With modern game consoles and gaming-capable laptops, there’s little reason to buy a full-sized desktop gaming PC unless you want to ‘dial it up to 11’ for the highest graphical quality.
We rounded up and tested gaming PCs from major local system-builders. Our goal: to help you understand what you get for your money, what you should be looking for in a gaming desktop, and what you should expect in terms of build quality, components and configuration when you pay someone else to build a gaming PC for you.
The request was simple – send us a machine geared towards 3D gaming which costs approximately $3,000 excluding monitor and peripherals.
Four machines came back from Auckland-based retailers, whilst a fifth came from Acer’s Australia/New Zealand catalogue. Dell were unable to supply a suitable Alienware gaming desktop in time for our roundup, or for this online follow-up.
We put each machine through a gruelling suite of gaming and processing tests with most graphical settings on ‘maximum’ to really test their mettle. We also threw in our hardware reviewer’s hand-assembled home rig for a point of reference.
In addition to performance, we looked at aspects such as build quality, cable management, component choice and overclocked settings to really determine what you get for your money.
Machines Tested: Specifications
|RRP incl GST|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-3570K||Intel Core i7-3770K||Intel Core i5-3570K||Intel Core i7-3770K||Intel Core i5-3570K|
|Overclocked?||Yes, 4.5GHz||Yes, 4.5GHz||No||No||Yes, 4.5GHz|
|Cooling||XSPC Rasa 750 RS240 240mm WaterCooling Kit ||Corsair H80 120mm Watercooling Kit||Intel 120mm Watercooling Kit||Heatsink/fan (OEM)||Cooler Master X6 Heatsink/fan|
|RAM||8GB (2x4GB) Patriot Viper Xtreme DDR3-1600 CL8 ||8GB (2x4GB) G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-1600 CL8||8GB (2x4GB) G.Skill Sniper DDR3-1600 CL9||16GB (4x4GB) DDR3-1333 CL9 (OEM)||16GB (4x4GB) G.Skill RipjawsZ DDR3-1866 CL9|
|GPU||2 x EVGA Nvidia GeForce GTX670 2GB in SLI||Gigabyte Overclocked Nvidia GeForce GTX670 2GB||Asus Overclocked AMD Radeon HD7970 3GB||Nvidia GeForce GTX670 2GB (OEM)||Leadtek Nvidia GeForce GTX680 2GB|
|HDD1||120GB Intel 330 Series SATA3 SSD||60GB Intel 520 Series SATA3 SSD||128GB OCZ Vertex 4 SATA3 SSD||120GB SSD (OEM)||128GB OCZ Vertex 4 SATA3 SSD|
|HDD2||1TB Western Digital Caviar Black 7200RPM||1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM||1TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM||2TB 7200RPM SATA3 (OEM)||2TB Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM|
|ODD||LG DVD-RW||Asus DVD-RW||Asus BD-RW||BD-RW (OEM)||LG BD-R/DVD-RW|
|Mobo||Asrock Extreme4 Z77||ASUS P8Z77-V||Asus Deluxe Z77||Intel Z77 chipset (OEM)||Gigabyte GA-Z77X-D3H|
|Case||Corsair Vengeance C70 Mid-Tower||Corsair Vengeance C70 Mid-Tower||Cooler Master Silencio 550||Acer Aspire G5 Predator||Cooler Master HAF XM|
|PSU||760W Seasonic X-Series||750W FSP AU-750M||650W Cooler Master GX||OEM||750W Seasonic M12II|
|O/S||Windows 7 Home 64bit||Windows 7 Home 64bit||-||Windows 7 Home 64bit||Windows 7 Home 64bit|
|Other||NZXT White sleeved cables + LED kit||BitFenix White sleeved cables||-||Logitech MK260 Keyboard and Mouse combo||TP-Link TL-WN781N PCI-E WiFi adaptor|
Machines Tested: Benchmarks
PCMark 7 (Score)
Cinebench R11.5 (FPS)
3DMark 11 (FPS)
Extreme Preset (1080p)
Unigine Heaven 3.0 (FPS)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat (FPS)
Ultra 4xAA, HBAO High + Tess. (1080p)
Ultra 4xAA, HBAO High + Tess. (1440p)
Battlefield 3 (FPS)
Ultra Preset (1080p)
Ultra Preset (1440p)
Ultra + 8xAA (1080p)
Ultra + 8xAA (1440p)
Trackmania Nations Forever (FPS)
Very high, 8xAA, 16xAF (1080p)
Very high, 8xAA, 16xAF (1440p)
Anno 2070 (FPS)
Very High (1080p)
Very High (1440p)
1080p (1920 x 1080)
1440p (2560 x 1440)
System power draw (W)
Load (Furmark 1080p burn-in)
It is quite obvious that at certain price-points the PC component market lacks a little bit of competition. Every machine we tested featured either the Core i5-3570K or Core i7-3770K CPU from Intel, and four out of five featured either the GTX670 or GTX 680 from Nvidia. AMD has not regained a footing in the high-performance arena, if system-builder preferences are anything to go by.
Despite this, we still had quite a wide range of performance and value from this line up. The cheapest machine (PB Tech’s PB Extreme 7105W) ended up beating three of the more expensive machines (four if you count my home rig), however it suffered from some quality issues.
Conversely, the most expensive PC (the Acer Aspire Predator G5920) had the least desirable components, terrible cable management and finished second-to-last on the benchmark table, only narrowly beating the significantly cheaper PC World Monkey from Mighty Ape.
Honourable mention goes to the Playtech Hunter. If you have a strict budget of $3,000 for a gaming PC (excluding monitor and peripherals) then hands-down this is a winner. Top shelf components combined with skilled cable management and overclocking result in a powerhouse PC that looks the business.
For just a few hundred dollars extra, however, you can crank things up by several notches and go for the Computer Lounge Gen-X Special Ops. We feel it is disproportionately better than all the other machines, despite costing a little bit more than most of them, which is why we have given it the Editors’ Choice award in this year’s roundup.
Every aspect of the Special Ops is spot on and the attention to detail is astounding, particularly the foam packing to protect the components during shipping. So before you buy that next gaming PC don’t just check the specifications; pop the panels off and really try and get to grips with what exactly you are getting. When it comes to quality, the benchmark has most definitely been set.