Our Titanfall coverage included a benchmark of the game's PC performance across multiple hardware configurations, and after this preliminary performance analysis, we can now safely start making build recommendations. Keep in mind that our benchmark was initially run on the beta version of Titanfall, so it is highly likely that AMD and nVidia driver updates will significantly improve performance; further PC optimization by Respawn will also do wonders, given the hauntingly-familiar, broken state of the game right now.
Regardless, the benchmark gives us an excellent idea as to the bottom line of Titanfall's performance spectrum, since things will only improve from here.
This $797 budget gaming PC for Titanfall ensures the best performance-to-budget ratio, focusing heavily on delivering maxed-out (high) settings at 1080p with a steady framerate. If you haven't built a gaming PC before (or if you need a refresher), our full "How to Build a Gaming Computer" guide can be found here. We've also embedded the video guide below.
$797 AMD/Kaveri Mid-Range Gaming PC Build List - February, 2014
OS & Recommended Upgrades
XFX Double-D 7870 2GB ($170): While testing Titanfall, we found that its GPU support on the whole is shockingly sub-optimized for a Source engine game. That should change in the coming weeks, but what we have learned with certainty is that CrossFire is presently entirely unsupported and SLI experiences severe microstuttering. We also discovered that Titanfall performs significantly better with 2GB of video memory over 1GB -- though we've been recommending 2GB cards as a bottom line for at least a year now.
For this build, we opted for an AMD unit to ensure maximum advantage is taken of Kaveri's unique APU+GPU combinatory features. Kaveri's dual graphics setup isn't perfect right now, but support is growing and it will prove useful for offloading physics processing and other tasks to the IGP. As for whether or not Titanfall will take advantage of it right now, we don't know, but it is reasonable to suspect that it will work upon launch.
AMD's 7870 may be from the previous generation, but it's still one of the best cards out on the market in its price-range. Technically, the largely similar R9 270 should be at this price-point, but cryptomining has driven costs exorbitantly high in the US. For this reason, the 2GB 7870 sees re-entry into the PC gaming marketplace. The post-rebate $170 price for this card is really quite shocking, given that some AMD cards are presently 2-3x their MSRP, so it's an easy purchase. You can expect to play Titanfall in its present state in the 60FPS range at maxed (1080p) settings; I'd suspect that after all the drivers and patches are released, you'll see significant FPS improvement that will allow some headroom for video capture.
Keep in mind that Titanfall locks its framerate to the refresh rate of the host display device.
AMD A10-7700K Quad-Core Kaveri APU ($160): We used a combo deal for this (with RAM), so make sure you add the combo to your cart to receive the RAM discount pricing.
AMD's Kaveri APU first saw implementation in our $484 "Cheap Bastard's" gaming PC last month. After investigating its CPU performance (when benched with a discrete card) against Intel's similarly-priced i5-4430, we found that the top-end 7700K & 7850K Kaveri chips trade-off (depending on the game) with the 4430 when combined with a discrete card. Given the lower cost and the advantage of dual graphics in the future, it made sense for our budget build to utilize the 7700K. Technically, the flagship 7850K is only a little more expensive, but at that point you might as well start considering the higher-end Intel chips. The 7850K is most at home when it is the only processor in the system, so for a discrete GPU + APU setup, the 7700K seems most cost- and performance-effective.
This APU won't be bottlenecking the 7870 in any noticeable fashion and performs well in gaming applications. For anyone performing regular video rendering and encoding, Intel chips are worth investigating for a higher-end build.
We'd strongly recommend an aftermarket CPU cooler in the long-run. It would be wise to purchase an aftermarket cooler within a year to encourage longevity of the APU; any overclocking would be best done under the guard of an aftermarket cooler. Something like this will work well.
Corsair Vengeance 8GB 1866MHz RAM ($72): Again, this was combo'd with the APU above for a $25 discount. Corsair's Vengeance memory is still one of the most cost-effective lines of system memory available right now. Unfortunately, RAM pricing has remained high since last year, but the combo discount brings this 2x4GB 1866MHz kit down to an affordable price.
In order to fully utilize the APU's IGP component when offloading tasks to it via dual graphics, we need faster system memory for the IGP. This is because the APU does not have on-card RAM like a video card does (which is not only faster than DDR3, but also closer to the GPU than system RAM). The ideal setup would be 2133MHz or better for an APU-only build, but because we've got a dedicated GPU to handle the heavy workload, we can get by well on 1866MHz and save a good deal of money.
We've found that Titanfall consumes between 1.7GB and 3.5GB of RAM during play, depending on multiple variables/settings.
ASRock FM2A88X Extreme6+ FM2+ ($105): More plusses and more numbers make it better. Obviously. Everyone knows that.
Sarcasm aside, the Extreme6+ board (FM2+ socket) is a good one for our purposes. It's got the provisions required for a solid baseline gaming PC, but doesn't offer all the extra features that a higher-end, more expensive board would; the board offers 2xPCI-e 3.0 slots (one in x16, one in x8; dual at x8/x8) giving us the option for multi-GPU configurations in the future, should Titanfall ever support it and AMD ever develop reasonable drivers for it.
The board has a noteworthy audio chipset, driving 8 channels and offering a full DTS-enabled audio output panel for 5.1 or 7.1 setups. We've also got basic OC support for small tweaks to the memory and APU, though there are certainly better boards for overclocking, so don't get carried away.
Rosewill Capstone 550W Modular PSU ($40): After a $20 MIR and $25 combo discount (combo with the case, found here), Rosewill's 80 Plus Gold-rated high-efficiency PSU is available for just over under $40. The unit is modular and pushes a continuous 550W supply at 50C, making for high reliability and a lower loss of power to heat (hence the 80 Plus Gold rating). 550W is enough for our configuration above, though if you're planning on adding extensively to the system, consult us below on if a PSU upgrade is necessary.
Generic Optical Drive ($20): Because Microsoft has made it difficult to install Windows via USB key without going through extra effort, we're still recommending an optical drive and physical CD purchase. Windows 8 requires Windows 7 to download -- which is silly on many levels -- and Windows 7 is only available for download via (legal) ISOs and then key activation. If you feel like compiling ISOs into a bootable USB key and purchasing a license separately, go for it! But it's not something we're recommending for everyone, understandably. This CD/DVD burner will install your OS and give you basic physical media capabilities if needed.
SSD + HDD
Kingston 120GB V300 SSD ($80): Kingston's V300 SSDNow solid-state drive uses MLC NAND cells, but prices itself competitively with TLC SSDs on the market. The SSD has slightly lower performance than the company's 3K P/E SSD, but the performance differential between the drives as it pertains to gaming is almost unnoticeable. For most gamers and consumers, this drive offers the best cost-to-performance ratio; we start brushing up against the SATA interface at this point anyway, so endurance and stability become more of a concern than raw speed. The V300 has proven to be reliable and stable in our testing.
WD 1TB 7200RPM HDD ($60): Hard Drive prices are back to what they should be. WD's 1TB Blue HDD offers the ideal amount of extra storage for most end-users without going overboard, and at 7200RPM, it'll do well with gaming and core application storage. Install Titanfall and the OS on your SSD, put the rest of the non-essential applications on your HDD.
Keep in mind that purchasing less than a 1TB HDD is no longer cost-effective due to the higher density on platters in modern devices.
Rosewill Blackhawk Blue Edition Case ($90): In a combo with the PSU, Rosewill's very Titan-like Blackhawk case is now available in a blue-tinted theme; we gave a few of these away around the time BlizzCon hit and have been happy with the enclosure's build quality, aesthetic, and cooling performance. The Blackhawk ships with 2x120mm front fans, 1x120mm rear fan, and 1x120mm side fan. It's slightly louder than cases that favor larger (140, 200, 220mm) fans, but the cooling performance and cost are well worth it for most builds.
That's it for this build! If you require any assistance in the build process or need help customizing/picking out components, please leave a comment below or post on our forums for expert support!
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.