Typical PC Builds I recommend for PlanetSide 2

I haven’t posted anything on this topic for a while, but there were actually a lot of customers asking for help building a PC for PlanetSide 2 and other games. 

PlanetSide 2 is an MMO game released in 2012, with potentially hundreds of players in any given battle. As a consequence,  PlanetSide 2 puts more load on CPU than most games, and it’s less demanding to the Graphics Card. It is built on DirectX 9, which is more sensitive to CPU frequency and per-core performance than number of cores and multi-threading. 

PS2 Performance Guide

Depending on the amount of money they were willing to spend, I would offer them one of these typical builds, and then adjust it based on their wishes. Here they are, from cheapest and worst performing to most expensive and best performing.

Notes on listed prices:

  • They will vary a lot depending on where you live.
  • Prices include only the PC itself. Keyboard / Mouse / Speakers / Headset / Monitor / Windows are not included.
  • Prices assume a “barebones” build, so no SSDs or additional case fans. Cheapest case is used, which won’t be very convenient to build and maintain. 
  • Stock CPU cooler is used whenever possible.
  • Motherboard / Graphics Card and Hard Drive are selected based on good combination of price / performance / reliability / amount of features / upgradability. I don’t just blindly pick the cheapest components.

Finally, keep in mind that prices and recommendations are actual as of July 2018, and will no doubt change with time.

Ultrabudget

Ryzen 2400G Build

Approximate build cost: $420 USD
RAM: 8 GB

This is the cheapest build that can run PlanetSide 2 at all. It will require a lot of fine tuning and overclocking to squeeze the most performance out of weak hardware. There will be some tough compromises to make in terms of graphics settings, but you might squeeze more or less stable 60 FPS out of it.

The heart of the build is Ryzen 2400G CPU, which has 4 cores / 8 threads and comes with an integrated Vega 11 GPU and a stock cooler.

This is the second generation of Ryzen CPUs. The first generation featured a lot of cores and threads for considerably lower price than what Intel was offering at the time, and at first AMD razed some hell for sure, but gamers quickly realized that 1st gen Ryzens had poor per-core performance, and most games don’t benefit from multi-threading THAT much. So Intel remained better for gaming, while Ryzens offered a lot of cores for professional applications that benefit from such things.

The second generation of Ryzen CPUs (2000 series) improved upon many imperfections, and flagship Ryzen CPUs are a much better competition to similarly priced Intel CPUs.

Unlike Intel CPUs, Ryzens don’t typically come with integrated graphics, but 2200G and 2400G are exceptions. They use a cut-down version of the Vega GPU, which is the best GPU currently offered by AMD. 

Typically, integrated graphics solutions are looked down upon by gamers, and rightfully so, but AMD was having none of that. Integrated Vega GPU is several times more powerful than iGPUs from Intel, and you can actually do some gaming on them.

It’s not quite enough to run PlanetSide 2 well, but it will work. Here is a testimony from a player with a similar build.

Entry-level Gaming

Core i3 8100 / Ryzen R3 1200 + GTX 1050 Ti / RX560

Approximate Intel + nVidia build cost: $550 USD
Approximate AMD build cost: $530 USD
RAM: 8 GB

This is the cheapest build that can run PlanetSide 2 at minimum settings with actually decent performance. Aside from intermittent performance bugs, you’re guaranteed stable 60 FPS no matter what, and you could potentially even turn certain settings up so the game doesn’t look that terrible.

Intel + nVidia build offers better performance out of the box, and doesn’t require overclocking or any additional fine tuning. Heart of the build is Core i3 8100, a budget 4-core / 4-thread CPU. GTX 1050 Ti is middle-of-the-road budget graphics card. It is said to be able to run many modern games at medium settings at 60 FPS, and it handles PS2 just fine. 

The Ryzen R3 1200 is similar to Core i3 8100. It too has 4 cores and 4 threads, but worse per-core performance and doesn’t include an internal GPU. However, it is cheaper, and with some overclocking – which can be done with stock cooler and on cheap B-series motherboards – it can almost reach the performance of i3 8100. This build makes more sense if you plan to upgrade to a more powerful Ryzen CPU in the future.

The RX560 offers about the same performance as GTX 1050 (the non-Ti version). Depending on current prices and availability, it can potentially make a more economical choice. AMD Graphics Cards can be preferable if you use or plan to use a monitor that supports FreeSync technology.

PlanetSide 2 Specialist

Core i3 8350k + GTX 1060 3GB

Approximate build cost: $700 USD
RAM: 8 GB

This build tries to achieve the best PlanetSide 2 performance while spending as little money as possible. It can easily run PlanetSide 2 at mostly maximum settings and with 100+ FPS, but there are significant tradeoffs in terms of future proofing and convenience.

The i3 8350k has 4 cores and 4 threads, and it can be overclocked by multiplier, significantly boosting its per-core performance. It’s one of the most powerful 4-core CPUs out there, like a small racing car. Exactly what PS2 needs. 

However, it’s not optimal in a lot of other ways. It doesn’t have a stock cooler, costs almost as much as 6 core i5 8400, and requires a more expensive Z-series motherboard in order to be overclocked.

i3 CPUs do not automatically regulate their frequency, so if you overclock the CPU, it will always run at high frequency, producing heat and noise, and drawing extra power. You should be able to mitigate this by overclocking through some software that would allow you to create a keybind that would increase or decrease CPU frequency based on what you’re doing. Which is also an extra annoyance no matter how you look at it.

The GPU is GTX 1060, which is often called the best Graphics Card for 1080p gaming. The 3GB version is chosen because PlanetSide 2 barely uses 1 GB of VRAM.

PlanetSide 2 faces some nasty effects when GPU-bound – weapon Rate of Fire is reduced and you can feel some input lag. Which is where the GTX 1060’s powerful processor comes in, pushing out the framerate at which you become GPU bound.

The big downside of this build is that it’s not so great at playing modern and upcoming games; it’s not future proof. 3GB VRAM / 8 GB RAM / 4 CPU threads may not be enough in the nearest future.

Another downside is that you will have to overclock the CPU, which is an additional step you have to go through, and it can potentially have negative effects, most notably it will void your CPU warranty. 

Mainstream Gaming

Core i5 8400 + GTX 1060 6GB

Approximate build cost: $800 USD (including $300 for a GTX 1060 6GB)
RAM: 16 GB

This build tries to reach a healthy compromise between running PlanetSide 2 and more modern and upcoming games. With more RAM, VRAM and more CPU threads, it’s much more future-proof at a little premium, and it would run PlanetSide 2 almost as good as heavily overclocked i3 8350k build above, without any need for complicated fine-tuning or using an after-market cooler.

I believe this build accomplishes all you could ever want for 1080p gaming while spending a sensible amount of money. PC hardware is heavily subjected to diminishing returns; for every extra frame per second you have to pay more and more money.

For example, a typical GTX 1070 costs ~66% more than GTX 1060 6GB, while offering 30-40% better performance. This is even worse for CPUs, where an i5 8400 can accomplish in gaming 90-95% of what an i7 8700k can do, which is twice as expensive.

So past this point it’s better to invest into quality peripherals and other components, such as SSD and case.

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