-E expansion cards or another video card.
Despite the low price tag, the FX doesn't fall short when taking on the latest titles. With all settings on max, Crysis managed 46.33fps on a 1080p monitor. If you’re an fps junkie, you can back the settings back just a touch and push the fps to 58.24. Aliens vs. Predator clocked in at 51fps while Heaven managed 37.1fps and a score of 934. 3DMark 11 scored 4,161 while PCMark Vantage scored a very respectable P14,714.
In operation the FX is not the quietest PC, with a distinct whine when gaming. Still, it pumps plenty of air and even under load never reaches an annoying noise level. All the fans are set to the lowest level, so if you do upgrade the PC in the future you can up the airflow to compensate. Those who subject their PCs to a dusty environment will be pleased the low-mounted front vents have removable filters.
The FX pulled 240W from the wall when under heavy load, though this dropped to only 120W when sitting at the desktop. Under a normal gaming load, the Vitesse averages about 190W – pretty good considering the performance. The Enspire Digital machine also comes backed up by a one-year nationwide onsite warranty for total peace of mind. In addition, if you want to shrink or stretch your budget, the Enspire Digital techs will recommend a machine that will give the best performance for your dollar. They are also happy to install any extras you need, such as a second HDD, TV tuner, wireless network card or even software such as Microsoft Office. Available from Enspire Digital, retailing for $999.APC rating: 9/10 (Editor's Choice)