Aria is one of the leading technology retailers in the UK and stocks a huge range of components from luxury 21:9 3440×1440 monitors to extremely affordable pre-assembled gaming PCs. Their custom PC range falls under the GLADIATOR brand and aims to provide an enthralling gaming experience while offering superb customer satisfaction. Clearly, any system is a considered purchase, and it’s vital to have your initial investment backed by a comprehensive warranty. Thankfully, Gladiator supports their builds with a 4-year labour and 1-year parts guarantee. This level of service is often a key selling point for consumers without any hardware experience and feel overwhelmed by the almost endless combination of component choices.
Today, we’re taking a look at the GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE which targets a very reasonable price of £749.99. I’d describe this as a mid-range system and caters to someone with expectations of a fluid framerate at 1920×1080. Around the £800 mark, it’s essential to prioritize the graphics card and make concessions on the CPU without it becoming a bottleneck. This is because the majority of modern game engines are GPU bound, and the benefits from enhanced CPU performance is fairly minimal in comparison. NVIDIA’s GTX 970 is currently the most popular graphics card among Steam users, and for good reasons. For example, the GPU offers a fantastic price to performance ratio and remains exceptionally cool under extreme load. As a result, I’m pleased to see this particular graphics card in the GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE and expect it to perform superbly on a 1080P display.
- Name: GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE
- Case: AeroCool Aero-800 Windowed Midi Tower
- Motherboard: ASUS Z170-E
- Processor: Intel i5-6400 2.70GHz Quad Core Skylake CPU
- Processor Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3 Evo
- System Memory: 8GB DDR4 3000MHz – Corsair Vengeance LPX
- Main Boot Drive: 1TB Seagate Barracuda SATA III Hard Drive
- Additional Storage Drive(s): N/A
- Graphics card: ASUS STRIX NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB GDDR5
- Power Supply: Thermaltake TR2 Challenger 600W 80+ Certified
- Peripherals: N/A
- Monitor: N/A
- Optical Drive: 24x LiteOn DVD Re-Writer
- Wireless: N/A
- OS: Not Included
- Warranty: 4 Years Labour, 1 Year Parts
- Price: £749.99
Packing and Accessories
The system is delivered in a humongous outer box which offers outstanding protection against accidental damage. On the top, some durable fragile tape is used to instruct the courier to adopt a gentle approach when handling the item. One slight area for improvement revolves around the lack of side handles. This makes it quite difficult to lift especially in tight spaces.
Once opened, there’s an ample supply of packing peanuts to cushion the chassis box and prevent it from moving around during shipment. I was thoroughly impressed with the quantity of packaging materials, as it emphasizes the company’s attentive approach.
Here we can see the main chassis box containing a plastic cover and two thick polystyrene supports. As a result, the chance of cosmetic damage occurring is exponentially reduced.
The secure foam insert surrounds key components and keeps them firmly in position. I cannot emphasize enough how important these foam packs are because without them it’s possible for cables to become dislodged. Furthermore, it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that a heavy GPU could droop and snap during transit. Thankfully, the foam pack holds up it upright and adds a great deal of structural support.
In terms of accessories, the system comes with the original packaging and documentation for each component. There’s also driver disks, a setup leaflet, attractive lanyard and UK power cable. The setup leaflet is fantastic and instructs beginners to remove the supportive foam before connecting the power cord.
That’s not all though because the package includes a CPU installation tool, spare parts, and screws to connect an M.2 SSD.
A Closer Look
The GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE is based on a very clean, simplistic design philosophy which makes the build look more expensive than its price point suggests. Furthermore, the sleek power supply cover obscures all the additional cables from the system’s non-modular PSU. Usually, I’m not overly fond of any chassis without rubber grommets for cable management. However, this doesn’t seem to have impacted on the final outcome because the tinted side panel window only displays the main components. Overall, the system’s jet black theme looks great, and evokes a more premium feel than I expected.
From this image, we can see the stock rear fan which does a fairly good job of increasing airflow. Also, notice how the graphics card exhibits very minor droop due to the hefty backplate. This angle illustrates the excellent cable management and precise workmanship.
The Corsair DDR4 3000MHz LPX memory contrasts beautifully with the CPU cooler’s jet black fan and motherboard PCB.
Cooler Master’s Hyper TX3 Evo offers great thermal dissipation without overhanging the DIMM slots. This means it’s easy to admire the colour coordination between the memory and other essential components.
Typically, the GTX 970 requires two 6-pin PCI connectors. However, the model included in this build only requires a single 8-pin. The cable routing around the GPU is very good and the trailing connector is hidden rather well.
The SATA data cable for the boot hard drive is neatly positioned through a cable management hole.
On the front section, there are two LED fans which add a visual flair as well as a white LED strip. Often, these strips are installed quite poorly and have the potential to come undone. The LED strip’s strong adhesive and optimal positioning makes the light glow in a striking manner. To test the fitting, I applied a reasonable amount of pressure to see if the LED strip would come undone. Thankfully, it held its shape perfectly and shouldn’t suddenly decouple a few months down the line.
Gladiator’s system builder also attached an LED strip to the PSU cover which creates a more even distribution of light around the entire chassis. Once again, the strip held in position quite well and shouldn’t pose a problem over time. Saying that, I did detect some lift towards the edges, but this is expected given the power connectors on each side.
The system’s rear fan header is connected in a very tidy manner and coupled together with a zip-tie. Furthermore, the surplus molex is hidden behind the motherboard’s VRM heatsink.
Performing effective cable management on a non-modular power supply can be tricky especially with budget cases due to the lack of routing space. However, the cabling job throughout this entire build is fantastic and emphasizes the engineering team’s technical skills. There’s more than enough space to shut the side panel and everything is organized in a logical manner.
The power supply cabling is held in place with an assortment of tight zip ties. It’s not overly tight though because of the large concentration of cables. If the zip-tie was over tightened, it might buckle under the pressure and release all the cables. Admittedly, this isn’t the cleanest cable routing I’ve seen, but it’s pretty good for a non-modular power supply.
Here we can see the hard drive cables are held in position quite tightly through a number of zip-ties. I have to commend the cable management because it would have been acceptable to use less zip-ties and finish the system in a quicker time.
The 24-pin connector has the shortest possible routing and coupled with other cables to form a professional look.
All the cables are grouped together to acquire a flush finish and ensure the side panel shuts properly.
The 8-pin EPS is held down with a zip-tie and doesn’t interfere with the chassis’ side panel clips.
Testing & Methodology
To test each system or notebook, we want to stress every component of the system to check stability and performance, giving us an idea as to why those particular components were picked for this particular system. We use a wide variety of applications to gain a broad spectrum of results for comparing diverse aspects of system performance.
Unless specifically stated, all games are running at maximum settings but any vendor-exclusive features such as TressFX or PhsyX have been disabled to make the results fair. There are some titles where the maximum preset can be altered further in regards to AA, AF, Tessellation, and Draw Distance. To allow our readers to make the most informed decision, any additional options will be clearly labelled in this section.
- Acoustic dBA meter
- AC “Killawatt” power meter
- AIDA64 Engineer
- Cinebench R15
- MSI Afterburner
- Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0
- PCMark 8
- Super PI
- Unigine Heaven 4.0
- Grand Theft Auto 5
- Metro Last Light
- Tomb Raider
- Bioshock Infinite
PC Mark 8
The PCMark 8 Home benchmark includes workloads that reflect common tasks for a typical home user. These workloads have low computational requirements making PCMark 8 Home suitable for testing the performance of low-cost tablets, notebooks, and desktops. Home includes workloads for web browsing, writing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. The results are combined to give a PCMark 8 Home score for your system. Download here.
The new 3DMark includes everything you need to benchmark your hardware. With three all new tests you can bench everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. Download here.
Heaven Benchmark with its current version 4.0 is a GPU-intensive benchmark that hammers graphics cards to the limits. This powerful tool can be effectively used to determine the stability of a GPU under extremely stressful conditions, as well as check the cooling system’s potential under maximum heat output. It provides completely unbiased results and generates true in-game rendering workloads across all platforms, such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Download here.
Grand Theft Auto V
Our GTA5 Benchmark is run on the standard benchmark with MSAA=Off, FXAA=On, Very High Preset, Advanced Graphics Disabled and the settings detailed below:
Metro Last Light
Metro: Last Light (formerly Metro 2034) is a first-person shooter and horror video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was released in May 2013. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features a mixture of action-oriented and stealth gameplay. Metro: Last Light features technology which boasts new lighting effects and improved physics claimed to set a new graphical benchmark on the PC and consoles.
Very High Preset, AF=16x, Tessellation=Very High, SSAA=Off, PhysX=Off
In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. Tomb Raider is a demanding game offering up ultra quality textures, full DirectX 11 support, SSAA, FXAA, MSAA and AMD TressFX technology.
BioShock Infinite is the third and last game in the BioShock series. It is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games. BioShock Infinite supports dynamic shadows, post-processing, light shafts, ambient occlusion, object level of detail, Diffusion Depth of Detail, FOV adjustment controls and other advanced DirectX 11 features.
Cinebench is a widely respected benchmark for testing the performance of x86 CPUs. The program allows you to test single and multi-threaded performance as well as GPU performance by rendering with Open GL. Download here.
Super PI is a single threaded benchmark that calculates pi to a specific number of digits. Super PI is a single threaded benchmark ideal for testing pure, single threaded x87 floating point performance and while most of the computing market has shifted towards multithreaded applications and more modern instruction sets, Super PI still remains quite indicative of CPU capability in specific applications such as computer gaming. Download here.
AIDA64 Engineer Edition
AIDA64 Engineer is a streamlined Windows diagnostic and benchmarking software for engineers. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives. AIDA64 is compatible with all current 32-bit and 64-bit Microsoft Windows operating systems, including Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. Memory and cache benchmarks are available to analyze system RAM bandwidth and latency. Download here.
CrystalDiskMark is a portable storage drive benchmark utility that enables you to measure sequential and random read/write speeds on different block size data. CrystalDiskMark will work with any storage drives including hard drives, SSDs and USB flash drives. Download here.
The PassMark Advanced Network Test (which is part of PerformanceTest) is designed to test the data transfer rate between two computers both of which must be running PerformanceTest. One of the computers must act as the server and will sit waiting for a connection. The other computer acts as a client. It connects to the server machine and sends data to it for the duration of the test. You can download a trial version of PerformanceTest from here.
The amount of noise produced by any computer is a vital consideration for most buyers, even gamers don’t really want a noisy PC because less noise is always better. We use an acoustic dBA meter held 2 feet behind our test system at idle and under load to get the idle and load noise levels for the system. For idle we allow the system to sit at the Windows desktop, for load we let Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Prime95 to loop together – we take the acoustic measurements 5 minutes into both of these scenarios.
To test power consumption we measure the total system power draw during idle and load scenarios. For idle we allow the system to sit at the Windows desktop, for load we let Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Prime95 to loop together – we take the power measurements from the “Killawatt” AC power meter 5 minutes into both of these scenarios at the same point.
To test thermal performance we measure average CPU and GPU core temperatures during idle and load scenarios. For idle we allow the system to sit at the Windows desktop, for load we let Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Prime95 to loop together – we take the temperature measurements from within CPUID HWMonitor 5 minutes into both of these scenarios at the same point. For load we take the average of the maximum temperatures, for idle we take the average of the minimum temperatures.
PC Mark 8
The system performed rather well during common desktop tasks and provides more than enough power to please the average user. Unfortunately, we couldn’t compare it to the Vibox Defcon 3 Red which used a similar CPU due to a bizarre software bug.
Here we can see the equipped graphics card attains excellent scores especially when you take the price point into account. Please remember that each system is returned after review purposes and driver updates from NVIDIA improves the capabilities of a GPU over time. This helps to explain the variation between the GTX 970 results. Another aspect which contributes to the performance difference is core overclocks as higher priced models feature a larger boost from the factory.
Rather surprisingly, the performance in Heaven’s Basic setting was a little underwhelming and less than I anticipated. However, this benchmark revolves around a DirectX 9 layer, and you should really focus on the Extreme data instead. Thankfully, the GPU’s Extreme score reflected the system’s gaming prowess in a more accurate manner and is worthy of praise.
Grand Theft Auto 5
Grand Theft Auto V features a ridiculously detailed open world environment which looks absolutely stunning on PC. Even though the overall standard of optimization is good, you really need to opt for a powerful graphics card. In this case, the GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE’s GTX 970 didn’t encounter any problems and created a silky smooth user-experience. At 2560×1440, you will notice sudden frame drops down into the late 30s, but this is easily resolved by reducing a few settings.
Metro Last Light
The complex tessellation effects and brilliant texture quality makes Metro Last Light a demanding title. Despite this, the system achieved above 80 frames-per-second at 1920×1080, and just fell below 60 once the resolution was increased to 1440P. This is absolutely stunning and bound to please even the most demanding of users.
In Tomb Raider, the PC reports marvellous figures at both 1080P and 1440P. This also showcases that the there isn’t a major drop off from the i5 6400 compared to the higher end i7 processors.
Bioshock Infinite’s benchmarking tool has the propensity to record a few unusual results. Nevertheless, it’s fairly reliable and a fantastic game! Here we can see, the GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE manages to exceed 60 frames-per-second at 1920×1080 and 2560×1440.
CPU & Memory Performance
In terms of CPU performance, the system’s i5 6400 struggles to compete against the overclocked i7 Skylake processors. This isn’t a surprise though due to the significant frequency deficit.
The pattern in SuperPi is similar and there’s a clear advantage to the i7’s higher clock speeds across various architectures. Saying that, the system’s compute time is still reasonable and managed to outperform the higher frequency i5 6500. To be fair, the results are within a margin of error which helps explain this phenomenon.
Intel’s latest LGA1151 platform now supports DDR4 modules with extremely high memory speeds. The system is packaged with an elite performing 3000MHz dual channel kit capable of excellent read, write and copy rates.
Storage and USB Performance
CrystalDiskMark – Sequential Read
It’s quite peculiar to receive a system without an SSD because small capacity boot drives are relatively cheap. In the modern era, consumers are accustomed to the quick response and silent operation of solid state drives. The bundled mechanical disk manages to achieve a good read rate, and USB 3.0 performance is very competitive.
CrystalDiskMark – Sequential Write
The HDD write speed is within an expected range but it lingers behind some of the most expensive alternatives. This isn’t a cause for concern, and shouldn’t impede the overall user-experience.
Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0
In terms of networking performance, the motherboard’s Intel I219V controller reports a very consistent connection without any sudden spikes. Ideally, I’d like to see the minimum rate slightly higher to match some of the top results.
Acoustic, Power & Thermal Performance
Under idle conditions, the system is so quiet which makes watching movies, and basic productivity tasks a complete joy. Even when stressed, the noise output only increases by a small amount and almost reached the best load result on record. Honestly, I was surprised by the noise performance and expected the budget chassis, and affordable fans to emit sudden RPM increases.
The GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE consumes more wattage than you might expect during idle states given the CPU’s locked multiplier and efficient GPU. It’s nothing to be overly concerned about though and remains well under 100 watts. When a heavy load was applied, the wattage increased to an impressive 245.6 watts which exemplifies the system’s economically friendly nature. In the grand scheme of things, a 100-150 wattage increase doesn’t really impact on electricity bills that much.
As expected, the CPU’s stock voltage and base frequency results in a very low load temperature of 49 degrees Celsius. That’s not to say the result isn’t worthy of recognition though because the included heatsink provides this level of performance while offering quiet operation. NVIDIA’s Maxwell architecture is also highly efficient and able to run at its maximum potential without getting close to its thermal limitations.
The GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE is currently available for £749.99 including shipping. At this price point, the system is targeting consumers looking an affordable PC without making too many compromises. It’s a common misnomer that PC gaming is very expensive and requires a huge budget. Nowadays, the advent of cheap CD key resellers and low-cost components featuring a fantastic price to performance ratio makes it the perfect time to switch from the current crop of consoles. As with any pre-built system, the most common question revolves around its value compared to a self-build. To provide the best information possible, we endeavour to outline the current market price of each component and accurately judge the price variation between this package and building it yourself
- Case: AeroCool Aero-800 Windowed Midi Tower – £44.49
- Motherboard: ASUS Z170-E – £114.98
- Processor: Intel i5-6400 2.70GHz Quad Core Skylake CPU – £160.98
- Processor Cooler: Cooler Master Hyper TX3 Evo – £19.99
- System Memory: 8GB DDR4 3000MHz – Corsair Vengeance LPX – £46.99
- Main Boot Drive: 1TB Seagate Barracuda SATA III Hard Drive – £40.97
- Graphics card: ASUS STRIX NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB GDDR5 – £294.99
- Power Supply: Thermaltake TR2 Challenger 600W 80+ Certified – £39.96
- Optical Drive: 24x LiteOn DVD Re-Writer –£11.48
- Fans – Game Max Galeforce Blue 120mm LED Fan – £7.19
- Lighting – Gladiator 30cm White LED Strip with 18 LEDs – £3.95
Once totalled up, an identical self-build equates to £785.97 and costs £35.98 more than the GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE. Furthermore, the pre-configured build comes with a 4-year labour warranty, excellent customer service and has been constructed by a trained engineer. As a result, the GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE offers superb value for money and is well worth considering.
The system features an understated aesthetic design while adding a hint of colour through the white LED strips and front LED fans. This accentuates the clean build without becoming too flashy and detracting from the professional construction. The neutral theme manages to cater towards a wide range of users with varying tastes. Personally, I had very low expectations of the budget chassis and thought it might contain too many cutbacks. I’m pleased to say that this initial judgement was unwarranted and the chassis’ build quality is ridiculously good for such an affordable price! I didn’t detect any manufacturing defects, sharp edges, or flex when attaching the side panels. Granted, it’s far from being a premium case but there aren’t any major limitations which negatively impact on the system build.
Another highlight is the cable management which looks sensational given the chassis’ design and non-modular power supply. Throughout the build, we can see a logical cabling arrangement, use of zip-ties and tight cable runs. The rear cables remain perfectly flush with the chassis which makes it remarkably easy to close the side panel door without any force. There’s little touches which showcases the attention to detail from Gladiator’s engineers. For example, the additional PCI-E connector which hangs around the GPU is neatly tucked away and held firmly in position. Similarly, the excess cabling on the rear fan header is wrapped around the motherboard’s heatsink to form a very clean finish. It can be very challenging to work with a non-modular power supply because of the difficulty moving cables on an individual basis. Often, cable management is the one area consumers struggle with and a system’s value greatly depends on the quality of workmanship. I have to commend the build process in this system because it showcases the kind of finish a professional can achieve.
In terms of component selection, Gladiator has meticulously found the best combination to provide a stellar gaming experience. The GTX 970 is capable of taming very demanding games at 1920×1080 and even manages to attain great figures on a 1440P display. To keep the price down, Gladiator decided to opt for a non-K series, i5 processor based on Intel’s latest architecture. This is a sensible decision because you get the benefits of DDR4 memory and CPU efficiency without spending a fortune on the i7-6700K. Currently, this processor retails around the £320 mark and doesn’t actually have a benefit in the majority of games using 2-4 cores. During synthetic testing, the reduced frequency and lack of hyper-threading does impact on performance. However, it’s not going to become bothersome for the core gaming demographic who buys a system to primarily play games and browse the internet.
One significant oversight is the omission of a solid state boot drive. SSDs with a 120-250GB capacity can be procured for less than £50 and really enhances the Windows desktop experience. I honestly believe consumers would be more than willing to pay a little bit extra to reap the benefits of fast storage media. Thankfully, this is only a minor gripe and the end-user can customize each system to their specific needs. On another note, the system does not come with an operating system and you must plan ahead to make sure you have a license ready for when the PC arrives. Once again, you can add a copy of Windows to the build. Please be very careful when scouring the internet for discounted Windows codes, because some of these are from a MSDN subscription and have a limited amount of activations.
Finally, the system’s noise output is absolutely staggering and one of the quietest we’ve encountered under extreme load. This is surprising because the CPU cooler is relatively cheap, and stock fans on a budget case are usually quite loud. I strongly believe the dual Game Max Galeforce Blue 120mm fans improved the airflow significantly while exhibiting a subtle fan curve. Of course, it helps matters that the CPU is so efficient and running at its stock frequency. Nevertheless, the extremely quiet operation in both idle and load scenarios makes for a wonderful PC experience.
- Ample supply of dust filters
- Elegant styling
- Exceptional cable management
- Fantastic 1080P gaming experience
- Generous warranty
- Great value
- Impressive thermals
- LED strips and fans
- Ridiculously quiet
- Superb packaging
- Very balanced system
- Lack of an SSD boot drive makes Windows feel overly sluggish
“The GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE is a brilliant choice for anyone moving into the PC gaming stratosphere and wants the best possible price to performance ratio. Furthermore, the adept cable management and almost silent running makes it one of the best pre-built systems on the market today.“
GLADIATOR APOCALYPSE Gaming PC Review
Thank you Gladiator for providing us with this sample.