It is no secret that there are a lot of people who are interested in gaming PCs but do not have the time or the experience to build their own. It is also no secret that PCs made by gimmicky system builders like Alienware are over-priced and are not good value for money, you are mainly paying for the brand name and reputation and get very little hardware for your money. So what other options do you have? Buying from a system integrator is rapidly becoming a popular alternative, with the constant year-on-year growth in the PC gaming industry it is no wonder that there are more system integrators to choose from than ever before.
Today we are taking a look at a gaming system made by the system integrator called Cube. We are checking out their Cube Raptor Gaming PC which offers up a sweet-spot balance of components at a fairly attractive sub-£700 price point. The Raptor boasts the latest Core i5 Haswell Refresh CPU from Intel with the flagship Z97 chipset as well as a 2GB AMD R7 265 overclocked graphics card and 8GB of DDR3. Interestingly, there’s no either/or rubbish going on with the storage – Cube have equipped a hybrid drive so it can bring the benefits of an SSD and large capacity HDD to an attractive price point. All in all this system has an interesting mix of components and is finished off nicely with In Win’s GT1 gaming mid tower case. Check out the full specifications of this system below:
- Name: Cube Raptor Gaming PC
- Case: In Win GT1 Mid Tower
- Motherboard: MSI Z97-G43 LGA 1150 socket
- Processor: Intel Core i5 4590 “Haswell Refresh” Quad Core (3.3GHz Base 3.7GHz Turbo) LGA 1150 socket
- Processor Cooler: Stock Intel Heatsink
- System Memory: 1 x 8GB DDR3 Kingston HyperX Fury 1866MHz (Blue)
- Main Boot Drive: Seagate 1TB Hybrid Solid State Hard Drive with 8GB SSD Cache
- Additional Storage Drive(s): Not included
- Graphics card: MSI R7 265 OC 2GB GDDR5
- Power Supply: Cooler Master Elite 500W
- Optical Drive: Super WriteMaster DVD RW
- Wireless: TP-Link TL-WN781ND PCIe 150mbps 2.4GHz WiFi card
- Monitor: Not included
- Peripherals: Not included
- OS: Windows 8.1 64 Bit
- Warranty: 2 Year Warranty (14 Day Swap Out,1st Year collect and return, 2nd Year Return to Base)
- Price: £669.99 including VAT (accurate at the time of writing)
Packaging & Accessories
We received the Cube Raptor Gaming PC in the usual format: a large cardboard outer box within which we find the system in the box that the In Win case came in. There’s some additional protective polystyrene to protect the inner box from bumps and on top of it all is the motherboard box which contains all the manuals, documentation, cables and adapters that came with components in the system that you might need.
As we can see the inner box is in perfect condition and has sustained no damage in transit, this means it was packaged well.
Inside the motherboard box we find lots of documentation for the system components, a power cable for the system, various CDs, a VGA to DVI adapter and the wireless antenna for the WiFi PCI express card.
Before we get stuck in to looking at the product let’s just take a minute to familiarise ourselves with the stars of the show; the Intel Core i5 4590 and the AMD R7 265 OC.
A Closer Look
Cube’s Raptor gaming PC has a very nice look about it thanks to the large side panel window on the In Win GT1 case. Inside we can see a very tidy system and I must say I am impressed with the cable management job that’s been done.
The top of the case features a fair amount of ventilation to keep things running cool, you can also see there’s a little slot where you can put things like USB hard drives, USB flash drives, your keys and so on.
The front has a very aggressive “gamer” look as well as an optical drive should you need it.
Moving down to the ports and we find a good mix of USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and audio. There’s also a 2 speed fan switch, power button, reset button and then indicator lights. The power LED is on the square power switch and the HDD activity light is on those two blue stripes either side of the USB ports.
Around the back we can see a rear 120mm fan and all the I/O ports on the graphics card, WiFi card and motherboard.
Here’s a closer look at those ports in case you’re interested in what’s on offer.
On top we find a convenient storage area that also doubles as a hot-swap bay.
The bottom has two filtered fan intakes: one for the power supply and one for an optional case fan that does not come included.
Taking the side panel off and we can see the full system which is neat and tidy with a nice blue/black colour scheme.
We notice that there’s only a stock Intel heatsink fan which isn’t amazing but it is still quiet and you can’t overclock this CPU so it is certainly no big deal. The inclusion of a single 8GB module instead of two 4GB modules surprised me a little because now you cannot access the improved performance of dual-channel memory as you’re limited to single channel. This shouldn’t impact performance much unless an application is memory-bandwidth intensive.
The graphics card continues the blue/black theme and it’s MSI’s R7 265 2GB GDDR5 OC model. This will give absolutely loads of gaming power for 1080p gamers, if you’re pushing the resolution any higher than 1080p then this might start to struggle but as a 1080p graphics card this R7 265 is at the sweet spot.
Down the bottom we find a silver Cooler Master 500W power supply. Box.co.uk, who sent us this Cube system, tell us the system normally ships with a black Cooler Master 500W power supply. That means if you were to buy one you’d not get the same one as us. I was very relieved to here that because I think the Silver stands out like a sore thumb in this build. Sadly the black version still has a non-modular design and unsleeved cables but for the price point this is understandable.
Cube have done a good job with keeping the cables behind the motherboard tray and only routing through as much cable as is needed. Despite the fact all the cables are unsleeved it still looks fairly tidy.
By the drive tray area we find just that single 1TB SSHD so if you are to upgrade your storage in future there’s plenty of scope for you to do so.
Finally around the back of the motherboard tray we get a glimpse at the cable management job. While it isn’t perfect Cube have done a good job of hiding the bulk of the cables away and have made the best of the components used. The fact the In Win GT1 case has a outer bulge on the side panel helps because it gives extra room for cables behind the motherboard.
To test each system, 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 software applications to gain the broadest spectrum of results for comparing multiple aspects of system performance
- Acoustic dBA meter
- AC “Killawatt” power meter
- 3DMark 11
- AIDA64 Engineer
- Cinebench R11.5
- Cinebench R15
- Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0
- PCMark 8
- Super PI
- Unigine Heaven 4.0
- Unigine Valley 1.0
- Bioshock Infinite
- Dirt Showdown
- Metro Last Light
- Sleeping Dogs
- Tomb Raider
System Performance – PCMark 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.
3DMark 11 is a DirectX 11 video card benchmark test for Windows that is designed to measure your PC’s gaming performance. 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of DirectX 11 features including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Download here.
Unigine Heaven 4.0
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.
Unigine Valley 1.0
Valley Benchmark is a new GPU stress-testing tool from the developers of the very popular and highly acclaimed Heaven Benchmark. The forest-covered valley surrounded by vast mountains amazes with its scale from a bird’s-eye view and is extremely detailed down to every leaf and flower petal. This non-synthetic benchmark powered by the state-of-the art UNIGINE Engine showcases a comprehensive set of cutting-edge graphics technologies with a dynamic environment and fully interactive modes available to the end user. Download here.
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.
DiRT Showdown is the new arcade racing game from the team that brought you the award-winning DiRT series. DiRT Showdown uses high-resolution textures and AA settings to simulate dust particles, terrain and vehicle damage.
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.
Welcome to Hong Kong, a vibrant neon city teeming with life, whose exotic locations and busy streets hide one of the most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations in the world: the Triads. In this open world game, you play the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to take down the Triads from the inside out. Sleeping Dogs utilises DirectX 11 features such as SSAA and FXAA as well as the Havok engine for advanced physics.
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.
CPU Performance – Cinebench and SuperPi
Cinebench R11.5 and R15
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 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.
SSD, HDD and USB 3.0 Performance
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 Disk Benchmark determines the data transfer speed of hard disk drives, solid-state drives, optical drives, and flash memory based devices. 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.
Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0
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 fromhere.
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.
Cube’s Raptor Gaming PC currently costs £669.99 with free delivery at Box.co.uk. This makes it a fairly attractive price for a gaming system coming in at the lower end of where most gaming systems normally start. As you can see it fairs very well against the Braebo Titan which it matched consistently and frequently beat in our testing. Note that the Cube Raptor Gaming PC also comes with a 2 year warranty which is a great thing to have.
The question a lot of people may be wondering by now is “would it be cheaper for me to build it myself?”. The answer to that is yes, but I think you’ll be surprised just how close it is. Let’s do a quick analysis of the components and the total cost to buy them all yourself:
- In Win GT1 mid tower case – £45~
- MSI Z97-G43 – £80~
- Intel Core i5 4590 – £145~
- Kingston 1 x 8GB HyperX Fury 1866MHz DDR3 Module – £60~
- Seagate 1TB SSHD – £60
- MSI R7 265 OC 2GB graphics card – £120~
- Cooler Master Elite 500W power supply – £30~
- Super WriteMaster DVD-RW optical drive – £12~
- TP-Link TL-WN781ND PCIe 150mbps 2.4GHz WiFi card – £10~
- Windows 8.1 64 Bit – £70
Therefore based on retail prices you could build this system for approximately £635~ which is £35 less than the price of this system. In my books £35 to have the system built, pre-configured, delivered to your door and provided with a 2 year warranty is a cracking deal. There is really no way you could feel like you’re getting a bad deal from this system from a component perspective.
Having spent a whole day with this system I think it is fair to say I am a little surprised. First up the component selection is excellent, the parts chosen really compliment each other and allow the cost to kept very low while the user experience is still very high. I think the star of the show for me is the Seagate 1TB SSHD, it has nearly all the snappiness of an SSD but at a fraction of the cost because it barely costs more than a normal 1TB drive. What’s more the decision to use the latest Intel Core i5 Haswell Refresh CPU means the system is really fast on the CPU side – to the point where we observed it beating another gaming system which uses the R9 270 (a better GPU) and an AMD CPU. I was also pleased to see Cube choose a respectable brand for the power supply and case, I always hate it when Gaming PCs use cheap case and power supply combinations to bring the cost down: a cheap case just means a bad cooling set-up and a cheap power supply is asking for a disaster. The motherboard chosen is Z97 which is another nice addition because it has all the bells and whistles you’d expect like Gigabit ethernet, USB 3.0, SATA III and good quality audio.
There are still a few things that I think Cube might want to consider about their build because I do see room for improvement. Firstly, I think using a single DDR3 module is a bit strange, it saw the system perform quite weakly in memory-dependent applications because it is forced into single channel mode when it can run in dual channel. You can buy the 8GB HyperX Fury kit with two 4GB DIMMs for the same price as one 8GB DIMM – I think this would look better and perform better. If the motherboard only had two memory slots I could understand it on upgradeability grounds but it has four so there’s really no need. Secondly, I felt like the system was let down by a noisy front fan. Our acoustic results show about 10 dBA of extra noise over the background level even from a distance. I did manually stop the fan with my hand just to check, and it definitely was the front fan. This isn’t too much of an issue because it’s an easy fix – a fan speed reducer cable or plugging the fan into the motherboard and using the BIOS fan control would do the trick. However, this isn’t something that should have to be done by the customer so the onus is on Cube to sort that one out. Lastly, it would be nice to see more customisation options available for this specific PC. I know Cube offer a custom PC configurator but they should offer some options on this model so you can just swap out a single thing – for example I personally would swap out the R7 265 for an R9 270, would upgrade to a better motherboard and ditch the wireless card. The only variation they offer is on the CPU side, you can get exactly the same PC just with a Haswell Refresh Core i7 4790 model for £749.99.
- Pricing is very reasonable
- Good overall system performance
- Smart component selection
- Great cable management
- 2 year warranty support
- Power efficient
- Front fan is too loud
- Single DIMM forces system into single channel mode
- Customisation options for this model are minimum
“If you’re looking for a lean mean 1080p gaming machine then Cube have got the system for you. Offering up great value for money, a smart selection of components and a very tidy layout the Cube Raptor Gaming PC is a great choice for a premium gaming PC without the premium price tag.”
Thanks to Box UK for providing this review sample.