Mid-Range Gaming PC Build for The Witcher 3 at $1044 - May, 2015

By Published May 08, 2015 at 11:00 pm
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Additional Info

  • Price: 1044
  • Physical Size: Mid-Tower
  • Purpose: Desktop Gaming
  • CPU Preference: Intel

This quarter's major game launches are of the high-fidelity variety. GTA V shipped with tremendous focus on pushing modern PC components to the absolute limit, as we found in both CPU testing & GPU benchmarks. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt aims to similarly push graphics hardware heavily, hoping to finally make use of high-end gaming PC components without console-bound limitations.

This ~$1000 Witcher 3 gaming PC build offers a DIY approach to running CD Projekt Red's latest game at high settings. The intent is to land just below $1000 while still being able to play the game with high graphics quality; you won't be absolutely maxing-out the game with this configuration, but we've offered an upgrade path for those who have extra money to burn.

The game is slated for release on May 19. As always, we'll have Witcher 3 video card and CPU benchmarks online as soon as the game ships.

We've posted the game's recommended and required system specs below:

Witcher 3 Minimum Requirements (Specs)

  • CPU: Intel i5-2500K or AMD Phenom II X4 940
  • GPU: GTX 660 or HD 7870
  • RAM: 6GB
  • OS: Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • DirectX 11
  • Storage: 40GB

Witcher 3 Recommended System Specs

  • CPU: i7-3770 or AMD FX-8350
  • GPU: GTX 770 or R9 290
  • RAM: 8GB
  • OS: Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • DirectX 11
  • Storage: 40GB

Notes: CD Projekt Red has fallen into the trap of believing that an i7-SKU CPU will yield notably higher performance than that of an i5 due to hyperthreading. We have historically proven this to be a myth within the gaming world. Core i7 hyperthreading actually produces a slight overhead in games, normally producing results where a similar i5 will marginally outperform the hyperthreaded i7. See our below chart from our GTA V CPU benchmark:

gta-v-cpu-1080tx-vh

To this end, we will not be using an i7 processor in this build. It is simply not necessary.

$1044 High Graphics PC Build for The Witcher 3 - May, 2015

Gaming Parts List Name Price Rebates/etc. Total
CPU Intel i5-4690K Quad-Core $215 Free Shipping $215
CPU Cooler Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 $75 Free Shipping $75
Video Card EVGA SuperSC GTX 960 4GB $240 Free Shipping $240
Memory HyperX Fury 2x4GB 1866MHz $63 Free Shipping $63
Motherboard MSI Z97 Gaming 5 Motherboard $125 - $125
Power Supply Corsair RM 550W 80 Plus Gold $110 -$20 MIR
-10% code
$78
SSD HyperX Savage 256GB SSD $123 Free Shipping $123
HDD (Optional) WD Blue 1TB 7200RPM HDD $55 Free Shipping $55
Case NZXT S340 Case $70 - $70
Total   $1076 -$31 $1044

OS & Recommended Extras

Add-on Parts List Name Price Rebates/etc. Total
Operating System
Windows 8.1 $120 Free Shipping $120
Gaming Headset Plantronics GameCom 788 $55 - $55

Graphics Card

EVGA GTX 960 SuperSC 4GB ($240): We've tested this video card several times now, including in our GTX 960 round-up (which compared several top 960 solutions, like the Strix and Gaming 4G). The 4GB model of the GTX 960 shows improvement in 99- and 99.9-percentile FPS marks, effectively the lowest framerates as displayed 1% and 0.1% of the time. Average FPS doesn't necessarily show drastic improvement, but the gains in minimums and lows will improve overall fluidity of gameplay when saturating the framebuffer.

The GTX 960 is a solid performer at the mid-range, but will only get users so far. The Witcher 3 officially recommends a GTX 770 – which we've tested to trade blows with the GTX 960 in many instances – so we can confidently recommend a GTX 960 for this rig. In the event additional power is demanded and budget is present, we'd recommend an upgrade path to the GTX 970 ($350) or AMD R9 290 ($255). Note that the Witcher 3 is an nVidia-sponsored title, which will inevitably contain GameWorks or other nVidia-specific technologies (it is yet untold, but TXAA, MFAA, or similar options may be present in the game's settings).

This chart should give an idea of performance for the GTX 960:

gtx-960-benchmark-1

CPU

Intel i5-4690K Quad-Core ($215): Marked down to $215 currently, the i5-4690K is too easy a choice for this setup. Users who may experiment with overclocking and enjoy BIOS configuration should opt for the K-SKU CPU, as we've done here, though a few bucks could be saved by using a non-K alternative; the i5-4460 ($190), for instance, is still a perfectly good performer at its stock clockrate. This is what we would recommend for users unwilling or uninterested in overclocking endeavors.

Despite the Witcher's recommendation of an i7- CPU, we are confident that the i5-4690K will offer effectively identical framerates to the i7. It is likely that the game will be more GPU-bound – especially with anything slower than the top-end cards – and won't care much between these two CPUs, anyway. Hyperthreading has proven its insignificance to gaming with i7 CPUs in the past.

CPU Cooler

Be Quiet! Dark Rock 3 Silent Cooler ($75): We're not very trusting of the box cooler for Intel CPUs. They're good enough to get by for ultra-budget builds, but ultimately run loud (and get louder with age) and don't keep thermals to comfortable levels with higher-end CPUs. To this end, we look to aftermarket CPU cooling solutions for quieter and cooler performance. Be Quiet!'s Dark Rock 3 cooler is the official CPU cooler of GN's video card test bench, and for a very specific reason: It's quiet. The thing has a monolithic, dark appearance – a plus – and is, consequently, efficient at keeping thermals down.

Memory

HyperX Fury 8GB 1866MHz ($63): Kingston's HyperX seems as if it's grown into a fully-independent brand of the memory manufacturer, offering a suite of products specifically targeted at gamers. We previously tested the HyperX Fury memory (full review) and found it to be high-performing across a suite of applications. The memory is competitively priced and fits our red-black color scheme we've selected for the system, something that has grown in importance as memory has become commoditized.

fury-maxxmem4oc

Motherboard

MSI Z97 Gaming 5 Board ($125): MSI has worked hard to step-up its branding over the past few years. The company has grown to compete furiously with the likes of ASUS and Gigabyte, the current top-holders in motherboard marketshare. Much of this is thanks to a redoubled focus on marketing, including small touches like matte black PCBs and brand-wide “dragon” iconography. That's all nice, but it's performance we really care about. Advanced BIOS configuration options hold great value in the motherboard market, ultimately differentiating the enthusiast-class overclocking units from the mid-range products.

This is a mid-range board, but a good one. It'll do exceedingly well to ensure stability and quality for builders who might lightly investigate overclocking, but aren't too serious about high-frequency stability. For those use cases, it'd be worth an upgrade to something offering a more complex VRM.

Power Supply

Corsair RM 550W Modular PSU ($78): After an instant 10% discount and $20 MIR, Corsair's $110 80 Plus Gold PSU ships for under $80. The unit uses modular cables, ensuring ease-of-installation and hiding of the cables, and is rated for 550W power draw. The efficiency of modern Intel and nVidia components allows for more Watt-restrictive power supplies, ultimately reducing internal thermals and cost of the computer's operation. This PSU is certified for high efficiency and offers a wattage right around the ideal range for a GTX 960 and i5- CPU.

SSD & HDD

HyperX Savage 256GB SSD ($123): Using the new S10 controller, the HyperX Savage SSD – about two weeks old – won our Editor's Choice award for its consistent and high read/write performance across a suite of IO lengths and sizes. The price is directly competitive with nearby alternatives and the architecture, discussed in our above-linked review, grants a freshness-to-market that warrants a purchase. We strongly recommend an SSD for use in nearly all gaming-class computers these days, save for ultra-budget builds. An SSD will vastly improve responsiveness of the host UI, improve boot times, and (important to us, anyway) reduce noise of the system by eliminating constant drive vibration and seek / header noises. Install your OS, core applications, and favorite game or two on the SSD. Throw the rest onto an HDD.

savage-ssd-copy2

(Optional) WD 1TB 7200RPM HDD ($55): WD's Blue HDD has long held our recommendation – years, at this point – for a go-to hard drive. The 1TB WD Blue drive offers fast archival storage for use with secondary game titles, music, movies, and miscellaneous media. Restricting its use to non-core applications and media storage will reduce up-time of the drive, helping to control noise levels emitted from the case. Note that, due to the S340's lack of traditional hard drive bays, this will have to be mounted at the very bottom of the enclosure. The mount screws for this are located underneath the case, a solution we found to be clever in its execution.

Case

nzxt-s340-rev6

NZXT S340 Mid-Tower ($70): We recently noted that NZXT's S340 is the best value case purchase at its price range. The unit is sleek, aesthetically minimalistic, and offers extremely easy-to-manage cabling solutions. Use of steel paneling over plastics, wherever possible, also improves external build quality and durability. Glossy white and matte black options also exist, if the black/red is for some reason undesirable.

If you require support in assembly or components tweaking, visit our forums for free, expert component selection advice. A quick comment below will also work, in lieu of a forum post.

- Steve “Lelldorianx” Burke.

Last modified on May 08, 2015 at 11:00 pm
Steve Burke

Steve started GamersNexus back when it was just a cool name, and now it's grown into an expansive website with an overwhelming amount of features. He recalls his first difficult decision with GN's direction: "I didn't know whether or not I wanted 'Gamers' to have a possessive apostrophe -- I mean, grammatically it should, but I didn't like it in the name. It was ugly. I also had people who were typing apostrophes into the address bar - sigh. It made sense to just leave it as 'Gamers.'"

First world problems, Steve. First world problems.

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