Selecting any pre-configured PC can be a daunting experience especially if the end-user feels overwhelmed by the huge array of options. Thankfully, Vibox is one of the leading system builders in the industry and adopts a basic scoring system to help novices gauge the suitability of each configuration. More specifically, the company even outlines typical gaming performance and quantifies the difference between each specification in a transparent manner. This is an essential tool to put people at ease and ensure they purchase the right system for their personal requirements.
Recently, we reviewed the Vibox Element X Green and couldn’t believe how well it performed in a number of demanding games for the price point. Out of all the systems so far, it’s probably the best value proposition I’ve seen and the perfect choice for a console gamer trying out PC gaming for the first time. However, the system’s CPU performance was inhibited somewhat by its AMD FX-6300 processor and wasn’t ideal for non-gaming workloads. The beauty of PC hardware means you can prioritize CPU performance, memory capacity, or graphical grunt. Although, it’s important to create a balanced system and eliminate any bottlenecks.
Vibox decided to send out for review purposes the Defcon 3, which features an Intel 6500 quad-core processor, 8GB DDR4 2800MHz memory and GTX 950 2GB. This basic setup is accompanied by an Aerocool 500 watt 80+ Bronze power supply, 120GB solid state drive, Thermaltake closed-looped liquid cooler, and 1TB data drive. The package is housed in the highly acclaimed, Corsair Carbide Spec-01 chassis and backed by a lifetime support service. As you can see, this particular build opts for a better CPU and lower-end graphics solution. As a result, it will be fascinating to see how it compares to the Element X, and I expect it to perform much better in synthetic benchmarking tasks.
- Name: Vibox Defcon 3
- Case: Corsair Carbide Spec-01 Red LED
- Motherboard: MSI Z170A PC Mate Motherboard
- Processor: Intel Core i5 6500 Quad Core CPU @ 3.2GHz
- Processor Cooler: Thermaltake Water 3.0 Performer
- System Memory: 8GB Patriot Viper Xtreme DDR4 2800MHz
- Main Boot Drive: Patriot Blast 120GB SSD
- Additional Storage Drive(s): 1TB Seagate ST1000DM003 Barracuda SATA 6Gb/s 7200rpm 64MB Cache 8ms
- Graphics card: MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2GB
- Power Supply: Aerocool Integrator 500W 80+ Bronze
- Peripherals: None
- Monitor: None
- Optical Drive: 24x DVD-RW Optical Drive
- Wireless: None
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit
- Warranty: Lifetime Evolution Warranty – Build Charge, Shock-Proof Packaging, Express Delivery, 2 Year Parts Cover, Lifetime Labour & Tech Support
- Price: £699.92
Packing and Accessories
The system is packaged in a 15Kg box containing precautionary fragile labels and two handles to make the carrying process remarkably easy. Additionally, the cardboard is relatively thick and helps to reduce any impact during shipping.
Once opened, there is a UK power lead, Vibox leaflet and ample supply of padding. Underneath this section, is the main chassis box.
It’s always recommended to reinforce the main chassis with an external box as this holds it in position and stops the chassis’ edges from scraping against anything. As a result, this should reduce the probability of cosmetic damage occurring during transit.
In terms of accessories, the Defcon 3 comes with a user’s guide, hardware manuals, driver disks, DVI to VGA adapter, fan adapter, and standard UK power cable. The user’s guide is superb and walks you through the installation in simple English without using technical jargon. Additionally, it also includes all the contact details you need in case of any system faults.
A Closer Look
The Defcon 3 features an incredibly clean design with good cable management. Here we can see, the closed-loop cooler and tubing run which connects to the pump in an aesthetically pleasing way. Although, I’m not keen on the motherboard’s brown tinge which is pretty ghastly and quite dated from a visual standpoint. On the other hand, once the system is powered on, the red LED strips and fans mask this surprisingly well.
From this image, it’s clear that the non-modular power supply increases the difficulty when trying to achieve clean cable runs. Despite this, given the power supply’s limitations, the cabling job is of a high quality and every inch of the chassis has been used effectively. On another note, the LED strip wire is hidden well, and unlike some systems, it was attached with a very strong adhesive.
The graphics card doesn’t exhibit any noticeable droop and only requires a single 6-pin PCI-E connection. This reduces the system’s power draw and allows for a cleaner finish. If I was to be overly picky, the GPU’s protruding fan cable might be annoying to some, but it’s easily re-positioned behind the cooler’s shroud. Please note, this is how the graphics card is by design and not a criticism of Vibox’s attention-to-detail.
The MSI Gaming GTX 950 is stunning and incorporates a subtle white LED. While it’s not the most powerful card on the market, it doesn’t look cheap and fits with the system’s red theme rather nicely.
Vibox mounted the Thermaltake Water 3.0 cooler perfectly and didn’t position the lettering at a disjointed angle. Also, the pump’s cable is routed to the header via a tight cable run which makes it almost impossible to see with the naked eye.
From this angle, we can see the hard drive placement and use of a drive mount to hold a power supply cable in its optimal position.
As previously mentioned, it can be a difficult task to perform clean cable management using non-modular power supplies. In this particular case, Vibox employed sensible cable runs, tight zip-ties and a logical arrangement to make the side panel easy to close and produce a stellar finish.
The SATA cables and Molex for the LED strip are tightly packed together behind the hard drive cage. There’s more than enough room to upgrade the storage in the near future, and Vibox has given the end-user a good framework to install another 2.5″ or 3.5″ drive.
The chassis’ indent to store power supply connectors has been used without trying to cram too many cables into this section. Therefore, the side panel can close without any undue force, and it’s simple enough to find the right cable in the event of a hardware malfunction which could be down to a loose connection.
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
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get PC Mark 8 to complete the benchmark despite multiple runs and trying to diagnose the error. While the error code didn’t give a definitive answer, I’m fairly confident this is a known bug with the Intel i5 6500 processor and should be rectified in the near future. Sadly, this means it was impossible during the time of review to record an accurate score.
The Defcon 3’s performance in 3DMark is good but falls behind the Element X Green’s configuration which costs less and records significantly better scores. This is an example of how AMD masters the price to performance ratio on lower end hardware.
The gap isn’t as pronounced in Heaven 4.0 but once again demonstrates the impeccable price to performance ratio of the Element X Green. That’s not to say these results are disappointing, but I would have preferred to see a weaker CPU and slightly higher end graphics card.
Grand Theft Auto 5
Considering the extreme settings used in our Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, the system coped surprisingly well and didn’t exhibit and major hitching. The graphics card’s 2GB of video memory has the potential to stutter quite badly at ultra high resolutions, but throughout the testing procedure, I didn’t encounter any noticeable performance problems. Furthermore, it’s evidently clear that the Defcon 3 is designed for 1080P gaming and at this resolution, provided a superb user experience.
Metro Last Light
Metro Last Light’s supreme texture quality and complex tessellation effects requires high-end hardware to maintain 60 frames-per-second. Despite this, the GTX 950 attained a very respectable figure of 46 and remained well above 30 on a consistent basis. In all honesty, 1440P performance was just about playable as the system encountered sudden frame drops into the low 20s. Nevertheless, turning down the tessellation preset from very high should make 60 frames-per-second an easy target at 1920×1080.
When compared to the previous two benchmarks, there is a marked difference between this particular system and the Element X Green. This is probably because GTA V and Metro Last Light favor NVIDIA graphics cards while Tomb Raider seems to reach fairly equal levels of optimization on both AMD and NVIDIA setups.
In Bioshock Infinite, the Defcon 3 managed a silky smooth frame-rate at 1080P. Furthermore, the game is quite playable at 2560×1440 and any major frame drops are a rare occurrence.
CPU & Memory Performance
The system’s i5 6500 CPU cannot be overclocked and utilizes a turbo frequency of 3.6GHz. Despite this, it performs quite well and easily surpasses the Element X Green’s AMD FX-6300.
As you can see, the CPU reports a very good compute time and isn’t too far off the higher end Skylake flagship. Also, notice how much quicker the time taken is compared to the Element X Green’s FX-6300 which features a much higher frequency.
In terms of memory bandwidth, the system’s dual-channel 8GB DDR4 2800MHz is a great choice and offers superb speeds at an affordable price point. Additionally, 8GB is perfectly suited to modern games, and you can always upgrade to 16GB if this becomes a drawback in the future.
Storage and USB Performance
CrystalDiskMark – Sequential Read
The Defcon 3’s 120GB SSD exceeded my expectations given its budget focus and I didn’t expect it to reach read speeds anywhere near 550MB/s. This is an astonishing result and legitimately rivals some of the higher end SATA drives.
CrystalDiskMark – Sequential Write
Furthermore, the boot SSD achieved a very respectable write speed and almost broke the 500MB/s mark. While this isn’t the best score we’ve seen, it’s very good considering the drive’s price point. On another note, USB 3.0 write performance was strong and fairly close to reaching the first position.
Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0
The Realtek network interface offers a dependable connection and didn’t drop off too much from the maximum rated speed.
Acoustic, Power & Thermal Performance
During the noise evaluation tests, I was stunned by the unbelievably quiet operation in both idle and load conditions. The idle noise output is almost silent, and I had to double-check the system fans were functioning properly. Even more staggering, the load noise only increases by a mere 2 decibels and produces the quietest experience under stress I’ve ever used, barring a very expensive passive setup with Noctua fans running at 7V. When you consider the price of this system, its silent running is phenomenal and a major selling point. Perhaps, part of this is due to the CPU’s stock frequency, and low power GPU, but it’s still an awesome achievement.
Vibox’s decision to opt for an Intel CPU and highly efficient GTX 950 results in a full system load under 200 watts. This makes it a very economically friendly setup, although many customers in the gaming sector prioritize performance over running costs.
The system’s Intel i5-6500 CPU at its stock frequency doesn’t require a powerful cooling setup and the bundled compact all-in-one cooler does a fantastic job of keeping the thermals low. Additionally, the graphics card stays well within its maximum thermal limit and has enough headroom to apply a manual overclock. Overall, the case, CPU and GPU temperatures are excellent and shouldn’t get anywhere close to becoming unstable even under heavy load.
The Vibox Defcon 3 comes in a number of colour schemes and provides the benefits of Intel’s Skylake architecture without breaking the bank. As always, the only fair means of judging value is to complete a comprehensive price list of each component and determine the build cost. Then we can properly gauge how much Vibox is charging for the design, manufacturing and after-sales service.
- Case: Corsair Carbide Spec-01 Red LED = £39.99
- Motherboard: MSI Z170A PC Mate Motherboard = £79.99
- Processor: Intel Core i5 6500 Quad Core CPU @ 3.2GHz = £162.99
- Processor Cooler: Thermaltake Water 3.0 Performer = £43.99
- System Memory: 8GB Patriot Viper Xtreme DDR4 2800MHz = £95.59*
- Main Boot Drive: 120GB Patriot Blast SSD = £38.02
- Additional Storage Drive(s): ): 1TB Seagate ST1000DM003 Barracuda SATA 6Gb/s 7200rpm 64MB Cache 8ms = £34.99
- Graphics card: MSI GeForce GTX 950 Gaming 2GB = £140.62
- Power Supply: Aerocool Integrator 500W = £28.99
- Optical Drive: 24x DVD-RW = £9.38
- OS: Windows 10 64-bit = £74.99
- Extras: LED Strips = £6.99
- Extras: 2x Bitfenix Spectre Pro Red LED Fans = £23.98
*Memory is currently unavailable in an identical configuration, so a 3000MHZ quad channel alternative was taken as a baseline with 60% knocked off the price. This is due to the reduced memory size, and frequency. While it’s not the most precise figure, the memory’s cost should be within a £5-15 range.
Once totaled up, a self-build costs £780.51 at the time of writing which makes it £81.51 more expensive than the Vibox Defcon 3. Also, when you factor in the generous warranty service, it’s clear that the Defcon 3 offers superb value-for-money.
When compared to the previous Vibox system we received, the Defcon 3 evokes a more luxurious feel due to the magnificent chassis and sophisticated LED lighting. It’s fair to say the Corsair Spec-01 is of a much higher quality in terms of aesthetic design and features, which helps accentuate the system’s appeal despite reporting worse gaming performance than the Element X. Clearly, the chassis is still on the lower-end spectrum, but it’s possibly the best budget offering I’ve encountered thus far.
Intel’s Skylake architecture incurs a much higher cost than AMD alternatives and produces massive performance gains in CPU workloads. The data illustrates how much of a gap there is between the FX-6300 and i5-6500 in single threaded applications or tasks with large multi-core utilization. This means if you’re intending to upgrade to a high-end graphics card in the future, or require the additional power in software applications, then the Defcon 3 might just be the better option. For example, the FX-6300 could become a bottleneck when combined with a top-end graphics solution. Furthermore, many users now engage in streaming which requires a capable processor. In an ideal world, an i7 with its hyperthreaded cores would help in this area, but there’s still many valid reasons why the Intel route is worth paying a premium for.
Unfortunately, Vibox had to make concessions with the included graphics card otherwise the system would have cost at least £100-£200 more! That’s not to say the GTX 950 isn’t powerful enough and manages to cope with high detail 1920×1080 gaming extraordinary well. Even at 2560×1440, the GPU reported excellent numbers and can easily obtain 60 frames-per-second with reduced settings. Obviously, it’s intended to be paired with a 1080P display considering the price point. However, during the testing procedure, I didn’t detect any major mishaps at 2560×1440 in terms of stuttering or wild frame drops. Sadly, the graphics card’s 2GB of video memory is a cause for concern as modern game engines begin to utilize large amounts of VRAM. On another note, the GTX 950 struggles to keep up with the Element X Green’s R9 380 while costing more! This means it isn’t ideal for someone who only cares about gaming performance in current titles and doesn’t have a clear upgrade path in the future.
Easily the system’s greatest attribute is the noise to performance ratio, which almost defies belief. This is the quietest PC I’ve tested under £1500 and I cannot believe the silent operation in both load and idle conditions. The closed-looped-cooler doesn’t make any noise from the pump or high-pitched whine which many liquid coolers can suffer from. Additionally, the fan remains within a low RPM range which is almost impossible to detect. Also, when the fan values increase, it’s done in such a subtle way that makes your ears naturally ignore the slight tonal changes. Given the system’s impeccable noise output, you might expect poor thermals. However, under extreme stress, the CPU didn’t exceed 50C and performed within its thermal limitations. Evidently, this is helped by the chip’s stock frequency and lack of any voltage changes via a hefty overclock. Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic result and deserves recognition. Similarity, the GPU’s low power consumption results in very low temperatures and reduced running costs.
The system’s SSD is just large enough to use as a boot drive and store essential applications. For a budget drive, the performance is astonishing and reaches speeds fairly close to high-end models from Samsung. The 1TB data drive achieved good data transfer speeds and contains enough storage for modern games, HD movies, and other common file types.
- Attractive design
- Completely silent
- Fantastic SSD read/write speeds for the price point
- Good gaming performance
- Incredibly low CPU and GPU temperatures
- Resilient packaging
- Very low power consumption
- Wonderful after-sales service
- Vibox Element X Green is a better value proposition for gaming purposes
“The Vibox Defcon 3 is a surprisingly affordable entry to into Intel’s latest enthusiast platform. Even though it’s not the best value package for pure gaming performance, there is a great scope for upgradeability in the future and provides a more well-rounded experience compared to cheaper options on the market.”
Vibox Defcon 3 Red Gaming PC Review
Thank you Vibox for providing us with this sample.