Battlefield 3 (BF3) System Build Guide - What you need to succeed
If you have been visiting PC Perspective at all over the last week there is no doubt you have seen a lot of discussion about the currently running Battlefield 3 beta. We posted an article looking at performance of several different GPUs in the game and then followed it up with a look at older cards like the GeForce 9800 GT. We did a live stream of some PC Perspective staff playing BF3 with readers and fans, showed off and tested the locked Caspian Border map and even looked at multi-GPU scaling performance. It was a lot of testing and a lot of time, but now that we have completed it, we are ready to summarize our findings in a piece that many have been clamoring for - a Battlefield 3 system build guide.
The purpose of this article is simple: gather our many hours or testing and research and present the results in a way that simply says "here is the hardware we recommend." It is a the exact same philosophy that makes our PC Perspective Hardware Leaderboard so successful as it gives the reader all the information they need, all in one place.
The Targets - Resolution and Quality
Rather than set pricing goals this time I decided to go the route of setting target quality goals. After testing the game at different resolutions and image quality settings, as well as asking our readers about their experiences with the game, we came up with a set of three scenarios to target:
- Resolution: 1680x1050
- In-game Setting: Medium
- Resolution: 1920x1080
- In-game Setting: High
- Resolution: 2560x1600 (or 3x 1080p)
- In-game Setting: Ultra
While this won't cover EVERYONE'S goals (maybe you want to do three displays but at High settings) I think it offers enough options that anyone should be able to make a judgment on what works. Of course these three configurations will in fact have very different prices and we'll summarize those as we go as well.
Also, keep in mind that our goal was to hit the 60 FPS mark on average with the outdoor scenes in the beta. While some users might be comfortable in the 40-50 range we prefer to have some extra padding on our frame rate in case of some unexpected slow down.
The Basics - Processor, Motherboard, Memory
With all of our time spent on Battlefield 3 we can say quite definitively that GPU performance is what matters the most when making a decision on your system build. The processor is utilized in an efficient manner and the Frostbite 2 engine is pretty heavily multi-threaded but even with a quad-core HyperThreaded Intel Nehalem processor we never saw CPU usage go over 45% and that includes using FRAPS to monitor performance and having the browser open in the background.
So, much of our base system will look pretty familiar from system to system though we did change the motherboard, memory and CPU from build to build once or twice. But I wanted to note to you hear that even if you have a Core i5-2400 or an Athlon II X4 and we recommend a Core i7-2600K for something, you shouldn't feel as if you are missing the boat on performance.
Also, keep in mind we are only selecting the base components of CPU, motherboard, memory and GPU in this guide. The other components are up to you!
On to the selections!