We stated that AMD "indisputably owns the $100-$200 video card market" in our coverage of their newly-released Radeon R9 270 GPU. With the card's focus on delivering high gaming performance at a sub-$200 price-point, it outperforms AMD's present 7850/7870 lineup and nVidia's GTX 660. The R9 270 lands just below the 760 in both price and performance, making the new AMD card an excellent choice for any mid-range, budget-conscious PC builds.
This isn't quite a "cheap" gaming PC build -- like the $425 LoL option we posted -- but instead aims to fill the mid-range market for gamers with a bit more change. This gaming computer is built specifically with Battlefield 4 in mind, though it'll run any game on the market with high-to-max settings on 1080p with 4xAA (or higher). If you're looking for a sub-$1000 DIY budget gaming PC for Battlefield 4 -- or other high-end games, like Assassin's Creed IV -- you've come to the right place.
As a bonus, this entire build has an awesome blue/black theme; the CPU cooler fan, motherboard heatsinks, and RAM all use a metallic blue.
$884 AMD Overclocking PC for Battlefield 4 - November, 2013
OS & Recommended Extras
MSI R9 270 2GB ($180): AMD's Hawaii Islands video cards set out with the objective of reclaiming the budget-friendly spectrum of the video card market, even in the high-end. By decisively undercutting nVidia's cards in each price range, continuing to offer AAA games in bundles, and keeping a relatively competitive performance, AMD has a serious foothold right now.
The initial launch of their 290X ultra high-end card has been surrounded with thermal concerns and noise levels, but the R9 270 doesn't exhibit such issues. The 270 is AMD's new sub-$200 video card, which replaces their 7850/7870 line and outperforms the GTX 660; AMD's new mid-range flagship performs just below the GTX 760 at roughly $70 cheaper, making it an excellent choice for most gamers.
When testing the GTX 650 Ti Boost, which is decidedly less powerful than the R9 270, we found that we could run Battlefield 4 on "Very High" settings (a step below 'max'). With the R9 270, you'll be running on max or near-max, depending on resolution.
AMD FX-8320 CPU ($160): With this CPU/hard drive combo, we shave an instant $13 off the final asking price, so make sure you grab the combo pack. AMD's FX-8320 Vishera CPU ("Piledriver") ships stock at 3.5GHz, but will easily overclock to 5.0GHz or higher. It's an 8-core CPU that handily outperforms the FX-6300, but isn't quite as expensive as the FX-8350 CPU. Like most games, Battlefield 4 is more GPU-bound than CPU-bound, so CPU choice won't matter quite as much as a high-end GPU. That said, many of the game's complex calculations are handled by the CPU, so it's still important to get either an FX-83XX series CPU or Intel i5-46XX CPU (or better).
AMD's 8320 won't be bottlenecking your video card in Battlefield 4, making it an easy choice that's still highly-affordable. An Intel i5-4670k will outperform the 8320, but adds an extra $70 to the price (plus the cost of a compatible Z87 motherboard), ultimately making the 8320 more cost-to-performance friendly.
SilverStone Argon AR01 ($30): Although technically optional (the CPU will ship with a stock cooler), an aftermarket CPU cooler will allow overclocking to a greater degree, minimize thermals, and potentially decrease noise levels. They also just look better.
Stock coolers run so hot that the CPU tends to run at significantly higher temperatures than with an aftermarket cooler (see our benchmark with Intel's box cooler). Higher temperatures will reduce the overall lifespan of the CPU itself, given the abuse that the silicon goes through to sustain a high frequency under unfavorable thermal scenarios.
We recommend SilverStone's Argon AR01 (reviewed here) or Cooler Master's Hyper 212 (reviewed here), depending on your needs.
G.Skill Ripjaws 2x4GB 1600MHz ($75): This is another combo deal. We combo'd NZXT's Switch 810 case with G.Skill's RAM for a $48 discount, turning the Switch 810 into a $100 enclosure.
G.Skill is well-known for being the world's reining champion of memory overclocking, and although its Ripjaws series is more 'mid-range,' it's still easily OC'd to higher clocks. At $75, the memory is right in-line with other memory prices right now (and cheaper, with the combo). You get 2x4GB of RAM for a total of 8GB, clocked natively at 1600MHz and easily OC'd to 2133MHz. The blue heatspreaders have a sort of electric look without being intrusively large.
ASUS M5A99X Evo 990X ($110): After a $10 promo code (PREBLKFR131 at checkout) and $10 rebate, ASUS' long-standing M5A99X Evo motherboard comes down to just over $100. This board hosts AMD's 990X chipset -- a great mid-range product for entry-level overclockers -- and has a solid featureset for what we're doing. If you're interested in more extreme overclocking, you can read about 990X vs. 990FX chipset differences in this article.
The board has a 6+2 power phase design, meaning 6 phases are dedicated to cleaning voltage delivered to the CPU, 1 phase is for HyperTransport (HT), and 1 phase is for memory voltage cleaning. Its 6 CPU phases puts this board at the top of the sub-$150 AMD board market, and it'll easily handle most overclocks on the FX-8320.
Rosewill Capstone 550M 80-Plus Gold ($65): I was pretty impressed when we first stumbled across this PSU at the $65 price-point. 550W is enough power for the build as-is and leaves room for overclocking, and an 80-Plus Gold certification means the PSU is more power efficient and delivers a cleaner supply to the board. We recently recommended purchasing 80-Plus Gold and Platinum power supplies where possible, given their hugely efficient power delivery when compared against other PSUs.
SSD / HDD
Kingston SSDNow V300 120GB ($80): SSDs are no longer an optional unit. Storage is the biggest bottleneck in any modern system (by several factors of magnitude), and by opting to run your OS and core applications on a spindle drive, you're handicapping the rest of the machine. An SSD will improve the boot times, game load times, and overall responsiveness of the computer. If you'd prefer a 240GB drive, you can grab the V300's 240GB alternative for $175. Unlike other low-end consumer-class drives, the V300 uses MLC NAND and thus has better endurance.
Western Digital Blue 1TB 7200RPM HDD ($57): In combination with the CPU above, WD's fairly standard 1TB drive @ 7200RPM has the right performance, capacity, and price for a gaming machine. After the combo discount, the drive rests at around $57, making it one of the cheapest mid-range HDDs on the market.
LITE-ON DVD Burner ($15): If you're still reading and writing DVDs/CDs, this optical drive gets the job done just fine. No science to this.
After the combo with our RAM, NZXT's large Switch 810 enthusiast-class case comes down to a highly-affordable $112. Given that this case was originally in excess of $160 when we first reviewed it, the price makes the Switch 810 the most feature-filled and largest case in the sub-$120 price point. We opted for the matte black Switch 810, which has a large windowed side-panel for viewing your blue/black theme once built (just make sure to cable manage it). The case's stock cooling configuration includes 4x140mm fans in a push-pull setup, making for great baseline cooling.
If this is one of your first builds, you'll also find that its ease-of-installation features make your life a bit easier, especially during cable management.
That's it for this build! If you need a gaming computer for Battlefield 4, this build includes one of the most cost-effective, best video cards for BF4 (the R9 270). Go throw some C4s on an ATV and ram it into a tank.
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.