Building a cheap gaming PC – Part 3

Welcome to the, very belated, final instalment of this series, if you’ve not read part one or two, go ahead and check them out. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

If you’ve already read them, or you’ve just come back lets continue. This post will be about how these machines stack up against some benchmarks, real world games and we will explore if they are good value for money vs. buying new (both custom and prebuilt).

I’ve benchmarked the machines against themselves in their stock for first, using Cinebench R15, Unigene Heaven 4 and Geekbench 4 to get an idea of how far we’ve come with the upgrades. Later on I will run the upgraded machines through some more benchmarks and games.

Optiplex 7010 (‘low end’)

So first off, lets take a look at the benchmarks, here I will compare the 7010 to its original configuration (Pentium G645, 2GB RAM and Inbuilt Graphics)

Benchmark Stock Upgraded Increase
Cinebench R15 CPU 189 189 225 19%
Unigine Heaven 4 Score 115 115 690 500%
Geekbench Single Core 2455 3218 31%
Geekbench Multi Core 4161 5530 32%

As you can see, we got a pretty decent performance increase with the i3, and the GTX580 is night and day compared to the inbuilt graphics at 500% faster!

Next, lets see what it would cost to build something of roughly similar performance with brand new parts. For simplicity, I will use SCAN.co.uk as the source of all the parts. Even though both Dell machines have optical drives, I won’t include them here as if I were building a machine I wouldn’t bother with one.

For a CPU, we will go with the lowly Celeron G4900, which is roughly 8% slower than the i3-3220 in the 7010 and comes in at £53

So next, we will need a motherboard to support it, I went for the cheapest board I could find that supports coffee lake, which is the ASUS Prime Intel H310M-E at £50

For memory, I went with the cheapest 8GB DDR4 kit I could get, the Corsair Vengeance 2x4GB at £67

The cheapest drive available was a 1TB Toshiba, at £34 so i went with that rather than a 500GB drive.

For the GPU, the closest I could find to a GTX 580 was the GTX 1050 2Gb, which is roughly 12% faster and comes in at £115 for a model from Palit.

Finally, we need a case and power supply. For the PSU we will go with a refurbished Corsair VS650 for £35 and the cheapest case I could find was the DeepCool Wave V2 Micro ATX at £17.

The final ‘low end’ build

With all these parts, we get a grand total of £349, just over 3x the cost of the ‘low end’ machine for similar performance, given the faster ram, but slightly slower CPU and faster GPU. So now lets take a look at the 9010

Optiplex 9010 (‘high end’)

As with the 7010, I will be comparing the 9010 with its former self (Pentium G645, 2GB RAM and Inbuilt Graphics)

Benchmark Stock Upgraded Increase
Cinebench R15 CPU 189 670 254%
Unigine Heaven 4 115 1301 1031%
Geekbench Single Core 2455 3922 59%
Geekbench Multi Core 4161 13479 223%

The differences here are quite dramatic, thanks to the top end i7-3770 CPU it decimates its former self. The GTX970 is over 1000% faster than the onboard graphics (and twice as fast as the GTX580 in the 7010)

With that out of the way, lets again look at what would it cost me to build something of similar performance using new parts;

Starting with the CPU, the closest I could find to an i7-3770 in an 8th Gen Intel CPU was the i3-8100, which is roughly 13% faster than the i7 in my box. It costs £155

As with the first comparison I went with the ASUS Prime Intel H310M-E at £50

Now we need 16GB of memory, this board supports DDR4 which is of course going to be faster than the DDR3 in my machine. I went with the cheapest 16GB kit, which was a Corsair Vengeance 2x8GB kit for £110

Now we need some storage, I will go with 1x 250GB SSD and 1x 1TB mechanical drive to closely match the 9010 build. A Gigabyte 240GB SSD came it at £29 on offer, and a Toshiba 1TB HDD came in at £34.

Now comes the good bit, the GPU! I went with the GTX 1060 3Gb, as its the closest new card in terms of performance to the GTX970 I have in the 9010, with a EVGA GTX 1060 3GB coming in at £179.

Finally, we need a case and power supply. As in the previous build, we will go with the Corsair VS650 PSU (£35) and the DeepCool Wave V2 Case (£17) as both are cheap and adequate for this build.

After all that, here is what we ended up with;

The final parts list

A grand total of £624.19 for this build. Now it would certainly be a little faster than the 9010, as it has a slightly quicker CPU, GPU and RAM.

Prebuilt Systems

The cheapest prebuilt I could find from SCAN was this model, with a Geforce GTX 1050, Pentium G5400 CPU, 8GB DDR4 and a 1TB HDD, coming in at £599.

The SCAN prebuilt machine

The CPU in that machine would be roughly 13% slower than the one in the 9010 and 32% faster than the one in the 7010 and the GPU would be about 87% slower than the 9010’s and 12% faster than the 7010’s. Given the SSD in the 9010, vs the mechanical HDD in the prebuilt, the 9010 would generally ‘feel’ faster. With the faster CPU in the prebuilt, it would definately outperform the 7010, but would be eclipsed by the 9010 in terms of gaming performance.

Heading over to Curry’s, we find both the PC Specialist Tornado R3, an AMD Ryzen based system and the ACER Nitro N50, an Intel Core i3 based machine for £599

Let’s take a look at the Tornado R3 first;

The Tornado R3

It has a Ryzen 3 2200G, which is roughly 10% faster than the i7 in the 9010 and about 64% faster than the i3 in the 7010. The GPU once again is a GTX 1050 2GB, so as before it would be about 87% slower than the 9010’s and 12% faster than the 7010’s. This machine has 8GB of memory and a 1TB mechanical drive, so similar specs to our 7010 there. The machine gets a score of 1949 in 3dMark’s Time Spy benchmark.

Next up is the ACER Nitro N50-600;

The Nitro N50

This machine is rocking an Intel Core i3-8100 CPU, which is roughly 13% faster than the 9010’s chip (and the CPU we used in our custom build above) and about 69% faster than the i3 in the 7010. The GPU again is the GTX 1050 2GB, so same performance numbers as before (89% slower than 9010 and 12% faster than 7010). The acer has 8GB of memory and a 1TB mechanical hard disk, however it also has an 16GB Intel Optane module, meaning the disk performance should be much closer to that of an SSD. This machine gets a score of 2011 in 3dMark’s Time Spy benchmark.

More Benchmarks

So lets take a look at some more benchmarks comparing the two machines. I will also compare them against the two prebuilt’s from Curry’s using their listed Time Spy Scores

Benchmark 9010 7010 Nitro N50 Tornado R3
3D Mark Time Spy 3383 877 2011 1949

As we can see, both prebuilt machines are approximately 40% slower than the 9010 and are approximately double the cost. The 7010 was 74% slower. The results here are not surprising, given Time Spy is a GPU intensive benchmark and the GTX 970 is significantly faster than the GTX 1050.

Now, lets compare the 9010 and 7010 in their upgraded forms against one another in a few more benchmarks. All benchmarks are run at maximum settings, at 1080p

Benchmark 7010 9010
Cinebench R15 225 670
Geekbench Single Core 3218 3922
Geekbench Multi Core 5530 13479
3D Mark Time Spy 877 3383
Unigine Heaven 4 690 1301
Far Cry 5 13/18/23 FPS 45/50/56 FPS

As we can see, the 7010 does very well on price/performance ratio as it cost a third as much as the 9010 to build, however, in the real world the 9010 feels significantly faster and is the machine I would much rather use day to day, and game on. In fact, I’m writing this post on the 9010!

Conclusion

What was the point of all this then? Is it worth it to buy used hardware and build a machine? Well to the first point, I guess there wasn’t much of a point, and had I not accidentally bought two machines perhaps there would be no posts at all, but I thought it might be worth sharing my experiences with others in case they decided to embark upon similar builds.

As for if it was worth it to buy used… I definitely think so. Given the performance of my 9010 vs the cost of buying all new parts it certainly does well, but of course there are advantages and disadvantages.

For instance, if I built the 9010 equivalent machine, I could upgrade it down the line to much faster CPU, like an i7-8700 and a much better GPU like a RTX2080 (If I wanted to spend the money!) whereas the 9010 is nearly maxed out, sure, I could put a faster GPU in my 9010, but I will get to a point where the i7-3770 becomes a bottleneck. A new machine also has the advantage of a full warranty and support, and is overall much lower risk. Given the cost of them, I think prebuilts are completely out of the question, at least at the low end, as we saw above my 9010 competitor would cost the same as the three prebuilts compared, but with much higher specs!

However, for me, as someone who likes to tinker and play with hardware I am happy with going the used route, and if I really want to there is nothing to stop me from swapping in a better motherboard and CPU, faster memory or a better GPU. The little dell case is standard ATX form factor, but even then I could get rid of it entirely and use something else. There is still an upgrade path with this machine, its just not as easy as with its new-build competitor.

The 7010 is an interesting one, in my opinion it is great value for money, when you conciser the performance of it and the fact it cost less than the video card in the 9010 and if you wanted a machine for eSports games like CS:GO or Fortnite then it would be a very, very cheap way to get into it. It will still run most modern titles on medium settings and it has plenty of potential for upgrade. If I were going to use it regularly, the first thing I would do is install an SSD, because I forgot how slow mechanical drives were!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and maybe you’re even inspired to give this a go your self. I am certainly happy with how these builds have turned out and would encourage others to try it, as long as you are comfortable with the risks.

 

 

 

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