Its that time again – New PC/PC upgrade

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I admit, I’m a PC gamer at heart, and I always have been. I do enjoy my XBOX 360 and I’m even distantly intending to buy a PS3 and play all those PS3 exclusives I never got to play (Last of us, anyone?) yet my PC has been languishing in a state of entropy for too many years now. I take very good care of my PC, like any hardware enthusiast does, but there is only so much anyone can do…

Its an old system by todays cutting edge standards, running a Core2 Quad Extreme 6850 with 4GB RAM and a Radeon 5870 graphics card. Recently, the graphics card is started to show overheating issues typical of ‘old’ hardware and my warranty has run out on all the parts as far as I have checked… Its the end of days for this trusty workhorse.

But importantly, what has made me decide that the time is now, despite my procrastination regarding heavy investment in a new system?
There are a few things which are 1) the new consoles are here and 2) the new games for these new consoles are here also, of course.

I think these 2 factors have a profound effect on games design and requirements as far as I see it. With the advent of the new consoles, the bar has been raised for the minimum quality of games for the next decade at least. This is a big deal, and is not meant to imply that consoles are lesser than a PC, but PC hardware is constantly advancing whereas consoles don’t, and this has its own pros and cons.

Last year, and even now, games have been squeezing the best out of the ‘current generation’ consoles. Just look at what is achieved in GTA 5, Halo 4, Gears of War 3 (OR GoW Judgement) or Uncharted 3 and Last of Us. These are amazing console-exclusive (Most platform exclusive also) games for their respective platforms but they are still held back by the limitations of hardware. They are eking out every last frame from the ‘360 and PS3.

Lets not forget that the ‘360 and PS3 are supercomputers in their own right also, these are immensely powerful machines with phenomenal processing power, but they are still not ‘next gen’, where the Xbox One and PS4 take the torch/flag/other-metaphor.

So what about these new games?

Really this is what got me started about this and made me realise that I need to upgrade my PC. Why? Which game in particular forced this dawning realisation?

Watch_Dogs.

I must admit, I’m not really amazed by this game (Although it does look really cool, and presents some interesting gameplay), its that Ubisoft have released the PC requirements for this game on Uplay:

MINIMUM

Supported OS: Windows Vista SP2 64bit, Windows 7 SP1 64bit, Windows 8 64bit
Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q8400 @ 2.66Ghz or AMD Phenom II X4 940 @ 3.0Ghz
RAM: 6 GB
Video Card: 1024 VRAM DirectX 11 with Shader Model 5.0 (see supported list)
Sound Card: DirectX 9 compatible Sound Card
This product supports 64-bit operating systems ONLY

RECOMMENDED

Processor: Core i7 3770 @ 3.5Ghz or AMD FX-8350 @ 4.0Ghz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: 2048 VRAM DirectX 11 with Shader Model 5.0 or higher (see supported list)
Sound Card: Surround Sound 5.1 capable sound card
Supported Video Cards at Time of Release:
nVidia GeForce GTX460 or better, GT500, GT600, GT700 series;
AMD Radeon HD5850 or better, HD6000, HD7000, R7 and R9 series
Intel® Iris™ Pro HD 5200

My PC doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for this game in some areas.
In other areas, I’m just above the waterline for minimum. This game is released next month.

My PC is officially borderline minimum spec.

So now I know a rebuild is required, the next question is what to aim for and any other considerations?

I know I want to rebuild/upgrade my home server to be nearly-par with my new rig. I’ve always done this in case one breaks down at a critical moment, the other can be emergency cannibalised to get going again. This adds a lot of costs, but it brings its own benefits of course. The reality is that I’m looking at spending probably around £1200 to rebuild these 2 machines (Not considering resell value of my existing stuff).

The real question also I’ve been wondering about is to go Intel or AMD for this generation of hardware?
It’s no secret that Intel makes the absolute fastest processors available, especially with the new Haswell CPUs, but AMD are in a pretty good position these days also. They are building the hardware in both the ‘next gen’ consoles from Microsoft and Sony, and their PC graphics cards have a good history of solid and reliable leading performance.

The point about AMD hardware being within both next gen consoles is very important, especially because both new consoles are essentially PCs now. This means that console developers (The majority) will prioritise optimisation using AMD’s CPU and graphics hardware. AMD hardware is also a lot cheaper at the moment.

This leads me to lean more towards AMD for the coming rebuild(s), despite all my current platforms being Intel, although I could still change my mind. I certainly want my new hardware to last longer, meaning optimisation will be important, and console games ported to PC may benefit AMD hardware more in this respect.

I think I’ll leave it here, but my parting shot will be a wishlist of what I’m currently looking at:

Workstation Build:
AMD Eight Core FX-8 9370 Black Edition 4.40GHz (Nice and fast for gaming)
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5 AMD 990FX (Solid PCI-E performance)
Kingston HyperX Genesis 16GB (More than enough for gaming)
Radeon R9 280X 3072MB (Essentially an upgraded Radeon HD 7970)

Server Build:
AMD Eight Core FX-8 9370 Black Edition 4.40GHz (Maybe a little too fast for server requirements)
or AMD Six Core FX-6 6300 Black Edition 3.50GHz (Probably more than enough for my VM needs)
Gigabyte 990FXA-UD5 AMD 990FX (Interested in the 8x SATA6GB ports, AMD-V & AMD-Vi/IOMMU support)
Kingston HyperX Genesis 32GB (Lots of RAM for VMs)

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