Gaming PC for the price of a PS4

With the Playstation 4 launching on 13 December in SA, many gamers are considering the question that has been asked for decades – a console, or a PC for gaming? Today we’ll have a look at a PC that will be priced similarly to the PS4.

Sony’s Playstation 4 has a recommended retail price of R6,299. We’ve set our budget to R6,300 and tried to build a comparable PC for the same amount of money.

A few things need to be considered before we move on, though. Firstly, the PS4 comes with everything you need to get started – a controller, the hardware, a hard drive and the operating system. We’re a ways off from recommending SteamOS or other Linux distros as a free alternative, so a good chunk of the rig’s budget goes to software.

You can stick this rig anywhere you choose, but it’ll work just as well plugged into a HDMI-capable TV in your living room. A bonus to this is that it can play any media you want, it will rip MP3 tracks flawlessly, you don’t have to pay for multiplayer and Kinect is an optional add-on.

The table below illustrates a recommended selection of hardware that will give buyers a similar experience to visuals on the Playstation 4 for a similar price. Note that console games are targeted for a specific set of hardware, and optimisations done for the game may allow it to run better than comparable hardware in a desktop Windows software environment.

For the purposes of this roundup, products marked as “Out of stock,” or “Contact for availability” or “Sold out” will not be listed in the table. Please note that all prices are estimated and are subject to change before product availability, and is based on the exchange rate with the American Dollar.

Component Desktop specifications
Ikonix Rebel Tech Wootware Landmark Titan-ice
CPU Intel Pentium G3420 (or similar) 1034 739 830 726 829
Mobo MSI H81M-P33 (or similar) 899 601 660 621 629
RAM Corsair DDR3-1600 4GB 479 524 579 572 549
GPU AMD Radeon HD7770 1GB 1392 1371 1449 1431 1449
HDD Western Digital 500GB HDD (or similar) 662 650 692 671 679
DVD 22-24x DVD-RW SATA 170 169 199 174 189
PSU Corsair VS350 (or similar) 406 358 395 438 399
Chassis Cooler Master Elite 344 (or similar) 365 363 419 380 329
OS Windows 8/8.1 64-bit 1059 979 1058 1089 1049
Input Controller or mouse & keyboard 550 550 550 550 550
Total 7016 6304 6831 6652 6651

Rebeltech comes the closest to offering a similar price for a Playstation 4 and this is great news for those of you looking for a PC alternative instead. Other retailers miss their mark because their prices are higher, or in some cases they don’t stock the same product as every other retailer. Now let’s briefly look at some of the choices here.

CPU, Motherboard and Memory

MSI H81M-P33 motherboard

MSI H81M-P33 motherboard

I’ve recommended a low-end dual-core Intel Pentium processor running at a reasonably high clock speed, a motherboard with a reasonable feature list and port layout, and 4GB of RAM from Corsair. Using cheaper RAM brands is up to you, although at the bottom of the barrel they’re all pretty much the same.

For the most part we’ll be CPU-limited as a result of only having two cores. This isn’t an intentional thing, but as a direct result of having to pay for Windows. Without it, we’d be able to easily move up to a Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM and a slightly bigger hard drive. There’s little room for tweaking here, so its up to the GPU to do the heavy work for us.

Had AMD’s socket FM2 boards been cheaper, and were the Athlon X4 750K available locally at a good price, that would be my choice instead.

GPU and Windows 8.1

AMD Radeon HD7770

AMD Radeon HD7770

The GPU selection is critical for a box like this one that has limited resources. The Radeon HD7770 should be able to power most games to a 40fps average at 1080p resolution at medium settings with FXAA, similar to an Xbox One. This is unfortunately the limit of how much performance one can extract from the box given our budget.

This is where Windows 8.1 comes in. Not only does DirectX 11.2 promise some performance and efficiency boosts, we also have project Mantle to look forward to in future games running on EA’s Frostbite engine. Mantle removes CPU bottlenecks for the most part and will give the system a moderate boost in performance, which is needed.

In addition, Microsoft’s tiled resources feature in DirectX 11.2 means that the more memory we have available in the system, the less likely the chance that we’ll run into a VRAM limitation in the future.

Power supply and chassis

Cooler Master Elite 344 mATX

Cooler Master Elite 344 mATX

The chassis is Cooler Master’s diminutive Elite 344, an mATX chassis that tries to take up as little space as possible while still offering a removable drive cage and good cooling capability. This means that the box will draw less attention to itself when used in a living room. Even smaller chassis are available, but that requires a higher budget.

The Corsair PSU was selected for minimal cable clutter and the fact that we don’t expect the system to draw a lot of power. Still, with 300W on tap from the 12v rail and a single 6-pin PEG power connector, we can power anything up to a Core i5 processor with an AMD Radeon R9 270, which would be just under the limit of what’s possible with this PSU.

More Hardware news:

AMD Radeon R9 270 review roundup

AMD Mantle API poised to revolutionise PC gaming

AMD Kaveri APU – impressive graphics power detailed

Nvidia Geforce GTX780 Ti review roundup

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Gaming PC for the price of a PS4

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