How to build a £600 Gaming PC
This has been a really enjoyable review, as ones that start unexpectedly often are.
It's such a common thought amongst almost everyone that you need to spend big money to get any kind of gaming performance from a PC. Sub-£1000 PCs are generally considered to be "internet" or "home office" PCs and when you look at the price of a serious CPU and GPU combination it makes perfect sense.
A GTX580 and i7-950 would be £700 before you factor in any other hardware at all, whereas our budget system here rocks up at the checkout shy of £600.
Clearly though this is in no way a system limited to merely browsing your local web-based emporium. Although it's perfectly capable of doing so without a hitch and having used it for a while I could barely notice the difference between it and my normal 980X based system for daily tasks. Only the very CPU intensive things such as video editing did the dual-core nature of the i3-540 rear its head.
Gaming is what we're here for and gaming it does with some vigour. As the graphs on the preceding pages demonstrate, in nearly every game we could find the Aria 540 bundle based system kept right up with the official OC3D test rig. One or two frames here or there are nothing to quibble about and certainly in gameplay terms aren't noticeable.
With the AMD HD6870 in both systems it's worth noting the performance here if you're looking at your own system and wondering about what to upgrade. Rather than looking at your CPU, clearly the first port of call should be a new graphics card. Assuming that you're not running a GTX580 SLI system on a Pentium III.
Special mention has to be made of the underlying system we have here, courtesy of the pre-overclocked, pre-built bundle from Aria. The benefits of having a pre-built system are obvious to anyone who either doesn't wish to build their own rig, or those of us who've found themselves at 6PM with a dead bit of hardware stopping their build in its tracks and leading to a lengthy RMA procedure.
When this pre-built nature is coupled to a hefty overclock that Aria supply it with we just have to love everything about it. The famous silicon-lottery we all have to contend with that can leave us with a CPU that requires 1.4v just to get a 500MHz overclock are eliminated with the combination of the great Core i3 processors from Intel, but also the quality control from Aria.
It's not even as if we had to compromise vastly the rest of the hardware to get some big numbers. A Corsair PSU and Samsung drive in a NZXT case aren't poor choices at any budget, much less down at this point.
Probably best of all though is the variations possible. Certainly we've used a HD6870 here, but you could just as easily go down to a HD6850 or perhaps a GTX460 should your budget require it. You could also, as the GPU is such a large part of the equation, go up to a GTX570 which is the best performing card on the market, short of dropping a huge wedge on its bigger brother. Having spent £53 on a case, but with £30 of our budget still available, the choice of case is seemingly infinite if you want something a little larger, or flashier, or stealthier or, well it's up to you.
So can you buy a brand-new gaming-class PC for £600? Thanks to the pre-overclocked bundle from Aria and some careful selection of your components the answer is clearly yes.
This wouldn't be a review without a score though. We can't score our own choice of system, that would be narcissistic and we've no need to be self-serving.
However we can score the bundle that underpins our choice here, and a 4.2GHz pre-built system that rocks as hard as this does, for £220, makes for an easy winner of the OC3D Gold and Value awards.