How to Build a PC that Can Kick the PS3′s Ass
When the Playstation 3 was released, most PC gamers didn’t have systems that could outperform the console. I, myself, was squeezing out every last bit of power I could from my Pentium 4 3.0 GHz, saving up to buy a powerful system that could last me another seven years. I watched as my gaming buddies switched to the next-gen consoles for their glorious graphics at a price that no PC could match.
That was over four years ago. Technology has advanced. Prices have dropped. Game developers are admitting that consoles can no longer compete with PCs in terms of graphical output.
Obviously, given an unlimited budget, building a PC that can outperform a PS3 is a trivial exercise. So as to not completely embarrass the PS3, let’s set one ground rule: the PC must cost approximately the same as a PS3. We’ll use the 320GB PS3 system, priced at $399.99, as our reference point.
Before we build the PC, let’s look at the PS3 specs to see what we have to beat:
Hard drive: 320GB SATA (5400 RPM)
Memory: 256MB XDR Main RAM, 256MB GDDR3 VRAM
Graphics card: 550 MHz NVIDIA/SCEI RSX ‘Reality Synthesizer’
CPU: 3.2 GHz Cell Broadband Engine with 1 PPE & 7 SPEs
Optical drive: Blu-ray/DVD/CD drive, read only
What I must state straight off the bat is that you cannot directly compare the specs of a PS3 and a PC to determine which is superior. On a PS3, hard drive space is less important, for instance, as is system memory, because you’re not running an operating system like Windows 7. The video RAM and the graphics card are the most important factors at play here, as well as the CPU — however, due to the drastically different architecture between the custom-made PS3 CPU and PC CPUs, there’s no baseline for comparison.
Price points for PC components will be taken from newegg.com, without hunting for limited-time deals.
Without further ado, here are the components for a PC that can kick the PS3′s ass:
Case: While blinking LEDs and see-through walls look undeniably badass, they won’t help your PC beat the PS3. For $30, the Xigmatek ASGARD II B/S is a humble case that comes with one 120mm fan and has room for three more.
Power supply: Although it’s the heart of your PC, you needn’t spend a fortune on a PSU. For $30, the Cooler Master Elite 460W Power Supply may not be the most powerful PSU in terms of wattage, but it should be more than enough for our purposes, and most importantly, it’s from a reputable manufacturer. Be warned: if you ever want to upgrade to a top-of-the-line dual-GPU setup, this power supply won’t cut it.
Hard drive: For $40, the Seagate Barracuda 500GB (7200 RPM) has both more storage capacity and greater speed than the PS3′s 320GB HDD. Tests have shown that outfitting a PS3 with a 7200 RPM hard drive does shave seconds off read/write times, so no argument can be made that the 7200 RPM isn’t superior. While a 7200 RPM HDD may present an overheating risk in a PS3, a PC can handle it. The motherboard we chose is limited to SATA 3Gb/s, so the Barracuda won’t reach its full 6Gb/s, but for the price, you can’t go wrong.
Memory: For $38, the Crucial 4GB (2 x 2GB) DDR3 kit is a sufficient amount of RAM from a reliable manufacturer. For gaming purposes, 4GB is ample. Even if your operating system chews up 2GB of ram, your remaining 2GB is much more than the PS3′s RAM.
Optical drive: For $20, the Asus 24X DVD Burner is a good budget DVD drive that has both read and write capabilities.
CPU: Here comes the tricky part — with no basis for comparison due to the drastically different architecture of the PS3 CPU, we can only go with the best CPU that can fit our budget. For $75, the AMD Athlon II X3 445 is a triple-core processor with a 3.1GHz clock speed. High-end dual core systems are still capable of competing with modern quad cores when it comes to gaming, so don’t feel like you need to go quad to beat the PS3.
Graphics Card: the PS3′s GPU, based on Nvidia GeForce 7800 architecture, has been said to be roughly the equivalent of a 7900GT. That’s not difficult to beat. For $70, the Radeon HD 5670 512MB DDR5 blows the 7900GT out of the water. While you can get the same card — for the same price — with 1GB DDR3 ram, HD 5670s aren’t powerful enough to make use of all that memory. Opting for the card with faster memory rather than more memory is suggested in this case.
Grand total: For $363, you’ve built a system that can kick the PS3′s ass, with $37 to spare.
Now, if you’re willing to go a little above the $400 mark, then swap out that Radeon HD 5670 with a Radeon HD 5770 1GB DDR5 for $120. Your new total will be $413, which may be a little over budget, but definitely worth the extra power.
UPDATE: It has been pointed out that the PS3 can read blu-ray, while this PC cannot. There are other (legal) means to watch HD movies on your computer, but if you’re dead set on a blu-ray player, then for $60, you can grab the Samsung Black Blu-ray Combo. That’s $40 more than the Asus 24X DVD Burner, which brings our total up to $403 and exactly comparable to the price of a PS3.