Best $800 Streaming PC [Part 2]

bench-1-gpu-selection

Thanks for tuning into part 2 of SpecOps: Best $800 Streaming PC. If you missed part 1, click here.

We will be starting off with an overkill test bench to isolate just GPU performance. This first set of tests is just to narrow down our GPU choices so that we can focus better on other part selection.

Test system:CPU: i7 4790k @ 4.5 Ghz
Motherboard: MSI Z97 G55 SLI
RAM: 2 x 4 GB ADATA XPG DDR3 2600
SSD: 480 GB Intel 730
PSU: Corsair AX1200
OS: Windows 8.1

This system has ultra-high speed components to minimize bottlenecks and allow the GPU to stretch its legs to the fullest. This is a common way that most reviewers compare video cards, just our own special flavor of components.

Test 1A: CSGO

csgo

Our target here is to sustain 200 fps or higher over a round of Arms Race. We will be using FRAPS to keep track of the framerate over time and inspect it later. 200 FPS is quite a lot higher than any monitor is capable of displaying, but most seasoned players say the game “feels” best at extremely high framerates. It’s very important to know here that CS:GO is a very CPU-bound game, so it will be interesting to see just how powerful of a graphics card you actually need.

We lined up an assortment of cards from both AMD and Nvidia to see how well they stack up in this game. CS:GO has a default game engine limit of 300 FPS (which can be removed, but we didn’t), which is why high end video cards all seem to score in the high 200 range. We will be taking note of the average (mean) FPS and also the 5th percentile low FPS, which basically just means that 95% of the time, the game was running faster than that framerate.

CS GO low settings 1080P

We take note of the cards that are hovering around our 200 fps goal and move on to the next benchmark. Based on these results, we will be focusing on cards in the mid-range such as the GTX 750 and R7 250X.

*Important note: VRAM does not come into play in these benchmarks, so we intentionally do not state the cards’ VRAM capacity. This will be taken into account at the end of our GPU selection.

Test 1B: BF4

bf4

Our goal here is a smooth 100 fps or higher on the game’s lowest settings at 1080p. BF4 heavily tied to GPU performance but also requires a decent CPU. We will be doing 200 second runs in a multiplayer game in the map Golmud Railway. We will be playing as Engineer and attempting to engage in vehicle combat for the most intense experience.

 

BF4 Low Settings 1080P

We started with the cards from our CS:GO tests, and bumped them each up a couple levels to see how they fared. It’s pretty clear that although the R7 250X and GTX 750 are great for CS:GO, they fall short on games with higher requirements. The R7 260X and GTX 750ti are right on our performance target here.

Test 1C: Bang for your Buck

bang-for-buck

Isolating the handful of cards that could achieve both performance goals, we compared them to their “street price” to see which cards offer the best performance for the least money. The performance values are normalized around our goals of 200 FPS and 100 FPS.

Card Street Price CS:GO BF4 Average Value (Performance/Price)
GTX 750 1GB $110 122.50% 112.10% 117.30% 1.066
GTX 750 2GB $120 122.50% 112.10% 117.30% 0.978
GTX 750ti 2GB $140 137.30% 132.50% 134.90% 0.964
GTX 760 2GB $240 144.40% 173.20% 158.80% 0.662
R7 250X 1GB $90 119.70% 87.30% 103.50% 1.150
R7 250X 2GB $110 119.70% 87.30% 103.50% 0.941
R7 260X 2GB* $120 136.20% 121.70% 129.00% 1.075
R9 270 2GB $170 139.70% 148.90% 144.30% 0.849

 

*There is a 1 GB version of the 260X, but the price is the same as the 2GB in most cases, so it was excluded.

The GTX 760 and R9 270 are going to be excluded due to their higher price, and the R7 250X will also be dropped because of lackluster performance in Battlefield 4. We will also be only accepting cards with 2 GB of video memory, so that leaves the following as cntenders for our graphics card:

 

gpu-selection

 

Pictured from left: GTX 750 2GB, GTX 750ti 2GB, R7 260X 2GB

Our preferred choice from this set is the R7 260X because of it’s superior connectivity. The Nvidia cards both come with only 3 video outputs, and either come with an outdated VGA connector, or require an adapter for connecting an HDMI cable. However, we will still keep the Nvidia cards in mind because some advantages/disadvantages may arise further down the line.

r7-260x

Tune in for the next post to see the finalized Spec Ops Streaming Computer!
(and remember, we love feedback, please comment!)

stream-pc-part-3

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by tyronewang, on November 17, 2014