Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: Various

The Road to 1080p

THE_GPUS.jpg

The stars of the show: a group of affordable GPU options

When preparing to build or upgrade a PC on any kind of a budget, how can you make sure you're extracting the highest performance per dollar from the parts you choose? Even if you do your homework comparing every combination of components is impossible. As system builders we always end up having to look at various benchmarks here and there and then ultimately make assumptions. It's the nature of choosing products within an industry that's completely congested at every price point.

Another problem is that lower-priced graphics cards are usually benchmarked on high-end test platforms with Core i7 processors - which is actually a necessary thing when you need to eliminate CPU bottlenecks from the mix when testing GPUs. So it seems like it might be valuable (and might help narrow buying choices down) if we could take a closer look at gaming performance from complete systems built with only budget parts, and see what these different combinations are capable of.

With this in mind I set out to see just how much it might take to reach acceptable gaming performance at 1080p (acceptable being 30 FPS+). I wanted to see where the real-world gaming bottlenecks might occur, and get a feel for the relationship between CPU and GPU performance. After all, if there was no difference in gaming performance between, say, a $40 and an $80 processor, why spend twice as much money? The same goes for graphics. We’re looking for “good enough” here, not “future-proof”.

ALL_COMPONENTS.jpg

The components in all their shiny boxy-ness (not everything made the final cut)

If money was no object we’d all have the most amazing high-end parts, and play every game at ultra settings with hundreds of frames per second (well, except at 4K). Of course most of us have limits, but the time and skill required to assemble a system with as little cash as possible can result in something that's actually a lot more rewarding (and impressive) than just throwing a bunch of money at top-shelf components.

The theme of this article is good enough, as in, don't spend more than you have to. I don't want this to sound like a bad thing. And if along the way you discover a bargain, or a part that overperforms for the price, even better!

Yet Another AM1 Story?

We’ve been talking about the AMD AM1 platform since its introduction, and it makes a compelling case for a low cost gaming PC. With the “high-end” CPU in the lineup (the Athlon 5350) just $60 and motherboards in the $35 range, it makes sense to start here. (I actually began this project with the Sempron 3820 as well, but it just wasn’t enough for 1080p gaming by a long shot so the test results were quickly discarded.) But while the 5350 is an APU, I didn't end up testing it without a dedicated GPU. (Ok, I eventually did but it just can't handle 1080p.)

But this isn’t just a story about AM1 after all. Jumping right in here, let's look at the result of my research (and mounting credit card debt). All prices were accurate as I wrote this, but are naturally prone to fluctuate:

Tested Hardware
Graphics Cards

MSI AMD Radeon R7 250 2GB OC - $79.99

XFX AMD Radeon R7 260X - $109.99

EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 - $109.99

EVGA NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti SC - $153.99

Processors

AMD Athlon 5350 2.05 GHz Quad-Core APU - $59.99

AMD Athlon X2 340X 3.2 GHz Dual-Core CPU - $44.99.

AMD Athlon X4 760K 3.8 GHz Quad-Core CPU - $84.99

Intel Pentium G3220 3.0 GHz Dual-Core CPU - $56.99

Motherboards

ASRock AM1B-ITX Mini-ITX AMD AM1 - $39.99

MSI A88XM-E45 Micro-ATX AMD A88X - $72.99

ECS H81H3-M4 Micro-ATX Intel H81 - $47.99

Memory 4GB Samsung OEM PC3-12800 DDR3-1600 (~$40 Value)
Storage Western Digital Blue 1TB Hard Drive - $59.99
Power Supply EVGA 430 Watt 80 PLUS PSU - $39.99
OS Windows 8.1 64-bit - $99

So there it is. I'm sure it won't please everyone, but there is enough variety in this list to support no less than 16 different combinations, and you'd better believe I ran each test on every one of those 16 system builds!

Keep reading our look at budget gaming builds for 1080p!!

ASUS Launches New AMD 9 Series Motherboards

Subject: Motherboards | May 31, 2011 - 09:19 AM |
Tagged: motherboard, cpus, computex, asus, amd

Taipei, Taiwan (May 31th, 2011) ASUS has announced a new lineup of AMD based motherboards that support the 990FX/990X/970 chipsets and AM3+ CPUs, the first company in the market to provide fully compatible AM3+ motherboards. The models available are the M5A99/97 Series, the TUF SABERTOOTH 990FX and the ROG Crosshair V Formula. The M5A99/97 Series feature ASUS exclusive Dual Intelligent Processors (DIP), comprised of the TurboV Processor Unit (TPU) and Energy Processor Unit (EPU), which has been stated to be the “best power management technology” by worldwide media. Premium models also feature UEFI BIOS and the second generation of DIP that contains DIGI+ VRM (Digital power design), a first for AMD based boards. The new motherboards will be the first on the AMD chipset based platform to support both multi-GPU technologies AMD CrossFireX™ and NVIDIA® SLI™.


M5A99X EVO 3D -1.jpg

 

Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM

The ASUS M5A99/97 Series motherboards offer unsurpassed compatibility with new AMD AM3+ socket CPUs, while also being backwards compatible with the previous generation AM3 CPU. The M5A99/97 core series is equipped with DIP2, which features DIGI+ VRM technology in addition to the TPU and EPU. DIGI+ VRM power delivery allows a user to precisely adjust and control power settings digitally for precise power control and flexible tuning of their system, perfectly serving the AM3+ CPU specification’s power demand. Digital control differs from analog controls by eliminating digital-to-analog conversion lag, which helps to improve overclocking capabilities. This means precise power flow adjustment and management as well as easy and flexible tuning, including extra DRAM power control for the AMD platform. It’s the most precise power delivery available, providing the best-in-class in power efficiency, performance and stability while also helping to maximize the overall overclocking potential. Also included on the M5A99/97 Series motherboards is the intuitive UEFI BIOS menu interface. UEFI BIOS allows a user to control and adjust their BIOS settings through the use of a mouse-enabled interface for more user-friendly navigation. The built-in EZ Mode option also provides a drag-and-drop boot priority option, for easier management of boot devices.

 

Specs:

 

Taipei, Taiwan (May 31th, 2011) ASUS has announced a new lineup of AMD based motherboards that support the 990FX/990X/970 chipsets and AM3+ CPUs, the first company in the market to provide fully compatible AM3+ motherboards. The models available are the M5A99/97 Series, the TUF SABERTOOTH 990FX and the ROG Crosshair V Formula. The M5A99/97 Series feature ASUS exclusive Dual Intelligent Processors (DIP), comprised of the TurboV Processor Unit (TPU) and Energy Processor Unit (EPU), which has been stated to be the “best power management technology” by worldwide media. Premium models also feature UEFI BIOS and the second generation of DIP that contains DIGI+ VRM (Digital power design), a first for AMD based boards. The new motherboards will be the first on the AMD chipset based platform to support both multi-GPU technologies AMD CrossFireX™ and NVIDIA® SLI™.


M5A99X EVO 3D -1.jpg

 

Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM

The ASUS M5A99/97 Series motherboards offer unsurpassed compatibility with new AMD AM3+ socket CPUs, while also being backwards compatible with the previous generation AM3 CPU. The M5A99/97 core series is equipped with DIP2, which features DIGI+ VRM technology in addition to the TPU and EPU. DIGI+ VRM power delivery allows a user to precisely adjust and control power settings digitally for precise power control and flexible tuning of their system, perfectly serving the AM3+ CPU specification’s power demand. Digital control differs from analog controls by eliminating digital-to-analog conversion lag, which helps to improve overclocking capabilities. This means precise power flow adjustment and management as well as easy and flexible tuning, including extra DRAM power control for the AMD platform. It’s the most precise power delivery available, providing the best-in-class in power efficiency, performance and stability while also helping to maximize the overall overclocking potential. Also included on the M5A99/97 Series motherboards is the intuitive UEFI BIOS menu interface. UEFI BIOS allows a user to control and adjust their BIOS settings through the use of a mouse-enabled interface for more user-friendly navigation. The built-in EZ Mode option also provides a drag-and-drop boot priority option, for easier management of boot devices.

 

Specs:

 

Model

M5A99X EVO

M5A97 EVO

M5A97 PRO

M5A97

CPU Socket

AMD Socket AM3+ for AMD FX Series CPU up to 8-core, Compatible with AMD Socket AM3 for AMD Phenom™ II /Athlon™ II /Sempron™ 100 Series Processors

 

Chipset

AMD 990X/SB950

AMD 970/SB950

 

Memory

DDR3 2133(O.C.) / 1866 / 1600 / 1333 / 1066 MHz Support

 

Power Phase Design

DIGI+ VRM 6+2

4+2

 

PCIe x16 Slots

3

2

 

Multi-GPU

CrossFireX / SLI

CrossFireX

 

LAN

Realtek® Gigabit LAN

 

Audio

8 - Channel HD, DTS

8 - Channel HD

 

Storage

6 x SATA 6Gb/s
2 x SATA 3Gb/s
1 x Power eSATA
1 x eSATA

6 x SATA 6Gb/s
2 x eSATA

6 x SATA 6Gb/s

 

USB

4 x USB 3.0 (2 ports at back panel, 2 ports at front panel), 14 x USB 2.0

2 x USB 3.0 (back), 14 x USB 2.0

2 x USB 3.0 (back), 12 x USB 2.0

 

Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM

V

V

V

 

UEFI BIOS

V

V

V

V

TPU (with onboard switch)

V

V

V (without onboard switch)

V (without onboard switch)

EPU (with onboard switch)

V

V

V (without onboard switch)

V (without onboard switch)

 

Source: Asus
Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Phenom II End of Line

It was January, 2009 when AMD released their first 45 nm product to the desktop market.  While the server market actually received the first 45 nm parts some months earlier, they were pretty rare until AMD finished ramping production and was able to release the next generation of Phenom parts into the wild.  The Phenom II proved an able competitor to Intel’s seemingly unstoppable Core 2 architecture.  While the Phenom II typically had to be clocked slightly higher than the competing products, they held up well in terms of price and performance.

a980_01.jpg

AMD was finally able to overcome the stigma of the original Phenom launch, which was late, slow, and featured that wonderful revision B2 bug.  The Phenom II showed none of those problems, per clock performance was enhanced, and the chips were able to run at speeds of 3.0 GHz.  These chips were able to hit speeds of 4+ GHz on water cooling, and 5+ GHz using LNO2.  AMD seemed finally back in the game.  The Phenom II looked to propel AMD back into competitiveness with Intel, and the leaks pertaining to the 6 core versions of the architecture only made consumers all the more excited for what was to come.