FreshTech Solutions Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

FreshTech Solutions is one of the leading system integrators in the UK and forged an impressive reputation for their huge range of pre-configured PCs. Whether you’re on a tight budget looking to try out PC gaming for the first time, or a content creator seeking the absolute best performance, there’s something to suit your requirements. Each PC is backed by generous warranty period and it’s even possible to purchase additional cover for further peace-of-mind. For example, on systems costing £1000 and above, you can increase the warranty length from 3 years to 5 years for £25. If you’re opting for a cheaper rig under the £1000 mark, then it’s possible to select three years cover for £25 and five years support at a cost of £50. This level of flexibility allows you to protect your investment for a period which you expect to use the system for.

When selecting a custom PC, the number of configurations and pricing variation means it’s extraordinarily difficult for novices to judge which model to go for. It’s not always a sensible approach to spend more if you’re unlikely to reap the benefits. Therefore, we’ve compiled a list of custom PCs from FreshTech Solutions that we are happy to recommend at various price points. Hopefully, our readers will find this useful and those without technical knowledge can make an informed decision about which unit suits their usage scenario.


£529.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6400
  • 8gb Crucial DDR4 2133MHz
  • 120gb Kingston V300 SSD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • EVGA 500w 80Plus White PSU
  • Nvidia GTX 950 2GB
  • Gigabyte H110M-S2H
  • Falcon Blue Case With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour)

The first machine we’re taking a look at targets consumers on a very tight budget who want to enter into the Intel ecosystem. While you could compile a cheaper build using an AMD CPU and AM3+ motherboard, it doesn’t offer much headroom in the future if you suddenly demand additional horsepower. The majority of games are GPU bound but there’s some examples including ARMA III and more recently, Black Desert Online which rely heavily on a system’s CPU performance. This particular build features a large enough capacity boot SSD to install the operating system and enjoy a snappier feel in Windows.

Also, the GTX 950 2GB graphics card is a great choice for 1080P gaming providing you turn down a few settings. On another note, the lack of overclocking isn’t an issue at this price and won’t impact on the user experience during graphically intensive games. Ideally, I’d recommend paying extra for the next tier, but this is a great choice for beginners moving away from consoles for the very first time.


£699.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K
  • 8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • EVGA 500w 80Plus White PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 960 2GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Titan Blue Case with Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )

The next system which retails for £699.00 offers overclocking functionality due to the unlocked K processor and Z170 chipset. Furthermore, the Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3 contains an illuminated LED strip on the PCB to create a more ostentatious appearance. This higher end model includes the GTX 960 2GB GPU to maintain improved frame-rates at higher settings. It’s a significant boost over the GTX 950 and worth considering given the constant influx of modern titles requiring additional graphical grunt. Of course, it’ s still a budget option and pales in comparison to higher end graphics cards, but it should provide an enjoyable user-experience with a 1920×1080 display. Also, the boot SSD’s higher capacity allows you to store your favourites games and benefit from faster load times.


£899.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • WD 1TB WD10EZEX HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair CX600 80Plus Bronze PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Titan Red Case with Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 1 Year Parts, 1 Year Labour )

The next tier’s system costs £899.99 and has a number of key improvements including a secondary mechanical hard disk, 16GB RAM and GTX 970 graphics card. When discussing the previous systems it’s important to remember that I’d recommend adding a mechanical drive to store large sums of data. This allows you to easily install various games while ensuring the boot SSD doesn’t fill up rather quickly. Thankfully, this doesn’t increase the asking price by an exponential amount. On another note, the 16GB memory is useful when working with video, photo editing and other complex workloads. It’s not really necessary in games just yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if 16GB becomes the standard in the next few years.

NVIDIA’s GTX 970 offers absolutely stunning performance even with a 2560×1440 monitor and can exceed 60 frames-per-second in various titles including the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. It’s unquestionably one of the best price to performance GPUs on the market and a suitable choice for a powerful gaming system.


£1049.00

 

Specification:

  • Skylake i5 6600K Tested Overclock to 4.6GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 250GB SSD
  • Seagate 1TB HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 4GB
  • Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Falcon Gaming Case With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

Moving towards the higher end market is a system which retails for £1049.00. This model contains a higher wattage power supply and Corsair water cooling unit to attain better temperatures. Furthermore, FreshTech Solutions guarantees the system will reach 4.6GHz and tests each overclock extremely carefully. This will be incredibly useful to consumers who feel apprehensive about overclocking their CPU and haven’t got any experience in this field. They really shouldn’t be concerned because the process is ridiculous simple. However, whenever anything goes awry, it’s important to have an excellent level of after-care support.


£1599.00

Specification:

  • Skylake i7 6700K Tested Overclock to 4.5GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz
  • Samsung EVO 500GB SSD
  • Seagate 2TB HDD
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 980TI 6GB
  • Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5
  • Fractal Design R5 With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

The £1599.00 system swaps out the i5 6600K for Intel’s enthusiast flagship i7-6700K on the LGA1151 chipset. Once again, FreshTech Solutions guarantees an impressive minimum overclock to reach significant gains compared to stock values. Also, the 500GB SSD is a great addition which allows you to install various applications without constantly checking on the remaining capacity. The system is housed in the highly regard Fractal Design R5 chassis which creates a more premium feel. Clearly, the main improvement revolves around the GTX 980Ti and is a major step up when compared to the GTX 970.

Even though the GPU isn’t capable of running games at maximum details on a 4K display, it’s able to really reach high figures on a 2560×1440 or 3440×1440 monitor. If you want to improve the performance even further, it’s possible to add a second GTX 980Ti due to the power supply’s 750 watts rating. The Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 motherboard supports USB 3.1, SATA Express, multi-GPU configurations and opts for a superb audio solution. Once combined, this offers an absolutely staggering user-experience.


£1938.00

Specification:

  • Intel Core i7 5930K 3.50GHz
  • Corsair H80I V2 Water Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000MHz
  • 512GB Samsung 950 Pro M.2 Solid State Drive
  • Seagate 2TB Hard Drive
  • 24x DVDRW
  • Corsair RM750x 80Plus Gold PSU
  • NVIDIA GTX 980TI 6GB
  • Gigabyte X99-SLI
  • Fractal Design R5 With Side Window
  • Windows 10 Home 64bit
  • 3 Year Collect and Return Warranty ( 1 Year Collect, 2 Years Parts, 3 Years Labour )

Up to this point, we’ve focussed on the consumer LGA1151 chipset which offers great value for typical desktop tasks. Unfortunately, the platform only supports up to a 4-core 8-thread CPU. This severely limits the computational power during multi-threaded workloads. As a result, many professionals opt for 2011-v3 powered systems because they can leverage extra performance using 6-core or even 8-core processors. The next system totalling £1938.00 utilises a hex core processor with 40 PCI-E lanes and a 2TB hard disk.

Not only that, the Samsung 950 Pro NVMe boot drive is capable of an astounding maximum read of 2500MB/s and maximum write reaching 1500MB/s. This allows games to load faster and helps to process huge 4K video projects in a more efficient manner. Of course, this elite-grade PC opts for the best possible hardware including the GTX 980Ti and Gigabyte X99-SLI motherboard. This means you can have a powerful workstation and play demanding games in your leisure time.

If you’d like us to review any of the systems mentioned above, please let us know in the comments section below.

Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Cyberpower is one of most respected system integrators worldwide and quickly gained a superb reputation for their commitment to impeccable customer service. The company’s vast buying power means consumers can choose from a massive range of components and construct a system which suits their individual requirements. This level of flexibility is astounding and ensures the end-user receives a product with the best possible specification. Upgrades are listed using high-resolution images and include a brief outline of the pricing variation when selecting various parts. Of course, there are pre-configured options with a default configuration to help simplify the buying process. Cyberpower’s slick website manages to catch your imagination and become fascinated by the company’s custom PC range.

The latest PC to arrive for review purposes is the Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro sporting an Intel i5-6660K processor, 8GB DDR4 RAM and XFX AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB. Cyberpower has utilised the Corsair H55 all-in-one CPU cooler to achieve a hefty 4.5GHz overclock. In terms of storage, there’s a high-performance 240GB SSD and 1TB mechanical disk. The Corsair VS 650W is a non-modular 80 plus white power supply with enough wattage to easily cope with demanding applications. This impressive specification is housed in the extremely unusual Corsair 600C chassis. Priced at £999, I’m fascinated to see the performance numbers in relation to other products under the £1000 mark.

Specifications

  • Name: Cyberpower Infinity X55 Pro
  • Case: Corsair 600C
  • Motherboard: MSI Z170A SLI Plus
  • Processor: Intel Core-i5 6600K Overclocked to 4.5GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Corsair H55
  • System Memory: Corsair 8GB (2x4GB) DDR4 LPX 2400MHZ
  • Main Boot Drive: Corsair Neutron XT 240GB
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Western Digital 1TB 7200RPM
  • Graphics card: XFX AMD Radeon R9 390 8GB
  • Power Supply: Corsair VS 650W
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Monitor: N/A
  • Optical Drive: N/A 
  • Wireless: N/A
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Warranty: 3 Year Labour, 2 Year Parts, 1 Month Collect and Return plus Life-Time Technical Support
  • Price: £999

Packing and Accessories

The system arrives in a humongous outer box which offers exceptional protection during transit. More specifically, the thick cardboard adds rigidity and prevents the system from encountering cosmetic imperfections. On another note, the fragile notice instructs the courier to adopt a careful approach when handling the package.

Once opened, the main chassis box is held in place with supporting foam inserts and the accessories box. As a result, the unit shouldn’t move around in a brash manner.

Prior to turning on the system, a precautionary label is used to cover the power supply and inform the user to remove any internal packaging.

Here we can the huge array of protective inserts which cushions the key components from any sudden impact during delivery. These are absolutely essential additions to ensure the system arrives safely and without any cables being misaligned. Honestly, I’d prefer Cyberpower to use a foam pack instead because of the harder material and more secure positioning.

The system is bundled with a handy troubleshooting guide, component documentation, driver’s disk, PCI brackets where the GPU has been installed, power cord and SLI bridge. Unfortunately, the troubleshooting guide was placed underneath the chassis box which led to some hefty creases.

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Gladiator Computers BATTALION 800 Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Gladiator Computers is the name given to Aria’s custom PC division and provides consumers with a wide range of options to suit various budgets. Just in case you’re unfamiliar with Aria, they’re one of the leading PC hardware stores and have an excellent reputation among customers. Currently, the company’s TrustPilot rating is scored at nine out of ten which evokes a sense of confidence when investing in a pre-configured PC. Of course, you can customize each model and select between various cases, memory configurations, CPU coolers and lots more! As a result, it’s incredibly easy to make savings on various components if you’re not overly concerned about colour coordination. On the other hand, consumers who demand a visually appealing system can add LED lighting or other extravagant extras.

Today, we’re taking a detailed look at the BATTALION 800 featuring an Intel i5-6500 processor, 16GB DDR4 2133MHz memory, Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3 motherboard, 120GB Samsung 850 Evo boot drive and the Zotac GTX 970 Gaming Edition graphics card. Furthermore, Gladiator Computers have employed a very reputable air cooler to find a great balance between thermal dissipation and noise output. There’s also a quality non-modular power supply with an efficiency rating of 80+ White. I’m interested to see how this will impact on cable management especially given the budget chassis in the basic bundle. Priced at £889.99, the system is targeted towards mainstream consumers utilizing a single 1920×1080 display. Let’s see how it performs compared to other machines sporting a similar specification.

Specifications

  • Name: Gladiator Computers BATTALION 800
  • Case: Game Max Destroyer Windowed
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z170-Gaming K3
  • Processor: Intel i5 6500 3.20GHz Base, 3.60GHz Turbo Quad Core CPU
  • Processor Cooler: Raijintek Aidos Direct Contact CPU Cooler
  • System Memory: Corsair 16GB DDR4 Vengeance LPX 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: 120GB Samsung 850 EVO Series Solid State Drive
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): 1TB Seagate Barracuda Hard Drive 3.5″ SATA III
  • Graphics card: Zotac GeForce® GTX 970 Gaming Edition 4GB
  • Power Supply: Corsair VS550 550 Watt 80+ White Rated ATX
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Monitor: N/A
  • Optical Drive24x LiteOn Internal DVD-RW Drive
  • Wireless: N/A
  • OS: N/A
  • Warranty: 4 Year Standard Warranty (2 Month Collect/Returns, 1 Year Parts, 4 Year Labour)
  • Price: £889.99

Packing and Accessories

The system is dispatched in an extremely large outer box which offers superb protection against damage during delivery. On the top, fragile tape has been used to instruct the courier about the item’s delicate nature. This should reduce the possibility of the delivery driver throwing the package around. I do think there needs to be side handles because the box’s large surface area is difficult to lift from an angle.

Inside the package is a huge collection of packing peanuts to prevent the chassis box from moving around. While these inserts can be irritating if they manage to scatter all over the floor, this is a small price to pay for the superb level of protection.

The chassis box utilizes thick cardboard which feels pretty sturdy and provides an additional layer of cushioning.

Despite the case’s budget focus, there’s been a great deal of attention paid to the packaging including durable foam supports. The top cover also ensures that there’s very little chance of cosmetic damage occurring during the unboxing processing.

Gladiator Computers have positioned a sticker over the power supply’s AC connector to prevent you from booting up the system with the foam pack still installed.

The foam insert is absolutely essential because it prevents each component from becoming dislodged. Furthermore the cushioning should allow fan headers and other cables to remain in their optimal position. When it comes to packaging, foam packs are possibly the most important safety aspect and it’s great to see them used in this custom configuration.

In terms of accessories, the system is bundled with a thank you note, installation guide, driver/software disks, a funky door hanger and loads of documentation.

Other notable mentions include a power adapter, retail component packaging, CPU cover (required for warranty purposes), front bay cover where the optical drive is positioned, tasty Haribo sweets, various adapters and an assortment of fittings.

 

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Gigabyte P35W v5 Gaming Laptop Review

Introduction


Consumers typically purchase gaming laptops over their desktop counterparts due to portability and requiring hefty processing power on the move. Saying that, it’s exceedingly difficult to offer adequate thermal dissipation in a slim form factor which limits the convenience factor of many flagship gaming laptops. These tend to be rather bulky and difficult to carry around on public transportation where space is quite restricted. Thankfully, efficiency improvements on mobile graphics chipsets and CPUs have enabled manufacturers to create a better balance between performance and size. Granted, the top-tier options with dual GPUs still feel heavy but less extreme alternatives can be surprising portable. For example, the Gigabyte P34W v3 provides a superb gaming experience and weighs a mere 1.81Kg. Back when I reviewed this, the performance to size ratio astounded me. Although, the system’s load temperatures were higher than I hoped and felt like a concession too far.

The latest gaming laptop to prioritize a thin design from Gigabyte is the P35W v5 sporting an Intel i7-6700HQ, ultra fast 128GB NVMe boot drive, and GTX 970M. Unlike the P34W v3, Gigabyte has opted for a 6GB variant of this graphics chip but I can’t see the increased video memory making a substantial difference. On the other hand, some games with high memory utilization might fare better with an improved minimum frame-rate. Another key benefit is the inclusion of DDR4 memory, and a greatly improved battery. As always, you can customize the specification to suit your needs and the standard package utilizes a 1920×1080 display. If this seems a little underwhelming, you can select a 4K panel for an additional fee but this has some drawbacks when it comes to performance. Given the P35W v5’s marvellously thin design, I’m interested to see the thermals under stress and determine if the cooling hardware is up to scratch.

Specifications

  • Name: Gigabyte P35W v5
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz base frequency, 3.5GHz turbo)
  • System Memory: 16GB Dual Channel DDR4 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: Samsung NVMe MZVPV128 M.2 128GB SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): HGST 1TB 7200RPM HDD
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M 6GB
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Display: 15.6-inch 3840×2160 IPS LCD
  • Optical Drive: MATSHITA DVD-RAM UJ8G2
  • Wireless: Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 8260
  • Battery: Li-Polymer 11.1V, 75.81Wh
  • Weight: 2.3Kg with Battery
  • Dimensions: 385(W) x 270(D) x 20.9(H) mm
  • OS: Windows 10 Home
  • Warranty: 2 Year
  • Price: £1399

Packing and Accessories

Gigabyte has adopted a fairly understated theme to the packaging which showcases the beautiful display and professional aesthetic design. Furthermore, there’s a brief description about the laptop’s unique selling features but I have to say the translation is confusing and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps, this is because the press sample originates from the factory and I’m sure Gigabyte will update the message for western markets.

The opposite side is almost identical barring another stunning snapshot of the product’s thin profile. This level of uniformity works well and evokes a premium feel. The packaging’s durable cardboard shell and soft inserts protect the item during transit meaning you shouldn’t encounter any cosmetic imperfections.

Included with the laptop is a power adapter, user’s guide, warranty card, driver disk, PowerDVD 12 software, swappable storage bay and light stickers. The swappable storage bay is an ingenious extra which allows you to remove the optical drive and fit an internal 9.5mm SSD instead. This is a great idea because many people use flash storage devices instead of optical media and the ability to easily house a traditional SATA SSD greatly enhances the laptop’s flexibility.

The 4K model contains a removable orange sticker near the lid which can be replaced with either a green or turquoise colour. Gigabyte even provides a complimentary pair of tweezers to obtain a neat finish and customize the theme to your own personal taste. Small touches like this creates the perception every customer’s needs have been attended to.

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Overclockers UK Titan Dark Zone Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Overclockers UK is one of the leading stockists of PC hardware and their engineering team produces an impressive range of custom rigs to suit contrasting tastes. Whether you’re looking for a silent air-cooled build, or extreme overclocked PC with premium water cooling parts, there’s something designed for your specific requirements. Often, whenever a new game is released which sells remarkably well, consumers like to pay homage with a system based around its theme. This can be a challenge especially if the game in question doesn’t have a distinctive colour scheme. The Division is an open world third-person shooter set in a bleak vision of New York City ravaged by a smallpox pandemic. This intriguing setting and captivating multiplayer confrontations have proved to be incredibly popular! As a result, The Division became Ubisoft’s fastest selling game on record and attracted a very passionate community.

This success story has given Overclockers UK inspiration for their latest gaming PC entitled the Titan Dark Zone. The system opts for orange braided PSU extension cables and vibrant LED lighting which creates a stunning aesthetic design. Combining the orange tones with black jet black components is quite unusual and a reference to The Division’s box art. Therefore, the Titan Dark Zone is a dream come true for fans of this particular title and features a very potent specification capable of powering VR devices without any concessions. The Intel i7-6700K is professionally overclocked to 4.5GHz using the Alpenfohn Broken 2 cooler. As a result, I expect to see an impeccable performance to noise ratio which surpasses many closed-loop-coolers. On another note, the 16GB 2400MHz DDR4 memory, factory overclocked GTX 980Ti and Samsung 250GB boot drive should be able to provide a sensational gaming experience even on high-resolution monitors. Rather surprising, Overclockers UK have decided to use a non-modular power supply which complicates cables management. On the other hand, the PSU has received a great deal of critical acclaim and showcases the careful decision-making process when designing a system’s specification.

Specifications

  • Name: Overclockers UK Titan Dark Zone
  • Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ATX
  • Motherboard: MSI Z170A-SLI Plus
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-6700K Overclocked to 4.5GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Alpenfohn Broken 2
  • System Memory: Team Group Elite 16GB (8x2GB) 2400MHz CL16 RAM
  • Main Boot Drive: Samsung 250GB 850 Evo SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Seagate 2TB 7200RPM HDD
  • Graphics card: MSI GeForce GTX 980ti Armor X2 6GB
  • Power Supply: XFX TS 750W 80 Plus Gold
  • Peripherals: N/A
  • Monitor: N/A
  • Optical Drive: N/A 
  • Wireless: N/A
  • OS: Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
  • Warranty: Three Year (24 Month Collect and Return plus 12 Month labour) Mainland UK and Ireland Only
  • Price: £1549.99

Packing and Accessories

The system arrived in an extremely large box which cannot fit on my photography backdrop. This is the reason why I’ve taken a snapshot in the hallway to emphasize the package’s mammoth size. Overclockers UK always adopt such an attentive approach to packaging and employ durable materials which enhances the level of protection substantially. It’s evidently clear that the company has considered the strain delicate PCs go under during transit and taken every necessary step to dramatically reduce the probability of damage occurring.

Once the top cover has been removed, we can see an ample supply of durable cardboard inserts which holds the system firmly in position.

The Titan Dark Zone is placed in the original chassis box and secured with strong tape. Honestly, I’d be extremely surprised if you received the system with even cosmetic imperfections considering multiple layers were used for protective purposes.

There’s additional support inside the chassis box via two strong polystyrene blocks.

The system’s internal components are surrounded by three Instapak foam pieces. These are essential additions which protect the CPU mounting and prevent the graphics card from applying too much pressure on the PCI-E slot during delivery.

In terms of accessories, OCUK included a Welcome Pack and Windows 10 Home OEM DVD containing the product code. The Welcome Pack outlines the system’s specification, and warranty terms in an easy to understand manner. Personally, I love the overall presentation and solder joints design on the front cover.

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Gladiator Computers APOCALYPSE Gaming PC Review

Introduction


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.

Specifications

  • 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 Drive24x 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.

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Vibox Defcon 3 Red Gaming PC Review

Introduction


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.

Specifications

  • 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 Drive24x 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.

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Nvidia Shield Android TV Review

Introduction


The Nvidia Shield TV is here at last, the much-anticipated successor to the already feature packed and exciting line of Android-powered Nvidia gaming devices. The original Shield is a great little hand-held, and we’ve tested it extensively since it was released, pushing the limits of what can be done with it, just check out the links below to see more. Then we have the Shield Tablet, a mini powerhouse of mobile gaming that still dominates the mobile gaming market for Android, in my opinion at least. Now we’ve got the Shield TV, a set-top box packed with some of the latest and greatest Nvidia mobile hardware, promising greater performance than any previous Shield devices, and more than any other competing devices on the market.

 

“NVIDIA SHIELD is an amazing Ultra HD streaming media player, delivering incredible resolution in favorite apps like Netflix 4K and YouTube 4K, YouTube, KODI (XBMC), and PLEX. Vivid 10-bit color and rich Dolby 7.1 surround sound make this a true home theater experience. Or plug your headphones into your SHIELD controller or SHIELD remote for a private listening experience.” said Nvidia

Equipped with the powerful new Nvidia Tegra X1 processor, which features an impressive 256-core GPU and 3GB of RAM, offers up 4K capability, support for a huge range of video and audio formats, 16GB of storage, high-speed networking and so much more; I’m amazed this little box only costs £149.99!

“Explore a world of entertainment, powered by Android TV. Tap into Google Play for a huge, dynamic selection of movies, TV shows, and apps. Say “Oscar-winning movies” or “launch Netflix” and let Google’s advanced voice commands do the work for you. Get personalized recommendations on your home screen. Even cast a show or pictures to your TV from your PC, Android, or iOS device with built-in Google Cast. SHIELD makes it fast and easy.” Said Nvidia

Equipped with a range of cool apps as standard, you’ll also find Shield Hub, Nvidia GRID and more, so there’s no doubt that this is going to be a multimedia powerhouse right out of the box.

The packaging is nice and tidy, with a good image of the Shield on the front, as well as the main spec; such as this being the 16GB model.

Around the back, we can see it’s powered by Android TV, supports voice search, 4K and gaming.

As a nice bonus, we also have the Shield remote, an optional £39.99 accessory.

The remote is super sleek, with a nice mixture of brushed aluminium finishes and a few simple buttons. The microphone button lights up in green when pressed and theirs a microphone at the top for voice controls.

At the base, a small micro-USB recharging port and a 3.5mm jack for headsets/headphones.

And finally, a brushed aluminium back.

It fits nicely in your hand and the control buttons are simple enough, a directional D-pad with a central select button, as well as a back and ok button below that.

Opening up the box, everything is very nicely packaged.

There’s a modular plug for international users, HDMI cable, micro USB cable, Shield controller and a support guide.

Vibox Element X Green Gaming PC Review

Introduction


There’s a common misnomer that PC gaming costs an extortionate amount of money which can deter console players from making the switch. During the last decade, developers haven’t pushed the boundaries of high-end graphical hardware due to a fixation on the console market. Additionally, the current crop of consoles are incredibly weak and struggle to maintain 30 frames-per-second at 1080P. As a result, budget PCs can easily cope with the latest games and graphics cards have a surprisingly long lifespan. On another note, CD Key resellers provide huge discounts on pre-orders which results in average savings between £20-30 compared to the £45-55 console versions. This makes PC gaming affordable and some argue it can be cheaper in the long-term.

One major hurdle newcomers face is the confusing selection of components and lack of building experience. Thankfully, companies like Vibox source the parts to create a balanced system and utilize their engineering team’s skills. Recently, they decided to dispatch the Vibox Element X Green for review purposes which features an AMD FX-6300 processor, 8GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM, MSI R9 380 graphics card and 120GB boot SSD. Other notable mentions include an Aerocool Integrator 600W power supply, 1TB data drive, MSI 990FXA-GD65 motherboard, and Thermatake Water 3.0 closed-loop-cooler. This is a fantastic specification considering the affordable price bracket, and I expect it to perform exceedingly well in 1920×1080 gaming benchmarks.

Specifications

  • Name: Vibox Element X Green Gaming PC
  • Case: Vibox Predator Green Gaming Case
  • Motherboard: MSI 990FXA-GD65 Motherboard
  • Processor: AMD FX-6300 6-Core CPU Overclocked to 4.4GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Thermaltake Water 3.0
  • System Memory: 8GB Patriot DDR3 1600MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: 120GB Patriot Blast SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): 1TB Toshiba DT01ACA100 1TB SATA 6GB/s 7200RPM HDD
  • Graphics card: MSI Radeon R9 380 GAMING 2GB GDDR5
  • Power Supply: Aerocool Integrator 600W 80+ Bronze
  • Peripherals: None
  • Monitor: None
  • Optical Drive: 24x DVD-RW
  • Wireless: None
  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • Warranty:  2 Year Parts Cover, Lifetime Labour & Tech Support
  • Price: £649.22

Packing and Accessories

The system arrived in a durable box with precautionary labels to reduce the chance of damage occurring during transit. I was pleased to see two hand tabs which makes the packaging easier to carry for both the courier and customer.

Once opened, the chassis box is protected on the top and bottom by cardboard covers. These help to reinforce the packaging and prevent the case from moving around in an abrupt manner.

Here we can see the chassis’ box which showcases the unusual design and Vibox branding. The cardboard is quite thick and does a stellar job of keeping the case free from cosmetic defects.

In terms of accessories, the PC is bundled with a DVI-VGA adapter, driver disks, documentation, USB PCI bracket, and UK power plug. The Vibox instructions are fantastic and contain clear diagrams in colour to assist with the initial setup process. The guide also includes information about contacting the customer hotline in case any technical problems arise.

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FreshTech Solutions Stealth Gaming PC Review

Introduction


FreshTech Solutions has a fantastic repertoire of custom PC builds to suit various budgets and specific requirements. In addition to pre-configured machines, the company’s flexible service allows you to customize a gaming PC from scratch and select from a huge array of industry-leading components. Each integral feature from storage to water cooling functionality is divided into easily manageable categories. However, today we are looking at a pre-configured model entitled, Stealth, which utilizes Intel’s latest mainstream architecture and a host of other top-tier hardware.

This high-end configuration contains an Intel Core i7 6700K, 16GB Corsair DDR 2666MHz RAM, Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 motherboard and the NVIDIA GTX 980 Ti. The core specification is accompanied by a 240GB SSD boot drive, 2TB mechanical data disk, Corsair 80 Plus Bronze 600W power supply and aesthetically-pleasing In Win 503 chassis. The company has also decided to offer a promotion and upgrade the default CPU cooler to the Corsair H80i GT for a limited time. Overall, I expect the system to excel in gaming benchmarks at commonly used resolutions and provide a superb desktop experience.

Specifications

  • Name: FreshTech Solutions Stealth Gaming PC
  • Case: In Win 503 Gaming Case with Glass front and Side Window
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 6700k Skylake @4.4Ghz (10% overclock)
  • CPU Cooler – Corsair H80i GT Liquid CPU Cooler
  • Power Supply: Corsair CX600 80 Plus Bronze Certified 600W Power Supply
  • System Memory: 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 2666MHz Performance RAM
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 5 LGA 1151
  • Main Boot Drive: 240GB Kingston V300 SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): 2TB Seagate Barracuda SATA 6Gb/s 64MB Cache 7200RPM
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA Geforce GTX 980 TI 6GB With Assassins Creed Syndicate or Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6 Game
  • Optical DriveSamsung 24x SATA DVD Writer
  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 1 Year Collect and Return Warranty
  • Price: £1336.00

Packing and Accessories

The FreshTech Solutions Stealth is protected by an extremely large external box which cushions the main chassis’ packaging and includes precautionary handling instructions. Additionally, the side handles make it easy to carry while the durable tape ensures the box retains its structural integrity.

Once opened, you need to carefully lift out the In Win 503 box and cut the top seal. After removing the flaps, we can see the durable foam supports and air padding to stop the system from moving around during transit.

Perhaps most importantly, the main components are protected by a high-quality piece of foam and air padding which can withstand sudden impact. Furthermore, the air wrapping surrounds the hard drive cages which is vital given the mechanical disk’s moving parts. On another note, the foam stops the graphics card from being dislodged and breaking the primary PCI-E slot. Attentive touches like these are essential and ensures the system arrives safely.

In terms of accessories, the system is bundled with a UK power cable, component documentation, RAM packaging, spare fittings and comprehensive setup guide. The package contains all the extras you need to perform manual upgrades in the future. Similarly, the FreshTech Solutions guide directs you to their customer service hotline in case of any technical queries or installation problems.

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Cyberpower Zeus Mini EVO I-970 Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Cyberpower is one of the most recognizable system builders in the industry, renowned for creating a huge array of stylish and unique builds. The company includes a 3-year warranty with every system as standard regardless of the specification or price. Additionally, Cyberpower utilizes their buying prowess to deliver astonishing prices which legitimately rival self-builds. Their adept design team spearheads the focus on unusual and distinctive custom PCs which look spectacular. This allows consumers to opt for something special instead of the traditional ATX form factor.

One perfect example of Cyberpower’s approach is the Zeus Mini EVO I-970 which features an Intel Core i5-6600K, 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM, MSI Armor OC GTX 970 and highly efficient Gigabyte Z170N-WiFi. This stunning setup is housed in a slim and portable Cyberpower Zeus Mini II mITX chassis. Other key specifications include a 120GB Kingston SSD boot drive, 1TB Seagate data disk and Corsair CX600M modular power supply. On another note, the CPU frequency is overclocked in a proficient manner and set to 4.2GHz. This is a significant boost from the base figure of 3.5GHz and should provide some impressive performance gains. Given the Zeus’ wonderful aesthetic design and excellent core specification, I expect the system to exceed its price point and offer a marvelous gaming experience.

Specifications

  • Name: Cyberpower Zeus Mini EVO I-970
  • Case: Cyberpower Zeus Mini II mITX Gaming Chassis w/ USB 3.0 Black
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WiFi ITX
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-6600K Quad Core 3.50 GHz 6MB Cache LGA1151 @ 4.2GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Corsair Hydro Series H55 Quiet Liquid Cooling
  • System Memory: Corsair 16GB DDR4 Vengeance LPX 2666MHz CL16
  • Main Boot Drive: 120GB Kingston SSDNow V300 SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): 1TB Seagate 7200RPM 64MB mechanical disk drive
  • Graphics card: MSI Armor OC GTX 970 + Bullets or Blades game coupon
  • Power Supply: Corsair CX600M 600W Modular
  • Peripherals: None
  • Monitor: None
  • Optical Drive: None
  • Wireless: Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 8260
  • OS: Windows 10 64-Bit
  • Warranty: 3 Year Labour, 2 Year Parts, 1 Month Collect and Return plus Life-Time Technical Support
  • Price: £999.00

Packing and Accessories

Despite opting for a fairly compact design, Cyberpower dispatched the sample in a massive box which caught me by surprise. However, you can’t be too careful when trying to protect sensitive PC components.

The external packaging is surrounded by a huge quantity of airbags, which cushions the accessory box and main chassis. This is splendid and ensures the system arrives without any mechanical damage or cosmetic flaws.

Here we can see how small the chassis is and standard packaging. Notice how there’s no buckling to the cardboard sides or tape coming apart. This illustrates how well the system has been protected and I’m very happy with Cyberpower’s attentive approach.

On the inside, there is some heavy-duty bubble wrap, a protective cover and flexible foam inserts. These combine to reduce any damage if the system is dropped or mishandled.

In terms of accessories, the PC contains user manuals, driver disks, WiFi antennas, SATA data cables, additional SATA power cable, UK plug and chassis stand. I personally didn’t feel the need to use the stand, but it helps to keep the system upright on certain surfaces.

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Overclockers UK Evolution Envy Mini Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Overclockers UK is an established player in the hardware retail sector and provides a stellar customer service through approachable team members and impeccable communication on the site’s official forum. The company’s highly adept team of engineers produces a wide array of custom PC builds to suit varying budgets and contrasting tastes. OCUK decided to send the Evolution Envy Mini Gaming PC for review purposes which features a substantial upgrade compared to the basic model.

This particular configuration includes an Intel Core i7-4970K, 8GB DDR3 2400 MHz RAM, NVIDIA GTX 970, MSI Z97I AC ITX motherboard, 120GB Samsung SSD boot drive, 1TB Samsung SSD data drive and ultra-reliable SuperFlower HX 550W 80+ gold power supply. The CPU has been manually overclocked to a frequency of 4.5 GHz and remains relatively cool due to an Asetek-designed-240mm closed-looped-liquid cooler. OCUK combined this wonderful array of components in a portable form-factor which makes it the perfect LAN event PC. Although, it will be fascinating to determine if the restricted space causes any issues during stressful benchmarks.

Specifications

  • Name: Overclockers UK Evolution Envy Mini Gaming PC
  • Case: Phanteks Evolv ITX Windowed Gaming Case – Black
  • Motherboard: MSI Z97I AC (Socket 1150) ITX Motherboard
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-4790K Quad Core Processor Overclocked to 4.5 GHz
  • Processor Cooler: OCUK Techlabs 240mm AIO Liquid Cooler with Noiseblocker Fans
  • System Memory: Kingston HyperX 8GB (2x4GB) PC3-19200C11 2400MHz Dual Channel Kit
  • Main Boot Drive: Samsung 120GB 850 EVO SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Samsung 1TB 850 EVO SSD
  • Graphics card: KFA2 GeForce GTX 970 OC Silent “Infin8 Black Edition” 4GB
  • Power Supply: SuperFlower HX 550W 80+ Gold Rated PSU
  • Peripherals: None
  • Monitor: None
  • Optical DriveNone
  • Wireless: Intel Dual Band Wireless AC 7260
  • OS: Windows 10 64-Bit
  • Warranty: 3 Year (24 Month Collect and Return plus 12 Month labour) Mainland UK and Ireland Only
  • Price: £1321

Packing and Accessories

The Evolution Envy Mini comes in a surprisingly large box given the chassis size which contains two thick cardboard layers held together by banded wires. This ensures the package remains protected during transit as it’s virtually impossible for the box or its contents to become dislodged.

Once the cardboard layers have been removed, we can see the main chassis alongside strong, protective foam. OCUK also employed durable side supports to enhance the box’s net weight and increase the packaging’s stability. Please note, the retail version is complete with component boxes but this isn’t included on press samples as the packaging is easily lost among other samples.

On another note, the system is bundled with a comprehensive setup guide and tasty selection of Haribo sweets. The setup manual is excellent and explains in clear, concise English how to attach your peripherals. It also gives an indication about fault checking and advises when to contact customer support.

Here we can see the main chassis box which provides a good amount of padding to reduce impact during shipping. Thankfully, OCUK’s attentive approach with the outer packaging kept the chassis cosmetically and mechanically sound. In theory, they could have got away with just sending the item in a chassis box, but avoided this due to damage concerns.

The chassis box contains a precautionary message informing you to retain the packaging for RMA purposes. This is very clear, and in bold writing so it’s impossible to throw away the original packaging without prior notice of OCUK’s return procedure.

After the top seal has been broken, we can see the tightly packed case which features two supporting foam blocks and a large cover. I didn’t encounter any rips on the cover whatsoever which signifies the chassis was well protected and didn’t fall victim to any cosmetic marks.

The foam supports are surprisingly thick for an ITX-size case and constructed from remarkably strong material. As a result, I found it difficult to bend or snap the supports despite applying a significant amount of force. This means, the chassis withstands a lot of punishment and offers enough protection against even the most heavy-handed couriers.

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Chillblast Fusion Master Skylake Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Chillblast is one of the most prestigious custom-PC builders in the industry and offers peace-of-mind with an unparalleled 5-year warranty. This impeccable customer service and sensible component selection makes each system a worthwhile investment and reassures the less technically-minded customer. In the past, we’ve reviewed a number of intriguing designs including the cube-sized Fusion Nano 960 and value-orientated, Fusion Barbarian. Today, we are looking at the company’s top-tier Skylake system which features the mod-friendly, Cooler Master MasterCase 5 chassis.

The Fusion Master Skylake incorporates an i7 6700K overclocked to 4.6GHz, 16GB Corsair 3000MHz DDR4 RAM, GTX 980 graphics card, 512GB Samsung M.2 PCIe SSD and the highly-rated Cooler Master V750 power supply. Additionally, the CPU’s manual overclock is tamed by a Nepton 240M all-in-one water cooling unit which dissipates in an efficient manner. Chillblast also opted for a 2TB SSHD data storage drive which combines the affordability and some speed benefits from a traditional SSD. I’m also pleased to see the Asus Z170 PRO motherboard which provides exceptional voltage control, and overclocking headroom without costing too much. In total, the Chillblast Fusion Master Skylake is a well-rounded, high-end gaming system and perfect for UHD resolutions.

Specifications

  • Name: Chillblast Fusion Master Skylake Gaming PC
  • Case: Cooler Master MasterCase 5 Gaming Case
  • Motherboard: Asus Z170 PRO GAMING Motherboard
  • Processor – Intel Core i7 6700K Overclocked to 4.6GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Cooler Master Nepton 240M CPU Cooler
  • System Memory: 16GB Corsair (2×8) 3000MHz DDR4
  • Main Boot Drive: 512GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe Solid State Drive
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Seagate 2000GB SSHD Hybrid Drive
  • Graphics card: Zotac NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Graphics Card
  • Power Supply: Cooler Master V750 750W PSU
  • Peripherals: Not Included
  • Monitor: Not Included
  • Optical Drive: None
  • Wireless: None
  • OS: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
  • Warranty: 5 Years including 2 Years Collect and Return in the UK
  • Price: £1699

Packaging and Accessories

The system is bundled in a humongous outer box containing thick brown paper which surrounds the chassis’ main packaging. This keeps the inner box perfectly in position and prevents the system from moving around during transit. I have to applaud Chillblast for going the extra mile here as they could have just used the case packaging to cut costs. Thankfully, their attentive and professional approach means cosmetic or mechanical damage should be virtually eliminated.

On the side, there are two large stickers indicating the fragile nature of this system and directions for the courier. With such a massive parcel, these small touches help to prevent any major accidents and demonstrate the company’s careful planning.

The MasterCase 5 is supported by two extremely durable polystyrene blocks which feel remarkably strong and quite difficult to tear. Each side is labelled front and rear, which makes it surprisingly easy to reassemble the case in its original packaging. Unfortunately, there was a slight rip to the top cover but this didn’t result in scratches or small mishaps.

Once the case has been removed, the user is greeted with a precautionary message from Chillblast. This is just a simple safety procedure as a foam insert surrounds the main components to stop any cables or fittings becoming misaligned. I’m a huge advocate of using these internal foam supports as they often ensure the system arrives safely. Rather interestingly, the foam piece must have received a small degree of impact, as the taped section had come undone and started to peel away. As a result, this emphasizes how vital it is to use these foam sections when sending out an expensive, and heavy system.

The accessories are included in a plain, cardboard box and divided into sections using polythene bags. There is also a wonderful troubleshooting guide which provides a checklist in-case the system has difficulty booting. Chillblast decided to use close-up colour images to help diagnose any malfunctions and make the user more confident when fixing system problems. 

In terms of accessories, there is a UK power cable, driver discs, component manuals, SLI bridge, additional power connectors, cable-ties, and a host whole of other fittings. I’m overjoyed when custom PC companies bundle all the retail accessories together and presume you might need these extras in the future when upgrading the internal components. Thankfully, Chillblast provides everything you need to change the stock setup.

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Boston Venom 2500-0P Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Boston’s reputation is synonymous with producing some of the most reliable enterprise-grade PCs over the last 20 years and offers clients a huge array of component choices. The company’s ethos revolves around clean, quiet and professional PC solutions to fulfill the demanding technical requirements of high-end gamers who dabble in complex video-editing. The Venom series is designed to tackle advanced rendering, complex graphical computations and other multi-threaded workloads. Previously, we reviewed the Boston Venom 3401-7T and became mesmerized by the class-leading performance in every benchmark. Now, it’s time to assess the Venom 2500-0P which features an astonishing specification whilst opting for a surprisingly portable, mid-chassis form-factor.

The 2500-0P features an Intel i7 5960X Extreme-grade processor which is pre-overclocked to 4.1GHz via a 120mm CoolIt liquid cooling solution. This incredibly powerful CPU is accompanied by 32GB DDR4 2800MHz RAM and an extremely stable, Supermicro X99 motherboard. To leverage the 5960X’s compute power, Boston decided to utilize NVIDIA’s flagship, Titan X graphics card which contains 12GB GDDR5 memory. In terms of storage, the boot drive is an Intel 750 PCI-e SSD capable of breathtaking read and write speeds. Additionally, there is a basic RAID array with 3TB of mechanical data at your disposal. The system is powered by an EVGA 1000W 80+ power supply and has enough headroom to allow for multi-GPU setups. Overall, the 2500-0P is a technical masterpiece and able to cope with every imaginable task.

Specifications

  • Name: Boston Venom 2500-0P Gaming PC
  • Case: Supermicro CSE-GS5B-000R
  • Motherboard: Supermicro C7X99-OCE
  • Processor – Intel Core i7 5960X Extreme pre-overclocked from 3.0GHz to 4.1GHZ using 1.160V
  • Processor Cooler: CoolIt Systems CPU LCS, ECO III-120FB
  • System Memory: G.Skill Ripjaws 32GB (4x8GB) PC4-22400, DDR4 2800MHz 1.25v CAS 15-16-16-35
  • Main Boot Drive: Intel 750 NVME 400GB IAC
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Western Digital Caviar Green 3TB SATA
  • Graphics card: PNY NVIDIA GTX Titan X 12GB
  • Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA G 1000W 80+ Gold Modular Power Supply
  • Peripherals: Not Included
  • Monitor: Not Included
  • Optical DrivePioneer BDR-S09XLT 15X Interal Blu Ray Writer with SATA, OEM model.
  • Wireless: None
  • OS: Windows 10 64-Bit
  • Warranty: 3 Years
  • Price: £3275+VAT

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Intel Windows HDMI Compute Stick Review

Introduction


There is a portable “USB-powered-HDMI-displayed-AIO-device” war going on since the arrival of low-cost Android boxes which in turn brought us Windows boxes of the same form factor. The next generation of these devices came and shrunk the form factor even more, bringing the full-fat Windows experience to the System on a Chip (SoC) device while maintaining the size of a large memory stick.

Amongst the-the many rebranded Chinese Android sticks to make it to Europe has been an official offering by Intel in the form of their “Compute Stick”, which serves as proof that they are aiming to claim a slice of this emerging market in both Linux and Windows flavours. Intel were kind enough to send us a Windows Compute Stick to put through its paces, and no sooner had they confirmed we would be getting one had it arrived.

Anyway enough of the backstory, let’s get the shrink wrap off and get this fired up!

Specifications
  • Name: Intel Compute Stick (Windows Variant)
  • CPU: Intel Atom Z3735F (Quad Core 1.3Ghz with 1.8GHz burst)
  • RAM: 2GB 1333MHz DDR3
  • SSD: eMMC 32GB
  • GPU:Intel Integrated Graphics (64mb)
  • LAN: None
  • WLAN: 802.11a/b/g/n Built-in Bluetooth V4.0
  • I/O: 1x USB 2.0 , 1x HDMI 1.4
  • OS: Windows 8.1 32bit
  • Dimensions: 103 x 12 x 37 mm (WxHxD)
  • Warranty: 2 Year
  • Price: £119.98

The box is very nicely packed, no bigger than you would get with a phablet sized phone. There is a small black tab which when pulled slides the inner box out from the cover

With the box slid out, the first thing you are presented with is the compute stick itself

Removing the lining reveals multiple accessories underneath

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PC Specialist Azure (LGA 1151) Gaming PC Review

Introduction


PC Specialist has an illustrious reputation for creating some of the most reliable and thought-provoking builds in the custom PC industry. Their latest creation, code-named Azure, is based on Intel’s brand new Z170 chipset and includes the flagship, i7-6700K Skylake processor (review here). While the CPU has a stock clock of 4.0GHz, there is ample headroom for a hefty overclock with assistance from the Corsair 240mm liquid-cooling solution. PC Specialist opted for the Asus Z170-A motherboard (review here) which offers excellent voltage regulation, dynamic fan control and an intuitive BIOS interface. Only the best components are used throughout, such as NVIDIA’s top-tier GTX 980Ti graphics card and Kingston’s HyperX Predator 3000MHz DDR4 memory.

In terms of storage, the Azure is bundled with a 480GB SSD boot drive and 2TB mechanical for data storage purposes. The PC is powered by an 850W Corsair RM power supply and neatly presented in the Corsair 780T case. Previously, we reviewed the X99-based Vortex 440 which performed superbly and exceeded our expectations. Therefore, I’m hoping the Azure will be cool, quiet and leading the benchmark figures whilst retailing at a respectable £1499 price point.

Specifications

Packing and Accessories

The chassis arrived in a gargantuan box and contains precautionary labels to prevent the courier from adopting a haphazard approach. I was genuinely surprised with the box’s size which provides superb protection during transit. The packaging itself also utilizes a thick grade of cardboard and encompasses the case to withstand any sudden impact.

Once opened, the case is revealed and cushioned by a cloth cover to stop accidental scratches from occurring. If the case was packaged without any padding, the chassis could rub against the box and become damaged. This is especially true with delicate windowed side panels.

From another angle, we can see the flexible foam supports which add a great deal of rigidity and keeps the case perfectly aligned. I have to commend PC Specialist for using some of the strongest foam inserts I’ve ever seen. For example, I intentionally bent the inserts to see if they would snap under pressure, but they withstood this rigorous testing procedure rather well.

The accessories are bundled in a lovely Welcome Pack which evokes a professional feel from the presentation alone.

Included in the Welcome Pack is a setup guide, component documentation, driver disks, extra SSD mounts, power cables, and much more! Everything is separated into segments which makes it easier to find specific parts.

The accessories can be easily stored away in the original packaging and has enough room to house future purchases such as a DisplayPort cable. While the box is too large to fit in a small drawer, it does prevent you from losing any accessories and keeps everything in a neat package.

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Chillblast Fusion Nano 960 Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Chillblast gave us a friendly poke to see if we were interested in taking a look at one of their mini-itx gaming range. As I am mainly used to dealing with hulking gaming monsters which are show-pieces never to be moved, I was quite interested to see what offerings are available in terms of portable PCs of tiny small form factor, and finding out if they’re actually worth it or not.

Having a brief look over the spec sheet revealed on paper at least, that this seemed a fairly decent gaming rig, even touting an AIO liquid cooled CPU cooler. We’ve seen plenty of GTX 970s, 980s and even Titan Xs, but we’ve yet to try out the GTX960. Needless to say, we gratefully took Chillblast up on their offer and sure enough a fairly large yet light parcel turned up at eTeknix HQ.

Specifications

  • Name: Chillblast Fusion Barbarian Gaming PC
  • Case: Raijintek Metis Windowed Mini ITX Case – Red – modified
  • Motherboard: Asus Z97I PLUS
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4690K Devils Canyon overclocked to 4.3GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Corsair H55 all-in-one liquid cooler
  • System Memory: 8GB Corsair/Crucial/Samsung  1600MHz DDR3 Memory (2 x 4GB sticks)
  • Main Boot Drive: Seagate 2.5″ SSHD 1000GB Hybrid SSD / HDD Drive
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): None
  • Graphics card: GTX 960 2GB based on the Maxwell Architecture
  • Power Supply: Corsair CX 750W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified PSU Modular Version
  • Optical DriveNone
  • Wireless: Asus A/C
  • Monitor: Not included
  • Peripherals: Not included
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 5 Year Warranty with 2 Years Collect and Return (UK only)
  • Price: £869.99 as configured Delivered.

The outer box, sealed and in perfect condition, a good start!

Inside the outer box amongst a large amount of paper padding on all sides we have a smaller box and a case box.

The much smaller Raijintek case box

In the side box, we have the external magnetic Asus Wi-Fi antennae, extra modular power cables, kettle power lead, PCIE blanking plates, motherboard sound speaker and various manuals and drivers discs.

Removing the rig from its case showed that extra care had been given to the components inside the case, nice.

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Gigabyte BRIX GB-BXi5H-5200 Review

Introduction


Today we are taking a look at Gigabyte’s Intel i5 5200U powered BRIX. Gigabyte has an impressive array of BRIX models that come in at all different performance levels with many CPU options and even options with discrete GPUs. The small form factor computer business has been exploding the last few years due in part with parts shrinking and their abilities skyrocketing. Many people have been buying small form factor units deciding to use them as business or daily workstations due to the low power consumption, helping to lower costs. Others love these small boxes for use as home theater PCs (HTPCs) since they can be tucked out of the way and will generally not be heard over ambient sound in the home theater. The specs for this BRIX look promising for use in both situations so let’s take a closer look and see just how well it would perform in these tasks.

Specifications
  • Name: Gigabyte BRIX GB-BXi5H-5200
  • CPU: Intel i5 5200U (2C/4T, 2.2 GHz w/ 2.7 GHz Max Turbo, 14nm, 15W)
  • RAM: User Supplied – We tested with Crucial Ballistix 2x4GB DDR3-1600 9-9-9-24 1T 1.35v 
  • SSD: User Supplied – Crucial MX200 SSD 250GB
  • GPU: Integrated – Intel® HD Graphics 5500
  • LAN: Realtek RTL8111G 10/100/1000/Gigabit Base T
  • WLAN: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Built-in Bluetooth V4.0
  • I/O: 4x USB3.0, 1x HDMI, 1x Mini isplayPort, Headphone-out, Microphone in, RJ-45/GbE LAN
  • OS: Supplied Barebones, Windows 10 preview used in this review
  • Warranty: 1 Year
  • Price: $364.99

Retail Packaging

Printed materials and hardware that the BRIX comes with. You will get a power adapter and power cord to hook up the BRIX as well as all the screws that you will need to mount your SSD or HDD and use the VESA mount if you wish. The DVD and printed materials are toss away materials in my opinion since the most up to date drivers and materials can be downloaded from the support website.

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Zotac CI321Nano Barebones System Review

 

Introduction


Today we are taking a look at one of Zotac’s latest ZBOX CI321 nano barebones system that is packing a dual-core 2961Y CPU. Something that makes this CI321 nano stand out of the crowd is that it carries dual Gigabit LAN and is completely silent with its passively cooled design. With the inclusion of an onboard IR receiver, this makes it an interesting option for a silent HTPC. With it being a barebones kit, you can use some memory or 2.5″ drives that you have on hand to keep the final build costs down. There has been a lot of growth in the mini PC market and Zotac has been in it for a long time with its ZBOX lineup.

Specifications
  • Name: ZBOX CI321 nano
  • CPU: Intel Celeron 2961Y (2C/2T, 1.10 GHz, 22nm, 6W)
  • RAM: User Supplied – We tested with Crucial Ballistix 2x4GB DDR3-1600 9-9-9-24 1T 1.35v 
  • SSD: User Supplied – Crucial MX200 SSD 250GB
  • GPU: Integrated – Intel HD Graphics
  • LAN: dual 10/100/1000/Gigabit Base T
  • WLAN: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Built-in Bluetooth V4.0
  • I/O: 4x USB3.0, 1x USB 2.0 , 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort, Headphone-out, Microphone in, 2x 1Gb LAN
  • OS: Supplied Barebones, Windows 10 preview used in this review
  • Warranty: 1 Year
  • Price: $149.99

Retail Packaging

Printed materials that the CI321 comes with

The hardware that you get with the CI321 allows you to mount the unit via the VESA mount of a monitor or TV. You also get an optical audio adapter for use with a Toslink connection, a dual band WiFi antenna, and screws to mount your 2.5″ SSD or HDD.

 

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CyberPowerPC Infinity Xtreme Halo Review

Introduction


CyberPowerPC are making a sizeable impact in the UK PC market in recent years since they came across the water and settled in the sunny North of England. They contacted us offering not just a glimpse at one their flagship systems, but a completely built and ready to go review sample of which we were encouraged to “test”, and by test I mean game on.

Naturally we were on scene faster than you can shake a stick at and soon we were pulling up outside Cyberpower HQ eager to get our mitts onto this mystery machine. We were not disappointed when we were warned that it would take 2 men to lift it, and that I would need to put my back seats down as the box would take up half of the back of my car. As we returned to eTeknix towers we could see on the box what chassis we had, but it wasn’t until we got it unpacked that we seen what we had been given, and investigated the invoice properly. What they had in fact given us was a top end X99 system with not one but TWO GTX Titan X’s in SLI, with a bespoke water cooling setup, a price tag of £6400, and that’s just the beginning. Ladies and Gentlemen, hold onto your hats, I’m going in!

Specifications

  • Name: Cyberpower Infinity Xtreme Halo
  • Case: In-Win S Frame ? Black and Gold
  • Motherboard: ASUS X99 Deluxe INTEL X99,  4 Channel DDR4 ATX Mainboard w/ 8 RAM slots,UEFI Bios,Turbo APP,Thunderbolt Ready,Crystal Sound 2,Turbo LAN,USB3.0,SATA-III RAID,3 Gen3 PCIe x16 & 1 PCIe x4
  • Processor: i7-5960X Extreme Edition Eight-Core 3.00 GHz 20MB Haswell-E
  • Processor Cooler: Custom loop, featuring a resivior/pump combo, 360mm radiator with LED fans and rigid tubing.
  • System Memory: 32GB HyperX Fury w/Heat Spreader DDR4/2400MHz Quad Channel Memory (8 x 4GB sticks)
  • Main Boot Drive: (1x400GB) Intel 750 Series M.2 PCIe Solid State Drive Card, Read: 2500MB/Sec, Write: 1200MB/Sec
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): 2TB Seagate Hybrid Gen3 SATA-III 6.0Gb/s Cache 5400RPM SSHD in RAID 0
  • Graphics card: GeForce GTX Titan X (x2 in SLI, with full cover waterblocks)
  • Power Supply: Corsair 1200 Watts AX1200i Platinum 80+ Modular digital control Gaming Power Supply – Quad SLI Ready
  • Extras: ASUS USB 3.1 Expansion PCI-E card, provides extra two USB 3.1, Free Arkham Knight and The Witcher 3 – Wild Hunt
  • Optical Drive: None
  • Wireless: Wireless A/C
  • Monitor: Not included
  • Peripherals: Not included
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 2 Year Warranty
  • Price: £6400 as configured Delivered.

Here have the huge box,  with oodles of padding, foam and air pockets to protect its precious cargo.

A motherboard box full of extra cables, goodies and more, including a Windows 8.1 disc.

Unboxed and raring to go.  By this point I had smeared the glass with my clammy palms and had to give it a quick wipe down.

 

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iBuyPower Noctis Intel Z97 Review

Introduction


Once again, it is review time at eTeknix HQ and iBuyPower gives us the chance to test their Noctis Intel Z97. The case is a brand new iBuyPower version of the equally new NZXT Noctus 450. Inside we have an Intel i7 4790K, an EVGA Superclocked GTX 980, 16GB of DDR3 1600, and a 240GB SSD. Cooling the 4790K is a 120mm AIO CPU liquid cooler with two fans in a push-pull configuration. The 4790K has a Turbo frequency up to 4.4GHz, and with the EVGA Superclocked GTX 980 running up to 1505MHz core and 3505MHz memory makes this system well suited for some great gaming performance.

The system was put together using the iBuyPower Z97 system configurator, and parts were chosen to make a system that would make a very capable gaming system while not going overboard and trying to stay budget conscious. I was trying to stay under the $2,000 and what I ended up with was a system that comes out to an affordable $1,530, so lets give it a go and see how it does. I will also look for ways I could improve on the build while still staying within that $2,000 budget that I was aiming for.

Specifications

  • Name: iBuyPower Noctis Intel Z97
  • Case: NZXT Noctis 450 iBuyPower Version – Blue
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z97-D3H (Socket 1150) DDR3 ATX Motherboard
  • Processor: Intel Core i7 4790K Quad Core Haswell Processor
  • Processor Cooler: 120mm CPU Water Cooler
  • System Memory: 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 Memory (2 x 8GB sticks)
  • Main Boot Drive: 240GB Kingston V300 SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): None
  • Graphics card: EVGA GeForce GTX 980 4GB Superclocked
  • Power Supply: Thermaltake SMART SP-650 650W 80PLUS Bronze
  • Optical DriveNone
  • Wireless: Not included
  • Monitor: Not included
  • Peripherals: Not included
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Warranty: Three Year Standard Warranty
  • Price: $1549 as configured Delivered

The shipping box is immense and will likely need two people to move it unless you are capable of carrying large precarious objects safely.

Inside is the box for the iBuyPower NZXT Noctis 450, well padded with heavy foam that will be great for keeping the systems intact.

Inside the Notcis case box, the original case packaging is used, with closed cell foam keeping it very secure and stable.

The unboxed system is striking with the matte black finish and the blue mesh accents.  The matte finish can pick up fingerprints and dust so keep some cleaner and a microfiber cloth handy if you are picky about that kind of thing. There is a piece of printed paper on the side of the case illustrating how to remove the Instapak foam that keeps the internals of the system secure while shipping.

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Boston Venom 3401-7T Workstation Review

Introduction


Although Boston may at first not be familiar to many, rest assured with a presence in America, UK, Germany and India this is a truly global company.  They supply one of the widest variety of business hardware available, from micro servers, blade servers, Quadro workstation and even green and cloud solutions. Today we will be looking at the Boston Venom 3401-7T, which is one of their flagship models of their Venom series, which has been designed for high-performance graphics, parallel processing and high-speed rendering. With this being one of our first enterprise workstation reviews we have a fresh selection of benchmarks which will help us push these high specification systems to their limits. We have a wide range including CPU, GPU, Memory and storage benchmarks which will help us collect some statistics which will help us find the cream of the crop of workstation rigs and at the same time provide our audience with informative concise results.

Although normally in reviews we don’t usually use descriptions that suppliers supply us with, with workstations often being targeted at a particular use or task and I feel that it makes sense for us to include a small description from Boston on what area the Venom is aimed at.

“The Boston Venom 3401-7T is designed to be the ultimate workstation for all design, VFX and digital content professionals.  The Venom 3401-7T is a workstation designed by Boston that brings together the often disjointed design and simulation processes into one package; dramatically increasing productivity and allowing engineers, designers and content creators to do more, faster, and with better results.”

So on that note, we have some high expectations going into this review!

Specifications

  • Name: Boston Venom 3401-7T
  • Case: Silverstone Fortress Series Case FT04 – Black
  • Motherboard: Supermicro X10DAX
  • Processor: Intel Xeon Processor E5-2687WV3 3.1GHz (Haswell) x 2 with 4% Overclock
  • Processor Cooler: Custom Dual Liquid Cooled Solution
  • System Memory: 8GB DDR4-2133 1Rx4 ECC REG DIMM (8x8GB Sticks)
  • Main Boot Drive: Samsung 850 PRO 512GB SATAIII x 2 in RAID 0
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Western Digital SE 2TB SATA III – 6Gb/s Hard Drive 24×7 Enterprise Class x2 in RAID 1
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA Quadro K5200 Retail 8GB, 2304 CUDA Cores, PCE-E (x16) 256-bit, GDDR5 256-bit
  • Power Supply: Supermicro PS2 1200W Multi Output High Efficiency Power Supply
  • Optical Drive15X Internal Blu Ray Writer with SATA-OEM
  • Wireless: Not included
  • Monitor: Not included
  • Peripherals: Not included
  • OS: Windows 7 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 3 Year return to base warranty with 1 year parts swapout (UK only)
  • Price: £9,118.87 inc VAT as configured Delivered.

We knew we were in for a treat when it came on its own pallet…

This system is extremely heavy, it was a 2 man job just to get it out the box!

The Silverstone Fortress FT04 (as reviewed here).  Don’t let it’s modest looks fool you, there is some of the fastest hardware money can buy tucked away in here!

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OcUK Titan Pandora Gaming System Review

Introduction


It’s system review time at eTeknix HQ and today Overclockers.co.uk step into the arena with their Titan Pandora Gaming PC. Housed in a Bitfenix Pandora case we have a high-end i5 4690k overclocked to 4.2GHz, Nvidia GTX 970,  16GB of DDR3 with a clock speed of 2133MHz.  There is a double 240mm AIO CPU liquid cooler and a Galax GeForce GTX 970 EXOC Black Edition featuring an impressive 11% overclock. On the storage front, we have Samsung’s latest SSD offering in terms of the 250GB 850 EVO, with a larger amount of storage supplied in the form of a Seagate Barracuda 2TB mechanical hard drive.

Gaming systems at this price point have become very competitive recently, so let’s get stuck in and see what else the Titan Pandora has to offer!

Specifications

  • Name: Overclockers UK Titan Pandora
  • Case: Bitfenix Pandora Micro ATX Gaming Case – Black
  • Motherboard: MSI Z97M Gaming (Socket 1150) DDR3 Micro ATX Motherboard
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4690K Quad Core Haswell Processor overclocked to 4.2GHz
  • Processor Cooler: 240mm CPU Water Cooler
  • System Memory: 16GB 2133MHz DDR3 Memory (2 x 8GB sticks)
  • Main Boot Drive: 250GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Seagate 2000GB 7200RPM Hard Disk – 6Gbps
  • Graphics card: Galax GeForce GTX 970 EXOC Black Edition
  • Power Supply: Super Flower 550W Gold PSU
  • Optical DriveNone
  • Wireless: Not included
  • Monitor: Not included
  • Peripherals: Not included
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 3 Year Warranty with 2 Years Collect and Return (UK only)
  • Price: £1300 as configured Delivered.

Opening the box reveals plenty of air pocket padding; just what we like to see.

Words from the wise greet you as you open the case box, take heed!

The system unboxed, now to remove the polystyrene, pop the side off (no screws required) and remove the supplementary packaging that has been supporting the cards in transit.

The unboxed system is looking good! The first thing I noticed is that it feels very well made with its mirror finish front, though it seems to attract dust and fingerprints almost instantly.

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NZXT DOKO Remote Desktop Gaming Review

Introduction


NZXT already has a rock solid reputation with the PC gaming community. They’ve created some of the best gaming chassis on the market, such as their stunning H440, they’ve created some of the best coolers, such as the X61 and their CAM software is great for keeping your system running smoothly. However, they’re now pushing further into the world of PC gaming with the release of the DOKO. The DOKO is the latest device to follow the game streaming trend, with Steam and other gaming platforms such as the Nvidia Shield allowing you to stream games from your PC to your big screen TV, NZXT think they can compete in this market too.

The DOKO simply connects to your network and software will stream your PC game to the DOKO, which connects to another display, such as the TV in your living room. This means that you can break away from your desk and enjoy your games, or any other media, on the big screen, without the need for a second gaming PC, or HTPC style system. What we have here then is essentially a remote desktop client, but it has a few extra features on board that certainly help it stand out from the crowd.

In the box, you’ll find the DOKO unit its self, as well as a high-quality RJ45 cable and the power cable. Unfortunately for myself the plug is a US plug, but the unit will be getting a UK/EU release in March this year; so for now I’ll have to use a US to UK adaptor to be able to use the device.

The unit is quite small, so there should be no issues in finding a comfortable home for it under your TV. This is great for people like me, who already have four consoles, a cable box and an AV receiver crammed under the TV as I could easily tuck this in between other devices.

Around the front of the device, you’ll find four USB ports, which are perfect for connecting a keyboard, mouse, control pads, headsets or any other USB device you may need. There’s also a large power button, giving you the option to power off the device with ease when not in use.

Around the back, you will find a power jack, a single HDMI, a 3.5mm audio jack and the RJ45 network port.

It’s a pretty simple looking unit overall, but NZXT have given it a funky style thanks to some smooth rounded edges on one side.

While the other side has a slight overhanging panel. It’s not much in terms of design, but it’s enough to keep this simple box from looking boring.

On the base of the DOKO, you’ll find four small rubber feet; just enough to keep it from sliding around on your surface of choice. Also, looking at the design, there are no air vents, as the device is passive cooled and runs completely silent.

Chillblast Fusion Barbarian Gaming PC Review

Introduction


Today we are looking at the aggressively named “Chillblast Fusion Barbarian Devil’s Canyon Gaming PC”, featuring a Corsair SPEC-03 chassis on the outside, with a high-end i5 4690k, Nvidia GTX 970,  16GB of DDR3 on the inside and a few high performance coolers in between. Chillblast have even thrown in a tasty CPU overclock to help us hit the high notes and have opted for the traditional OS SSD / Mechanical HDD storage configuration to give the user more options when it comes to storage.

At a time when certain delayed AAA titles are on the horizon, many will be looking to upgrade their rigs to play the latest and greatest games at maximum graphics settings. The question is, is the Barbarian worth considering for your next upgrade? Let’s find out!

Specifications

  • Name: Chillblast Fusion Barbarian Gaming PC
  • Case: Corsair SPEC-03 Case
  • Motherboard: Z97X-Gaming 5  Motherboard
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 4690K Devils Canyon overclocked to 4.3GHz
  • Processor Cooler: Corsair H75 all-in-one liquid cooler
  • System Memory: 16GB Corsair/Crucial/Samsung PC3-12800 1600MHz DDR3 Memory (2 x 8GB sticks)
  • Main Boot Drive: 120GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): Seagate 2000GB 7200RPM Hard Disk – 6Gbps
  • Graphics card: Gigabyte GTX 970 4GB Maxwell Windforce Edition
  • Power Supply: Corsair CX 750W 80 PLUS Bronze Certified PSU
  • Optical Drive24x SATA DVD+/-RW Drive
  • Wireless: Not included
  • Monitor: Not included
  • Peripherals: Not included
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
  • Warranty: 5 Year Warranty with 2 Years Collect and Return (UK only)
  • Price: £1163.78 as configured Delivered.

The system was well packaged, with what can only be described as “cardboard ghillie” padding.

Chillblast has included the Motherboard and Graphics card boxes too, which contain all of the misc leftover bits.

The system unboxed.  The front of the case reminds me of the mask Bane from Batman, with its exaggerated front grille bars and bold styling.

Across the top of the case we have 2 x USB3, headphone and mic ports, with power and reset buttons.  Underneath is a bar which lights up red when the system is powered on, and the HDD activity LED sits in the middle of the I/O panel.

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ECS Liva SOC Mini-PC System Review

Introduction


ECS (Elitegroup Computer Systems) are no stranger to the PC hardware game despite not being instantly recognisable by most as a PC hardware vendor. In fact, they are the fifth largest motherboard manufacturer in the world, producing hardware for some of the biggest PC brands such as Acer, Zoostorm, IBM and Compaq, and have been around since 1987. Although their bread and butter has been motherboards for years, they have occasionally deviated from this, releasing everything from graphics cards to SOC (System on a Chip) computers. Speaking of which, today’s review is all about their latest SOC offering; the ECS Liva Mini-PC!

The mini PC/net-top market that followed the brief fad of netbooks never really seemed to take off – by the time everyone had realised that netbooks were generally awkward to use and fairly underpowered the tablet market had began to take off, with manufacturers realising that netbooks wouldn’t survive the test of time. Interestingly, the net-top has had a recent resurgence of interest in recent times, with Android based net-tops offering low-cost media centres to Windows and Linux-based net-tops promising business users a cheap office worthy PC that uses a fraction of the power. ECS has come out swinging here, taking aim straight at the budget net-top market, providing the user with everything (with the exception of OS) needed to turn this little box of tricks into whatever PC they require, while undercutting rival offerings which often need extra components such as RAM or SSD’s first to function.

Specifications
  • Name: ECS-Liva Mini-PC White Edition
  • CPU: Intel Celeron N2807 (2C/2T x 1.60 GHz (2.17 GHz Turbo), 22nm, 1MB L2, 4.3W)
  • RAM: 2GB 1600MHz DDR3 1.35w (8GB*4)
  • SSD: eMMC 64GB
  • GPU:Intel Integrated Graphics
  • LAN:10/100/1000/Gigabits Base T
  • WLAN: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Built-in Bluetooth V4.0
  • I/O: 1x USB3.0, 1x USB 2.0 , 1x HDMI, 1x VGA, Headphone-out, 1x 1Gb LAN
  • OS: Supplied Barebones, Windows 8.1 used in this review
  • Dimensions: 118 x 70 x 56 (mm)
  • Weight: ~190g
  • Warranty: 1 Year
  • Price: $185

The box describes the product as a “build your own PC.” All of the components are well packaged and protected and the motherboard was shielded by an anti-static bag.

Contents (from back to front, left to right) Quick-Start Guide, User Guide, Wifi Antennae, USA/EU Micro USB 2000ma AC Adapter, Top Casing, Bluetooth/Wifi Card, Motherboard, Bottom Casing.

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Nvidia Shield Gaming Tablet Review

Introduction


The Nvidia Shield was and still is one of the coolest gadgets I have ever reviewed and owned; I still use it regularly when I want to break away from my desk and it has also become my vital travel buddy for long journeys. Gaming on the go is a great way to pass the time and mobile phones and tablets now take up a massive part of that market, but most phones and tablets come with one major drawback; touch screen displays. The original Shield solved this touch screen gaming problem by integrating a controller into the Android device; in a way that’s not all that dissimilar to other dedicated hand-held games consoles such as the 3DS and the PlayStation Vita.

The new Shield Tablet drops the integrated controller to turn the Shield into an Android tablet, this worries me somewhat as I love the integrated controller of the Shield console as it’s perfect for holding when you’re on the bus, train, plane, or anywhere else for that matter. Of course there will be pros and cons to dropping the integrated controller and that’s what I aim to find out; is the Shield better or worse for the new design choices?

A separate controller isn’t the only thing Nvidia have changed, in fact pretty much everything has been tweaked, revised or created from scratch for the Shield Tablet. The screen size and resolution has been increased, the device now features two 5MP HDR cameras, a stylus and more. The biggest feature change of all is the CPU/GPU upgrade; the Tegra 4 in the Shield was impressive, but it’s no match for the new Tegra K1 GPU and ARM Cortex A15 CPU combo.

The packaging is very nicely designed, there is a clear image of the tablet on the front and the major features and specifications are dotted around the other sides.

On the back of the box you can see an image of the Shield Tablet Cover and the Shield Controller; these are not included as standard and have to be purchased separately.

In the box you’ll find everything you need to get you started; the tablet (obviously), some safety information, and a universal USB mains power adaptor with a good quality USB cable.

The Shield Controller is also nicely packaged, with a clear image of the wireless  controller on the front of the box.

The back of the box touts the major features, such as the headset jack (with chat), built-in microphone and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The Tablet Cover comes in another similarly styled box.

On the back of the box you’ll find a quick run down of how the cover can be used as a stand for the Shield Tablet.