Opinion PC

PC build guide for SA gamers: A decent Intel-based rig for AAA games

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Last month I wrote about a mid-ranged AMD-based VR Ready PC on a budget on a budget. This gaming build recommendation, based on the Intel Skylake platform, should see you playing just about every current and upcoming game quite comfortably through the 2016/2017 festive season and beyond.

Build ideas and philosophy

This PC was assembled with the idea of being in the mid-range to enthusiast price and performance point, quite capable of handling everything from current through upcoming titles; and should keep you playing comfortably with robust graphics and performance settings well into 2017 and beyond. With aggressive shopping, the build's price can be trimmed, but taking into account upgradeability of the existing hardware, as well as feature set, I felt this set of part combinations would make for an excellent long-term rig.

The build list is below, with items selected for the best comparison possible and to make pricing fair. The biggest problem comes in with some brands being available at one retailer and not another; for instance, there are some better-priced nVidia cards from Wootware, but power supplies tend to be priced more competitively at Raru.

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Pricing accurate at time of writing

Motherboard, Processor, Memory

No real surprises in the CPU selection with a boxed edition Intel Core i5-6500. The processor gets the job done; and it does it well, without having all the heavy-hitting buffs of a more expensive i7. Realistically, unless you’re doing some heavy content creation or require specific computing muscle such as running Virtual Machines, the i5 range of processors is usually more than sufficient to keep you gaming...and gaming well.

I chose the Asus Z170K Skylake motherboard, as it includes a good selection of features, expandability as well as USB 3.1 support. I also happen to like big boards and I cannot lie…

The selection of 8GB RAM was deliberate to keep in line with a VR-Ready machine, but realistically, most folks should consider double the amount of memory fitted to 16GB for future-proofing their rigs, although upgrading at a later stage is also easy, considering this board does have 4 memory slots available and this configuration only uses two.

The Corsair SPEC Alpha chassis isn’t the cheapest chassis available, but is pretty and definitely has the capacity to mount just about any graphics card available today and then some; and again, it it so pretty…

While the Corsair VS series PSU is a noble range of PSU, my personal choice would have been for something such as the Corsair CX Modular series Power Supply Unit (PSU) to ensure that unnecessary extra PSU cabling can be physically removed, but nothing stops you from either fitting a modular PSU, or simply making sure that the unused power cabling is neatly tucked and tied away. In either case 550 watts will be sufficient to keep this whole assembly running.

Hard Drive selection is fairly easy – Solid State Drives (SSD) are good, and the Corsair Force LE series is excellent value for money, but with burgeoning storage requirements for games coming out these days, a decent secondary drive for those huge Steam libraries should be considered a necessity. Lastly, a Windows OS is sadly going to be a requirement for some time, till Linux graphics performance gets on par with Windows, Vulkan support in games notwithstanding.

Graphics Cards

While VR support is still some time away from commonplace use, being ready for it doesn’t hurt. The graphics cards in this selection are both the bigger variants of their class on offer – the 6GB edition of the GeForce 1060; and the 8GB edition of the AMD RX480 series of graphics cards. While this is the most expensive component, these selections should keep your computing refresh delayed for that much longer.

One can drop the memory spec of the graphics cards for a better price, but the biggest impact of doing so will be difficulty with gaming beyond full HD resolutions, most notably on the GeForce series. Other than that, the GeForce series of cards generally tend to eek out a bit more performance than their AMD equivalents. If price sensitivity is an issue, then by all means swap out for the AMD equivalent, or even drop a series down if needed. 

If history has taught us anything, AMD cards tend to get better with age as their drivers mature.

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Like a good Cognac...

Closing Thoughts

While there are certainly some adjustments that can be made here and there, this build should serve as a comfortable middle ground for relative value and performance. Do you have any suggestions for tweaking this build selection? We'd love to have to get your input! Let us know in the comments below!

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