Best $800 Streaming PC [Part 1]
Goal: To create the best value streaming PC without making compromises on quality or performance.
What is SpecOps?
IBP SpecOps is a small team of PC enthusiasts with a variety of expertise. We share a common goal of creating new and innovative PCs and PC components to help give PC gamers something new and exciting. Unlike traditional Skunkworks teams, our work is not done in secret, but with help from our community (that includes you).
Welcome to the inaugural project in the IBP SpecOps Program. This project was inspired by the current popularity of esports and streaming PC games over services like twitch.tv. Many of our own employees are avid gamers and some stream as well, and while going through the specifications of our own computers, we realized that there was a need for someone to do a thorough investigation of the performance needed to build a proper streaming PC.
While this project may not be groundbreaking, after all, we are just taking what is available and combining it, it is no less important. We will be seeking a huge amount of feedback from the community for this, so it’s a great chance for us to test the waters.
Process and Constraints
- All components must be off the shelf available, no custom made or “no-brand” parts.
- We must avoid brand bias and focus strictly on performance and value.
- The PC cannot exceed $800 in cost. We feel like this is a good price target, let us know if this is off (too high? too low?)
These rules will help us by defining the boundaries of the project and set how much flexibility we have.
Next, we will briefly outline the process we will be following. Each major step will be detailed in this blog, and you are free to give your own two cents at any time. We will be listening.
1. Internal testing and validation.
We will start by running our own benchmarks and trials with a variety of hardware to narrow down what we will need. This will start with major components like the CPU and GPU, and end with the less crucial components like the PSU and case.
We will construct some test systems and allow iBUYPOWER employees and streamers to give their feedback. We will publish this feedback to the community and see what they (you) think as well.
3. Final Feedback and Finished Product
After hearing back from the community and settling on a final spec, we will SKU up the streaming PC and make it available for purchase. We will also give you a PCPartPicker list for those of you DIY folks who would rather build it yourselves.
Testing and Validation
Our first task at hand is to determine what our benchmarks and usage models are going to be for testing the components on this system. The top 10 Games on Twitch.tv as of the start of this project are:
- League of Legends (PC)
- Dota 2 (PC)
- Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Multiplatform)
- CS:GO (PC)
- Hearthstone (PC)
- Binding of Issac (PC)
- Minecraft (PC)
- WoW (PC)
- Smash Brothers (3DS/WiiU)
Some of these titles have extremely low requirements, and so we will skip them. Adding a couple of less popular but more demanding games, we will use the following as our primary benchmarks:
League of Legends
League is and has been the most popular esports and streaming title for quite some time, so leaving it out of the picture would be unwise. Its requirements are very low, so we don’t see many issues with running this title.
Dota 2 is a MOBA like League, but with potentially different system requirements. So as to not make assumptions that all MOBAs require the same types of systems, we will be comparing League performance to Dota 2.
Counterstrike : Global Offensive
CS:GO is an office favorite, and of all the games here probably represents the hardest performance target. The nature of the game requires incredibly quick response times, so we will be looking carefully at the effect of being on and off stream on the game’s performance.
Starcraft II: Heart of the Swarm
SCII is still huge in esports, and is very CPU intensive, so we are expecting to find some bottlenecks.
Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls
People have renewed interest in this seemingly doomed title after Blizzard introduced the Reaper of Souls expansion and Seasons. D3 isn’t particularly difficult to run but can bog down an underpowered system during intense moments.
Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 was selected instead of WoW because of its higher system requirements and the fact that nobody in the office plays WoW religiously enough to test the system. This should also cover Final Fantasy XIV, as GW2 has even higher performance requirements than most popular MMOs.
BF4 is one of the primary benchmarks for high end systems, due to Crysis’s decline in popularity (Crysis 3 still has much higher system requirements, but has very little following). Like Dota 2, BF4 will be used as a double-check against other benchmarks to make sure we are not generalizing too much about what certain games require.
Keep this frequency open for our upcoming internal benchmark results in the next post.
In the mean time, we have some questions for you.
1. What spec would you use for a system like this?
2. Are we missing some games you would like us to benchmark? Let us know so we can throw them into the mix.
Leave your responses in the comment section.