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In an age of sloppy console ports, Battlefield 3 is a huge relief for PC gamers. Not only is the PC a “lead platform” for DICE’s flagship modern shooter, but we’re getting all the good stuff: 64-player maps? You won’t find ‘em on a console. DirectX 11 graphics? Only on a PC, Sparky. Indeed, Battlefield 3’s Frostbite 2 engine brings fully destructible environments, ambient occlusion, MLAA, and full DX11 support—and it reaches its full potential only on the PC. But with great power comes great power requirements: DICE’s minimum recommended GPU is a GeForce GTX 560 or AMD Radeon HD 6950, and performance scales up from there. That means a lot of us are going to have to go get new videocards—or a whole new rig.
Any Neanderthal can slap together a $3,000 box and play Battlefield 3 like a dream, but that’s out of reach for most people. So we decided to build a machine that can play BF3 as nature intended—at 1920x1200 resolution, with all settings at Ultra—and do it for less than $1,600.