Have you been looking at the latest graphics cards, then looking at your own PC and thinking you’ve got a gutless gaming rig? I know the feeling, the new cards can be very tempting, at least until you check your bank balance and remember you’re not rich. High-end hardware is great, but do you really need a $1000 Titan X to enjoy your favourite games? Nope. If you’re thinking that your current system is a little outdated, that you need to upgrade the whole thing to be able to enjoy the latest games, you’re wrong and I’m going to prove it.
Now I will admit, if you have a good bit of money saved up to replace your entire rig, go for it, it’ll be awesome. However, if your budget is limited and your system needs a new lease of life, we’re going to see how much improvement you can get for a modest investment of just £300 (approx $440 US)!
I’ll be starting out with a rather humble system, which features the hardware listed below, which I think you’ll agree is pretty unremarkable by today’s standards. The motherboard is an overclocking board, but we’ll be running at stock clocks to help better simulate an under powered system, it just happens to be the most suitable board I had at the time.
- Dual-core i3 4330 3.5GHz
- MSI GTX 560 Ti 1GB graphics card
- ADATA 8GB 1600Mhz Memory 11-11-11-28
- Gigabyte GA-Z97N Motherboard
- Western Digital 500GB Hard Drive 7200RPM
- Silverstone Kublai KL06 Chassis
- Seasonic 600W 80+ Bronze PSU
- CoolerMaster Gemini Low-Profile CPU cooler
I’ll be upgrading the system with the following components, then benchmarking it in some popular applications to compare how much the performance improves.
- ASUS STRIX GTX 960 2GB – £191.99 UK or $209.99 US
- Crucial 8GB 1600MHz Memory 9-9-9-24 – £59.99 UK or $60.00 US
- Crucial BX100 120GB SSD – £54.98 UK or $67.99 US
All prices correct at the time of writing.
As you can see, there’s nothing exciting about this system. Perhaps a couple of years ago, a system of this specification may have raised an eyebrow a little, but perhaps not so much today.
No SSD here, just a standard and rather well aged mechanical hard drive, so expect boot times to be enough to go and make a coffee.
The GPU has had a hard life, it’s actually the one we used to use for chassis reviews, so there’s are a few bumps and scrapes, but it’s still in perfect working order.
I’ve already benchmarked the system with this setup and we’ll get to the scores for that very soon, so let’s install our new Ballistix Sport memory, which has tighter timings than the old kit, it won’t be much, but it should give us that extra edge for very little investment.
The Crucial BX100, an absolutely incredible bargain at under £60 ($88 US); this will no doubt have a huge impact on the systems performance.
I’ll be using the new ASUS GTX 960 STRIX 2GB card for my upgrade.
It’s certainly one of the nicest GTX 960’s on the market right now and while I’m expecting great performance gains, it’s also aesthetically pleasing, so should provide a nice visual upgrade too!
The card also features more video outputs than the 560 Ti, giving you greater connectivity options.
It also features a nice back plate and only required a single 6-pin power connector vs the dual 6-in required by the GTX 560 Ti.
New components all installed, which only took about ten minutes to get them out of their respective boxes and plugged in.
The GTX 960 looking great!
Our new BX100 SSD.
Finally, the new Ballistix Sport memory.