Systems http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/47/ en AVADirect Mini Cube Gaming PC Review http://www.maximumpc.com/avadirect_mini_cube_gaming_pc_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Just call it ‘The Fridge’</h3> <p>Naming a PC isn’t an easy task. It’s hard enough when you’re talking about your personal PC (Betsy, Svetlana, or Jabba work well), but when you’re a company selling a new model, Marketing 101 says the name should imbue magic and convince consumers to pony up.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ava_13708_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ava_13708_small.jpg" alt="Though capable and reasonably priced, this medium form factor is eclipsed by smaller, faster, and cheaper machines." title="AVADirect Mini Cube Gaming PC" width="620" height="582" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Though capable and reasonably priced, this medium form factor is eclipsed by smaller, faster, and cheaper machines.</strong></p> <p>We’re guessing AVADirect didn’t take that class, as its new custom mini-cube gaming PC is apparently named Mini Cube Gaming PC. The truth is, AVADirect probably doesn’t give a damn about the name because frankly, who cares? Maybe “5S” or “S IV” works on some people, but on a custom PC where you pick out the parts yourself, it’s probably far less pressing.</p> <p>Around the office, we’ve taken to calling this handsome SFF machine “The Fridge,” not necessarily because of its size, but because of its Frigidaire-like aesthetic. Sure, it would have been cool if the optical drive shared the same brushed-aluminum surface, but it still matches the black accents elsewhere on the case. While there’s no question that this is a small form factor rig, compared to the micro-towers we’ve seen lately, it’s pretty big. It’s more than double the width of the Falcon Northwest Tiki, and while slightly shorter than the CyberPower Hadron we reviewed in February, it’s about three inches wider than that machine.</p> <p>That size increase gives it more capability. While most micro-towers use SFX or 1U PSUs, The Fridge uses a standard 760W Seasonic ATX PSU. Inside, you’ll also find a liquid-cooled Core i7-4770K overclocked to 4.2GHz, 16GB of Kingston DDR3/1600, two Kingston 120GB HyperX SSDs in RAID 0, a 2TB WD HDD, an MSI Z87 Mini-ITX board, and an Asus GeForce GTX 780 card.</p> <p>Against our zero-point system, the AVADirect represents well in the non-heavily multithreaded tasks but, not surprisingly, it gets left behind in all other tests by the ZP’s six-core Core i7-3930K part clicking along at 3.8GHz. That includes gaming tests, but not by the margin you would expect from the zero-point’s GeForce GTX 690.</p> <p>The more important question is how The Fridge compares with the SFF/micro-tower crowd. Not too shabby. The bad mutha of the group continues to be Falcon Northwest’s Tiki, with its Haswell part overclocked to 4.7GHz and a GeForce Titan. Indeed, the Tiki still stands as the fastest micro-tower we’ve ever tested, and the fact that it’s held onto that title well into the new year demonstrates how aggressively Falcon went for broke with this model. Of course, that aggression comes at a price, with the Tiki hitting the $4,400 mark. At $2,583, AVADirect can pull the old, “You can buy our system, play all of your games, and still have enough money to buy two of the upcoming cheap 4K panels” routine.</p> <p>Normally, that routine would sway us, because like most folks, we can see sacrificing a little performance for a new monitor, keyboard, mouse, and new suit and shoes, too. But then there’s CyberPower PC’s Hadron Hydro 300, which costs $300 less than the AVADirect. It almost mirrors the parts in the AVADirect except for the HDD. The Hadron also packs custom liquid-cooling for its CPU and GPU, which, while the chassis gets a tad warm, helps the rig run extremely quietly and gives it a slight performance edge. The AVADirect box is louder and under heavy loads emits a low-frequency large-fan buzz.</p> <p>That leaves the AVADirect in a tough spot. It’s slower than the Tiki and more expensive than the Hadron. Yes, it’s got an off-the-shelf PSU, but we’re not sure that’s worth the sacrifice in size. Yes, it’s a striking-looking case with its brushed-steel/aluminum finish, but maybe the sun is just finally starting to set on the medium form factor.</p> <p><strong>$2,584,</strong> <a href="http://www.avadirect.com/">www.avadirect.com</a></p> <p><em>Note: This article was originally featured in our March issue of the magazine.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/avadirect_mini_cube_gaming_pc_review_2014#comments AVADirect Mini Cube Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Reviews Systems Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:11:59 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28059 at http://www.maximumpc.com CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/cyberpower_hadron_hydro_300_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The birth of a new form factor</h3> <p>Form factors are never easy to define. For example, where’s the line between a mid-tower and a full-tower? And how do you define small form factor?</p> <p>Amid all this confusion, we thought we had at least defined what a micro-tower is: a thin and powerful PC with discrete graphics, such as the Falcon Northwest Tiki or Digital Storm Bolt. Easy, right?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cyberpower_micro-12994_small2_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cyberpower_micro-12994_small2.jpg" alt="Maybe we should call this a macro-tower?" title="CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300" width="620" height="757" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Maybe we should call this a macro-tower?</strong></p> <p>Wrong. CyberPower bends the definition with its new Hadron Hydro 300. At first glance, it looks like a micro-tower, but upon closer examination, you think, no, it’s not quite a micro-tower because it’s too wide, right? The box certainly isn’t as big as, say, the micro-ATX-based V3 Devastator that we reviewed in our Holiday 2013 issue. So, just what the frak is it? Maybe, as Senior Editor Josh Norem suggested, it’s a “macro-tower”—the bigger cousin to a micro-tower.</p> <p>There’s indeed an advantage to the just-a-bit-wider-than-a-micro-tower form factor. Every micro-tower we’ve seen is limited to air cooling or closed-loop cooling of the CPU only. The GPU, arguably the hottest part in the case, has to go it on air cooling alone. With the slightly wider Hadron, CyberPower is able to add a slick, miniaturized custom-cooling loop that keeps both the CPU and GPU cool. The rad isn’t some small jobbie, either, but a full-on dual-fan radiator mounted in the top. To make full use of the space, the system actually snakes liquid out through the back of the case and into the top using a very trick-looking set of chrome hard tubes. The fans are mounted under the rad in a push configuration, which vents hot air out the grill top.</p> <p>A full-on custom-cooling loop solves another issue we’ve see in micro-towers: noise. When enough hardware is pushed to the max in a micro-tower, it gets loud. The fastest micro-tower we’ve ever tested is Falcon’s Tiki, which we reviewed in our November issue. That box pushed the acoustic envelope, although its Haswell was also overclocked to an insane 4.7GHz.</p> <p>The Core i7-4770K in the CyberPower Hadron seems conservative at 4.2GHz, but the custom loop also absorbs the thermals from an EVGA Hydro Copper 2 GTX 780 card. Even under the heaviest loads, the system never got terribly loud. It’s not silent by a long shot, but it’s certainly quieter than most micro-towers when pushed hard.</p> <p>In performance, the Hadron represents well against the micro-towers we’ve tested. On the CPU side, it’s tied with or faster than all but the Falcon Northwest Tiki from our November 2013 roundup. Its liquid-cooled and overclocked GTX 780 outpaces or ties the micro-towers’ GPUs, as well. The Hadron also outruns the V3 Devastator we reviewed in our Holiday 2013 issue in all CPU-related tasks, but loses badly against the V3’s SLI’d GeForce GTX 770s. There’s just no way a single GeForce GTX 780 can manhandle SLI cards. That’s also why the CyberPower Hadron gets lumped up by our zero-point’s GeForce GTX 690 and its hexa-core processor.</p> <p>In the price-to-performance calculator, the CyberPower Hadron does OK, coming in at $2,300. Its closest competitor is the iBuypower Revolt from our November 2013 roundup, which cost $2,000—with a GeForce Titan. The V3 Devastator also offers a nice package at $2,500, although that box is definitely bigger and only gives you a Core i5 part.</p> <p>We should give the CyberPower Hadron its due respect, though—we’ve come to expect small boxes to run on air or off-the-shelf liquid coolers and that’s just not true anymore. This is a sexy little number.</p> <p><strong>$2,260,</strong> <a href="http://www.cypberpowerpc.com/">www.cypberpowerpc.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/cyberpower_hadron_hydro_300_review#comments CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Hardware maximum pc microtower Review Small Form Factor Reviews Systems Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:46:50 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27836 at http://www.maximumpc.com How to Build a Fish Tank PC http://www.maximumpc.com/fish_tank_PC_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Operation Mineral-Oil Submersion</h3> <p>Lately, we've been tossing around the idea of doing a Build It story that uses a custom liquid-cooling loop just because they are fun to play with, and when properly designed, have many tangible performance benefits. But since this is Maximum PC, we asked ourselves, “Why not take it one step further and submerge everything in liquid?” After all, what could possibly go wrong?</p> <p><a class="thickbox" style="text-align: center;" href="/files/u152332/build_it_fish_tank_jimmy_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/build_it_fish_tank_jimmy_small.jpg" width="620" height="574" /></a></p> <p>You've probably seen aquarium-style case mods like this before, but this time we're taking advantage of a pre-fabbed kit from <a title="puget system" href="http://www.pugetsystems.com/" target="_blank">Puget Systems</a>. It incorporates items that will be familiar to liquid-cooling aficionados, such as a Swiftech pump, compression fittings, and a 240mm radiator. However, what’s different is that this kit combines familiar bits with more exotic items, like an acrylic frame/container, an integrated temperature gauge, and the star of the show—several gallons of mineral oil.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/sp-WkG0MMO4" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click play on the video above to see how we finalized the fish tank PC.</strong></p> <p>Water would kill everything it touches, but mineral oil doesn't conduct electricity and is nonreactive—you can dunk a running power supply into a bucket of the stuff and it will keep running. We’ll walk you through the build, detail our mistakes, and show you how it all works. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it certainly makes a great conversation piece.</p> <h4>Exploratory Drilling</h4> <p>This actually isn't the biggest mineral-oil system Puget offers, as the one we used is designed for microATX motherboards ($445, <a href="http://www.pugetsystems.com/">www.pugetsystems.com)</a>. There’s a bigger kit that allows an E-ATX board ($690), but we like the fact that this kit requires "only" eight gallons of oil. A single one-gallon jug of the stuff weighs 7.3 pounds, so even this little build will be pushing more than 50 pounds once we’re up and running. As you can imagine, this makes the system quite difficult to move around safely. Since our needs included being able to move the system to the photography studio, shuffle it to different ambient temperature ranges for thermal testing, and dangle it over a misbehaving intern's head, we opted for Puget's more manageable mATX option.</p> <p>Puget does not sell mineral oil directly, but the company is affiliated with STE Oil, which sold us the eight gallons for $160, plus another $180 for three-day shipping (what can we say, we’re not the best planners). UPS Ground would have still cost $52, since shipping fees scale according to weight, and shipping 58.4 pounds of anything isn’t cheap. So, we recommend you get it locally to save yourself some cheddar.</p> <p>Since this is the first time we've attempted a mineral-oil submersion Build It, we're being conservative with our hardware. We’d rather not destroy expensive gear, and almost all of it is on loan from vendors anyway, so it’s not even ours to destroy. Since our build is mediocre, we won't be testing for performance, but instead just seeing how it all fits together, what pitfalls exist, and reporting on temps and whether or not we’d ever do it again. We also hope to produce a PC that looks seriously cool.</p> <h4>1. The Kit and Kaboodle</h4> <p>Puget’s microATX kit is made of custom-shaped Plexiglas machined in small batches. It also includes some premium parts, such as a $57 240mm Swiftech radiator, a $100 Swiftech MCP35X pump, several nickel-plated compression fittings, pre-cut tubing, and a thermometer with an LCD readout. Storage devices are mounted on the outside of the thing in order to keep them dry, and the kit includes extension cables and brackets to accommodate that setup. The included documentation is meticulous, and the bags of screws are even color-coded to avoid confusion. The radiator does not come with fans, but you can buy a pack from Puget or bring your own. We chose the latter, pulling some Scythe Gentle Typhoons from our basket of Dream Machine parts.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_a_small_4.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_a_small_3.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="314" /></a></p> <h4>2. Making a Case</h4> <p>When you see all the separate components of the case laid out, it looks like it would take days to assemble. In practice, however, the interior rack that holds all the components comes together like Lego pieces, except with screws. The instruction manual has very clear diagrams for every step, leaving little question about what to do next. The case itself is one piece, and the parts you assemble end up with a pair of handles, so when it's all finished, you can carry the assembly via the handles and lift it in and out of the case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_21.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_20.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Click the next page to read about installing the graphics card in the system and more.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>3. Getting Graphic</h4> <p>Since we intended to test how well mineral oil can dissipate heat compared to air or conventional liquid-cooling systems, we wanted to use some reasonably hot hardware to put the system to the test, and we had exactly that with the triple-slot Asus Radeon HD 7970 DirectCU II GPU. It's as hot as it is huge, measuring 2.25 inches thick and 11 inches long, but Puget's case had no trouble accommodating its length. This GPU gets so hot Asus had to stick a condo-size cooler on it, so we wondered if the oil would be able to handle all the heat this card gives off.</p> <p>It should, because, in theory, even though the fans will spin more slowly since oil is more viscous than air, the lack of fan movement shouldn’t matter since the oil is sucking up the heat given off by the card, and the fans don’t play a major role in the cooling loop. Once the oil gets warm, it’s pulled out of the case by the pump and sent to the external radiator.</p> <p>The only thing we didn’t like about the GPU setup is that it’s across from where the PSU is mounted, so we had to drape the cables through the acrylic case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_15.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. Pumping Up the Volume</h4> <p>The Swiftech MCP35X pump included with this kit is not the standard unit that we used in this year’s Dream Machine. It's PWM-controlled, so it can adjust its speeds dynamically according to instructions given by the motherboard that it's plugged into. When the system is idle, the pump operates very quietly. When needed, it can crank up to 4,500rpm, so it's very powerful for its size (and you'll need that extra horsepower to offset the thickness of mineral oil). It also takes standard G1/4 fittings and can directly integrate specific reservoirs, which saves on space. At $100 when purchased separately, it's one of the more expensive pumps you'll find. But our oil-based setup benefits from a pump that has premium features.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_20.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_19.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>5. Taking a Dip</h4> <p>Our oil came in one five-gallon jug and three one-gallon jugs. The big jug needed a pipe wrench to get the cap off, and it did not have a built-in tube like a gas can. So there was some spillage there. Mineral oil has the clarity and consistency of corn syrup. It also has no odor, thankfully. We began by emptying the large jug into the tank, which filled a little more than half its capacity. Then we inserted our rack of parts, and topped off the tank with one of the gallon jugs of oil. We ended up needing just six gallons since the rest of the container's capacity was displaced by the hardware and the pebbles. It got pretty heavy after everything was poured in, but there are silicone feet underneath the aquarium, so you can at least get your hands underneath to lift it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_15.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p>The instruction manual recommends using bubble bars to simulate an aquarium, which requires a second set of pumps, valves, and tubing. We thought that was just a bit too complicated for our first time with mineral oil. But rocks and other typical fishy decorations are an easy add, as long as it's all clean. Any dust will cloud the oil and potentially clog the circulation system, or at least reduce its effectiveness.</p> <h4>6. The Heat of Battle</h4> <p>The pump is just one part of the oil circulation system, of course. The Swiftech MCRx20-XP radiator uses brass tubes and copper fins, and a self-purging plenum, which is a chamber that helps maintain equal pressure throughout the loop and can suppress noise. The radiator is hung outside the case on a bracket. It's big enough to fit three fans if you wanted to; one up top and two down below. But the bracket is a bit too bulky to fit four fans, thus eliminating the possibility of a full “push-pull” configuration. The Scythe fans are 120mm units that spin at a fixed 1,850rpm, but they're surprisingly quiet and good at forcing air through a radiator. The fan cables aren't braided, so they're not very pretty. We also needed to add a power distribution block because the motherboard has just one case fan header, and we wanted to minimize the number of cables leading out of the case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_15.jpg" title="Image F" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small1_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small1.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="495" /></a></p> <h3>Striking Oil</h3> <p>Trying something truly novel in Build It is exciting, but that excitement was tempered by several “oh, crap” moments and hardware failures. For example, it wasn't until all the hardware was dipped into the oil for the first time that we realized we probably should have made sure it at least booted first. Luck was not on our side, and on our first try the machine would not POST. We hoped the issue was related to the monitor, or the monitor cable, or some small thing, but no combination of parts outside the machine had any impact. We did have some luck, in that there was a plastic tub available in the Lab that was large enough to place the oil-soaked rack in temporarily. So we hauled it out and proceeded to methodically replace one part at a time until we got the machine to boot. The problem appeared to be a motherboard fried at some earlier point by static, or physically damaged in a way that's difficult to detect with the naked eye. Once we swapped the board, the system booted right up and remained stable.</p> <p>The pump was initially a little noisy as it filled up and started circulating oil through the radiator, but the overall acoustics eventually settled down to a gentle whir, even when spinning at a reasonably high 4,500rpm. The loudest element was actually the oil pouring back into the case from the radiator, which was like a pleasantly babbling brook.</p> <p>Overall temps seemed fine, so we ran FurMark's thermal test for a little while to get some heat into the oil, and the case temperature eventually leveled off at 37 degrees Celsius, comfortably below its rated maximum of 50 C. The Asus HD 7970 stayed around 60 C, though we did have to manually increase fan speed to compensate for the thickness of mineral oil. We found that temps are highly dependent on the fans you use on the radiator; random $5 case fans won't get the kind of result that you will get with $20 Gentle Typhoons (or Corsair SP120s, or Noctua CPU fans), because the higher-end units have a combination of high pressure, high durability, and relatively low noise. We didn't try overclocking the AMD chip, since it was using a stock cooler, and Puget warns against overclocking systems in the oil due to heat concerns.</p> <p>The radiator fan wires were not long enough to reach the motherboard headers, so we used a power distribution block, which is like a power strip for case fans. You can power them up with Molex, SATA, or PCI Express power cables. The Gentle Typhoons we used spin at a constant RPM, but the noise is low enough that we don’t need variable speed PWM control.</p> <p>Aside from human error, the system itself was a great success. People around the office who aren't even into computers stopped to admire our aquarium PC, with its bubbling liquid and eerie blue glow (provided by a 30cm BitFenix Alchemy Connect LED Strip). It’s obviously not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a fun DIY project that’s "different," it doesn’t get much better than this.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/fish_tank_PC_2014#comments fish tank pc how to build January issues 2014 maximum pc mineral oil pc pudget systems water Systems Features How-Tos Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:05:07 +0000 Tom McNamara 27535 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build A Budget Haswell PC http://www.maximumpc.com/build_cheap_haswell_PC_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>We all know AMD makes damned-fine budget parts, but can Intel compete? This month, we build a $650 Core i5 Haswell rig to find out how it stacks up</h3> <p>It seems like whenever we build a high-end system it’s powered by an Intel CPU, and budget systems always run AMD parts. This month, we’re flipping the script and building a budget-oriented Intel system to see how it compares to AMD’s offerings, and to give people a glimpse of what a $650 Intel rig can throw down. For comparison’s sake, we recently built budget rigs using AMD’s new <a title="richland apu" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/richland_review2013" target="_blank">Richland APU</a> (October 2013) as well as one with a $120 Vishera FX-6300 CPU (“<a title="cheap PC" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/cheap_desktop_computers_2013" target="_blank">Battle of the Budget Builds</a>,” June 2013), and found that both chips serve their niche quite well. For this Intel build, we knew we’d go with <a title="haswell" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/haswell_review_2013" target="_blank">Haswell</a>, and wanted to run a Core i3 CPU, which typically comes with two cores and Hyper-Threading (HT), but those haven’t been released yet. <em><strong>Note:</strong> This article was originally featured in our December 2013 issue of the magazine.</em> So, the next-best CPU we could get was the Core i5-4430— a quad-core CPU without HT for $180. That's a third of our budget on the CPU, which forced us to be frugal elsewhere. We also took this opportunity to try out a new microATX case from Cooler Master that retails for $50, which we felt was perfect for a budget build.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_13.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_12.jpg" width="620" height="720" /></a></p> <h3>Gathering Intel</h3> <p>Since we’re working on a tight budget, we planned this system to be relatively bare-bones, thus allowing us to build inside the smallish Cooler Master N200 microATX chassis. This is a chassis that’s smaller than a traditional mid-tower, but larger than a traditional small-form-factor case, with plenty of room for cables and extra-long GPUs. The foundation for our build would be a motherboard from Gigabyte, the GA-B85-D3H (not to be confused with the HD3). It has a fat heatsink on the parts that usually get pretty hot, so we figured the board would be relatively stable. Other than that, it is a budget B85 board, with four SATA 6Gb/s ports, Realtek integrated sound, one PCI Express 3.0 slot, and four RAM slots that can handle up to 32GB clocked at 1,600MHz. It also features Gigabyte's DualBIOS feature, so the motherboard can use the backup BIOS if the primary one fails to boot. The Core i5-4430 isn’t overclockable, so we won’t be messing with any of that. Although the Core i5-4430 is about $30 more expensive than the A10-6800K that we tried in the AMD budget build, that CPU also wore a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo cooler, which comes out to… about $30. So it's the same difference in the end, though CPU and integrated graphics performance will differ.</p> <p>Other than that, we're trying to keep the rest of the system similar to the Richland build, to create a level playing field, so you'll see the same 60GB SSD, Corsair power supply, 1TB hard drive, Windows 8, and an optical drive.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Cooler Master N200</td> <td> <p><strong>$50</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Corsair CX500</td> <td><strong>$50</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GA-B85-D3H </td> <td><strong>$85</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i5-4430</td> <td><strong>$180 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Intel stock cooler </td> <td><strong>N/A (bundled)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Intel HD 4600</td> <td><strong>N/A (integrated)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">2x 4GB Corsair Vengeance LP</td> <td><strong>$60 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>60GB Mushkin Chronos MKNSSDCR60GB-7 </td> <td><strong>$65 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>HDD</strong></td> <td>1TB Seagate Barracuda</td> <td><strong>$68 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Optical Drive</strong></td> <td>Samsung SH-S223</td> <td><strong>$15 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 8 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$90 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$663</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <h4>1. Stating Your Case</h4> <p>The N200 case is about 7.5 inches wide, so cable management quickly becomes an issue as soon as you begin inserting parts. As we began building, the first area of trouble we ran into was with the hard drive cage on the bottom of the chassis, which holds two 3.5-inch drives and one SSD. If we were to use the standard screw holes for the hard drive, it would have given us very little clearance to connect the SATA and power cables on the other side. So we moved the HDD forward by one hole, which gave us some extra space in the back, making it easier to store unused power supply cables out of sight. It’s a shame the hard drive cage doesn’t have rails, as installing drives is a PITA.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_14.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Getting Cagey</h4> <p>In order to install hard drives into the included cage, you need to attach screws to both sides of it, but there’s no way to access the cage's left side with it inside the system, so you have to remove it altogether first. To do that you need to remove two screws that secure it to the motherboard tray, then flip the case on its side to access four more screws underneath the case (pictured). With those removed, you can pull out the cage and access the holes on its left side.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_12.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_11.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>There are also four built-in SSD installation points—one on top of the lower HDD cage, two on the mobo tray, and one beneath the upper 3.5-inch drive bay—but we used an adapter bracket to install our lone SSD in the 3.5-inch cage. Call us old-fashioned, but we felt it offered the cleanest wiring options. The upper 3.5-inch drive bay also holds a single drive, so despite the N200 being "only" an mATX case, you have plenty of options when it comes to storage.</p> <h4>3. Intercepting Cables</h4> <p>A modular power supply probably would have been easier to use in such a small case, but we used the same PSU from our Richland build, so we had no choice but to find room for all the cables. The side panels each have a bulge to them, but they’re not deep enough to squeeze a 24-pin power cable behind the motherboard tray. There’s also no cutout for the 8-pin power cable, so we had to route it over the motherboard like in the old days. Since there's no window on this case, we didn't feel too pressured to make the inside look pretty, but we did break out the twist ties in a few places.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_14.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Click the next page to continue.&nbsp;</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>4. Laser Visions</h4> <p>Optical drives are still the easiest way to install Windows, so we’ll continue to use them until we’re pulling an OS from the cloud. Plus, some motherboards don't play nice when you try to boot from a USB stick, especially if it's a USB 3.0 device. To install an optical drive with this case, you need to remove the front bezel via a hidden handle at the bottom that pulls outward. Once it comes off, you squeeze two tabs on the drive bay cover to remove it. You can see from the photo that the entire front of the case is just one big mesh grill. It holds two 120mm fans, or a 240mm radiator on the inside of the chassis. Though we didn’t install a closed-loop cooler this time, it certainly can be done, but it makes for a very crowded interior. Once you put the front bezel back in place, smack it in each corner nice and hard.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_12.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <h4>5. Error Codes</h4> <p>We use a variety of monitors around the Lab, and during this build we happened to spot an unused 30-inch Dell with a resolution of 2560x1600 looking at us longingly. We thought it would be fun to test the system at that resolution, so we hooked it up only to find that we'd made a small oversight. The DVI connection on the back of this particular motherboard does not support dual-link DVI, it's single-link only. To distinguish the ports visually, DL has more pins in it—24 as opposed to single-link's 18. You need dual-link to get a 60Hz refresh rate at resolutions above 1080p. DisplayPort accomplishes this objective as well, but this board did not have that connector either, leaving us stranded on 1080p island. D’oh! For what it’s worth, you can get a motherboard in this price range with dual-link DVI, such as the MSI H87-G43, but that board has one fewer fan header than this Gigabyte board! Those fan headers come in handy, too, because this case has three fan mounts unused right out of the box, on the top, side, and front. The top even accepts 140mm fans, and the case comes with anti-vibration grommets.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_14.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>6. Loose Ends</h4> <p>Once we had mostly finished our build, we had to find space in the chassis to stash all of our cables, which is tricky in a case this size. Even cables that are in use need to have their middle parts tucked away. By moving our hard drive forward a bit in its drive cage, we were able to free up space behind it, into which we stuffed a lot of cables. We also took advantage of the small gap between the drive cage and the front of the case. Ideally, we would have spread these cables out behind the motherboard tray, but the side panels only bulge a few millimeters, and it didn't seem worth it to squeeze the cables that much just to clean things up, especially&nbsp; when there’s no case window.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_12.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_11.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>One slick feature of this chassis is that the internal 120mm intake fan can be moved to the outside of the case, where it sits behind the front bezel. This is handy if you’re trying to set up a push-pull configuration on a radiator mounted inside the front of the case, though you’d need to remove the hard drive cage to accommodate such a setup.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/last_one_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/last_one_small.jpg" title="Gut Shot" width="620" height="420" /></a></p> <h3>Back to the Haswell</h3> <p>Building systems in these small cases always poses challenges, but it wasn’t too bad this time around. It was a bit time-consuming to install the SSD and HDD, since the drive cage had to be removed, but the rest of the build was fairly painless. Once it was up and running, we were surprised by how quiet it was, despite the front of the case being nothing but mesh. You'd think some noise would leak through there, but the system was just about silent, even under full load. In fact, one time it ran for a minute or so without the CPU fan even spinning (the fan cable got caught in the blades, before we secured it with a twist tie). The case fan cables are also about 18 inches long, so they'll reach all the way from one end of the N200 to the other.</p> <p>In terms of general desktop performance, we already had a good idea of what to expect since we had already tested Intel's Haswell CPU. In testing, the Core i5-4430 was able to encode videos and render hi-res panorama photos much faster than a comparably priced AMD CPU. Even when we overclocked the AMD 6800K to 4.7GHz, it couldn't keep up with a Core i5-4430 running at 3GHz.</p> <p>The same can't be said for its gaming performance, though, as AMD clearly takes the crown from Intel. In general, Haswell’s HD 4600 graphics are around 40 percent slower than the AMD 6800K's graphics. Then again, the Core i5-4430's non-GPU performance outclasses either AMD chip.</p> <p>In the end, going Intel or AMD at this price range really comes down to what your needs are. You can get an FX-6300 for about $120 right now and add a Radeon HD 7770 for about $75 (at least after a mail-in rebate). So, for gaming on a budget, AMD provides the best value. If you're editing HD videos and hi-res photos, though, Intel wins by a comfortable margin.</p> <p>All in all, the Intel system put up a heck of a fight against the AMD builds, at least in the computing realm; not so much in gaming. The system was fast enough for basic needs though, and if we had used a motherboard with DisplayPort and/or DL-DVI, we could call this build an all-around success.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,710</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,135<strong><br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>1,947</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,685<strong><br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">9.0</td> <td>11.65<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark11 Performance</td> <td>1,668</td> <td>1237<strong> (-26%)<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stalker: Call of Pripyat (fps)</td> <td>8.3</td> <td>8<strong> (-33%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>Our Richland system was a quad-core 4.1GHz A10-6800K at 4.7GHz, 8GB of Kingston DDR3/1600, on a Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-D3H motherboard. It ran Radeon 8670D integrated graphics, a Mushkin Chronos SSD, and Windows 8 64-bit.</em></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_cheap_haswell_PC_2014#comments 2013 affordable budget cheap computer haswell Intel CPU maximum pc December 2013 Systems Features Mon, 31 Mar 2014 23:24:44 +0000 Tom McNamara 27181 at http://www.maximumpc.com V3 Devastator Review http://www.maximumpc.com/v3_devastator_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Pint-size PC packs a punch</h3> <p>How much PC power can one jam into a bread box? (We’ll take a commercial break while the youngsters Google “bread box.”) V3 Gaming tries to answer that question with the latest iteration of its <strong>Devastator</strong> small form factor box. Unlike the four micro-towers that we <a title="micro tower" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/micro-towers_review_2013" target="_blank">previously reviewed</a>, the Devastator conforms to a boxier silhouette, using a slick new Silverstone SG10 case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/v3_devastator_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/v3_devastator_small_0.jpg" alt="The Devastator fits in a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards along with a new Haswell chip." title="V3 Devastator" width="620" height="643" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Devastator fits in a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards along with a new Haswell chip.</strong></p> <p>The SG10 is slightly taller than a traditional SFF box, so it can accommodate a microATX motherboard. Lest you wonder why you’d need a microATX in an SFF, we have a simple answer: multiple video cards—more on that later.</p> <p>The Devastator seems like it was configured with best-bang-for-the-buck in mind. Inside, you’ll find a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards slotted into the Asus Gryphon Z87 board, 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, and a Core i5-4670K clocked up to 4.4GHz. For storage, V3 Gaming didn’t skimp on the primary drive—something a lot of vendors do these days—and outfitted the Devastator with a 256GB Plextor M5 Pro SSD. Bulk storage, however, is a bit paltry, consisting of a 1TB Toshiba desktop HDD. These days, it’s pretty hard to justify a 1TB drive on a build that costs more than $800.</p> <p>To measure the Devastator’s performance, we looked to three points of comparison. First was our aging Sandy Bridge-E zero-point test bed, where it was a give-and-take contest. In thread-light tasks, the Devastator’s higher-clocked Haswell is on par and even sometimes faster than the six-core SNB-E in our zero-point. Flip to, say, Premiere Pro CS6 or x264 HD 5.01 encoding, however, and even the elderly Sandy Bridge-E cores hammer the hell out of the less-threaded Haswell. In gaming, the tide turns yet again, with the once-mighty GeForce GTX 690 in our zero-point being trounced by the Devastator’s pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards. Boo hoo.</p> <p>But that’s not the whole story on micro-towers. We also pit the Devastator against the $4,433 Falcon Northwest Tiki, and the latter’s 4.7GHz Core i7-4770K simply dominated in the compute-heavy tasks. But, again, the Tiki’s Titan can’t compete with the dual GeForce GTX 770s—the Devastator is faster in 3DMark 11 by 22 percent. The gap closes in 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme, where the Devastator is but 10 percent faster.</p> <p>The Tiki is an extreme example, though. For the most part, simple physics and the ability of a bigger box to better displace thermals and hold more hardware put standard desktops at an advantage. For example, the $2,000 CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE that we reviewed in our September 2013 issue aces the Devastator in compute tasks, thanks to its Core i7-4770K, and comes out slightly faster in gaming since it also has a pair of 770s, while coming in $500 cheaper. Of course, it’s also much bigger.</p> <p>Still, the Devastator is a good blend of size and performance, and is fairly priced to boot, given that small form factor boxes&nbsp; typically carry a premium.</p> <p><strong>$2,500,</strong> <a href="http://www.v3gamingpc.com/">www.v3gamingpc.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/v3_devastator_review_2014#comments 2013 computer Hardware Holiday issues 2013 maximum pc Review silverstone case V3 Devastator Reviews Systems Mon, 03 Mar 2014 22:54:29 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27322 at http://www.maximumpc.com Gateway One ZX4970-UR22 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/gateway_one_zx4970-ur22_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A budget-friendly AiO for dad</h3> <p>While we love powerful super-rigs that can cut through benchmarks like a hot knife through buttah, not everyone can afford an $8,000 PC. This is where a budget-friendly all-in-one computer such as the <strong>Gateway One ZX4970</strong> comes into play. At a mere $530, it certainly presents an interesting value proposition, but is it actually a good deal or a waste of dough?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gateway_aio_stock_image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gateway_aio_stock_image_small.jpg" alt="A button allows you to toggle the light behind the Gateway logo on and off. Fancy!" title="Gateway One ZX4970-UR22" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A button allows you to toggle the light behind the Gateway logo on and off. Fancy!</strong></p> <p>The first thing you’ll notice about the ZX4970 is its 21.5-inch screen. It’s not small, but it is dwarfed by most other AiOs on the market, which generally come in 23- and 27-inch form factors. Furthermore, the display’s TN panel offers subpar viewing angles, besides being a bit dim. But where the ZX4970 really falls short is in its omission of a touchscreen, which is a shame given the presence of the touch-friendly Windows 8 OS. On the upside, we don’t have much beef with the integrated 2.5-watt speakers beneath the monitor—they serve decent volume levels, though they obviously can’t match a dedicated 2.1 setup.</p> <p>On the left side of the screen, the ZX4970 features two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and both a headphone and mic jack. To the right of the monitor is a button that lets you switch the AiO’s HDMI port from in to out (or vice versa) and a DVD burner. The HDMI port itself resides behind the monitor, along with four USB 2.0 ports and an Ethernet jack. It’s not an exorbitant amount of ports, but it covers most common needs. Cables can be routed through a cutout on the stand in the back. The stand allows you to bend the monitor back roughly 20 degrees, which could be useful for use from a standing position if not for the fact that the screen doesn’t support touch and the included full-size keyboard and mouse are wired, so you’re essentially tethered to your desk anyhow.</p> <p>If you’re hoping to play the latest PC games or put the machine through heavy compute tasks, the ZX4970 is not for you. While the AiO features a respectably hefty (for this price, that is) 1TB hard drive, the rest of the ZX4970’s parts are pretty bare-bones. The unit is running a dual-core Ivy Bridge–based Intel Pentium G2030 clocked at 3GHz, has 4GB of DDR3/1600, and lacks discrete graphics. Compared to our Asus ET2300 zero-point AiO, which features a quad-core processor, twice the amount of RAM, and a GeForce GT 630M GPU, Gateway’s offering faced a whole lot of pain in our benchmarks. It performed roughly 20–30 percent slower in our ProShow Producer 5 and Stitch.Efx CPU tests, and was left in the dust in x264 HD 5.0 benchmark, which thrives on cores. Our ZP AiO is by no means a tank, but compared to Gateway’s ZX4970, it was like an M4 Sherman facing off with a Volkswagen microbus full of hippies. And as far as graphics go, high-end integrated graphics are on the cusp of matching low-end mobile GPUs, but the ZX4970 uses a meager Pentium integrated-graphics solution, so it found itself roughly 60–70 percent slower than the ZP’s GeForce GT 630M in both the STALKER: CoP and Metro 2033 benchmarks. In our real-world test, we booted Borderlands 2 and ran everything on low at 1366x768 resolution and got an average frame rate in the mid-teens. No, it’s notß pretty for anything beyond casual gaming.</p> <p>While the ZX4970 is dang cheap, it’s an unfortunate example of “you get what you pay for.” It reminds us of the affordable eMachines of yesteryear, in AiO form. Although it may be a decent computer for Aunt Peg, for an enthusiast, we recommending spending a little more to build a much better desktop.</p> <p><strong>$530,</strong> <a href="http://www.gateway.com/worldwide/">www.gateway.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/gateway_one_zx4970-ur22_review#comments 2013 aio all in one pc Consumer Desktops Gateway One ZX4970-UR22 Hardware Holiday issues 2013 monitor pc Review Reviews Systems Thu, 27 Feb 2014 20:29:39 +0000 Jimmy Thang 27310 at http://www.maximumpc.com Primordial Medusa X79 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/primordial_medusa_x79_review_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Primordial Medusa X79: Can this four-way Titan box dethrone Dream Machine?</h3> <p>With Dream Machine 2013 behind us (September 2013), we now move into the phase where vendors line up to try to kick it off the top of the heap.</p> <p>With the <strong>Medusa X79</strong>, Primordial certainly tries its damnedest. Some will peep the jet-black Corsair 900D, four-way Titan SLI, and Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard and think Primordial tried to clone the Dream Machine’s internals.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/system_guts10228_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/system_guts10228_small_1.jpg" alt="This big rig features an odd storage subsystem configuration." title="Primordial Medusa X79" width="620" height="669" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This big rig features an odd storage subsystem configuration.</strong></p> <p>We can assure you that it’s not true. In fact, we know Medusa X79 was already making the media rounds at the time that Dream Machine was still being assembled. What’s more, there are some huge differences between the two.</p> <p>The Dream Machine used Intel’s Core i7-3970X clocked up to 5GHz, while Primordial chose the economical Core i7-3930K chip overclocked to 4.5GHz. DM’s GPUs were off-the-shelf jobbies from EVGA, while the Titans in the Medusa X79 have been retrofitted with Heatkiller parts.</p> <p>There’s also a big difference in storage subsystems and main memory—choices we’re not sure we agree with. For RAM, Primordial went with 16GB of Corsair Platinum DDR3/1866. Call us crazy, but in this class of machine, we’d expect more RAM, even if the vast majority of folks don’t actually need it. We’re also not down with the storage options. The Medusa X79 features two 120GB Intel 520 SSDs in RAID 0 and a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black drive. Again, we think that’s an odd choice given this machine’s caliber—and price. We’ve seen this type of storage config a couple of times now, with the CyberPower PC in our September issue and the Geekbox machine in February. We rarely ding vendors severely for such choices, as it’s something the typical enthusiast changes at order—but come on, vendors, that hard drive shortage of ought-11 is way over.</p> <p>The real question is whether the Medusa X79 successfully dethrones the Dream Machine. The short answer is no. With its CPU hanging back at 4.5GHz, the Medusa X79 fell short of the Dream Machine by about 10 percent in every CPU-related test. In gaming, we saw things a bit closer. In Batman: Arkham City the two boxes were dead even, but with the more intense 3DMark 11, Dream Machine had the edge by a hefty 7 percent margin. But let’s not kid ourselves: The Medusa X79 is not a slow machine. We can tell you that with four Titan cards, its fully capable of 4K-resolution gaming. It easily slaughters our zero-point system, too.</p> <p>One area where Medusa had the Dream Machine dead to rights was in power consumption. While we could barely scrape up enough amps to run DM2013 without crashing neighboring machines in corporate accounting, the Medusa X79 practically sips power. Well, by sip, we mean 1,300 watts on heavy loads—DM2013 pushed 1,600 watts.</p> <p>The real problem for some will be the Medusa X79’s price. While it’s actually quite a bit “cheaper” than the Dream Machine’s $12,785 (sans 4K monitor), it’s still pushing $9,500. More than half of the price is easily tied up in the custom-cooled Titan setup and other sundry custom liquid components, but it just feels as though the box is imbalanced. In this day and age, balance doesn’t just mean getting the GPU and CPU right and calling it quits; there are other parts too, such as storage. That inequity combined with the relatively “low” overclock of 4.5GHz, means Dream Machine is safe for now.</p> <p><strong>$9,556,</strong> <a href="http://www.primordialcomputers.com/">www.primordialcomputers.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/primordial_medusa_x79_review_2013#comments 2013 Hardware maximum pc October issues 2013 Primordial Medusa X79 Review October 2013 Reviews Systems Fri, 13 Dec 2013 08:17:51 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 26880 at http://www.maximumpc.com CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE Review http://www.maximumpc.com/cyberpower_zeus_evo_thunder_3000_se_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE: Just call it Zeus</h3> <p>Not everyone can afford a <a title="Dream Machine 2013" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/dream_machine_2013" target="_blank">$16,500 Dream Machine</a>. In fact, not many people could afford even half of what we spent to build this year’s Dream rig. Well, actually, most people probably wouldn’t even spend a third of that on a new rig.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_small.jpg" alt="This CFI chassis features mini doors to access the drives." title="CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE" width="620" height="605" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This CFI chassis features mini doors to access the drives.</strong></p> <p>Enter <strong>CyberPower PC</strong>’s new <strong>Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE</strong>. Or if you prefer, Zeus, Zeus Thunder, or just ZET3KSE, if you’re into the whole brevity thing. CyberPower is one of those vendors that has long had us wondering how it could pack so much hardware into a box so cheaply. Example: Purchased full retail, the parts in the Zeus add up to about $2,200. The price of the Zeus with a warranty and support? $2,200.</p> <p>The Zeus is packing Intel’s new 3.5GHz <a title="Intel 4770K" href="http://ark.intel.com/products/75123" target="_blank">Core i7-4770K</a> overclocked to 4.2GHz. That chip is joined by 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3/1600 and a pair of EVGA Superclocked <a title="770" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/gtx_770_roundup" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 770 cards</a>. The cards and processor are powered by a Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1,000-watt PSU.</p> <p>The enclosure features a CFI-A8007 design that’s new to us. Case enclosures tend to be about as different as refrigerators: There’s a door on the left and a door on the right. The CFI-A8007 has the typical compartment for the mobo and PSU but, uniquely, the storage section gets its own little swing-out doors. To extend the fridge metaphor, sorry, it’s like the little doors that let you reach in to get just the milk. For a medium-size case, CyberPower does a very nice job tucking and hiding the wiring out of sight, too.</p> <p>One thing we’re not so enamored with is the storage config the company picked. The PC comes with a 64GB Corsair Neutron SSD and a 2TB HDD. We thought the SSD was used as a caching drive but CyberPower actually configured it as a stand-alone for the OS. We know you get the most performance that way, but 64GB doesn’t go very far, and we’d much rather see caching using the Z87’s SRT feature. Configured as such, we ran out of space just running our benchmarks.</p> <p>In performance, the rig represents well against our zero-point, with its SLI 770 cards amazingly out-doing the single <a title="690" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/geforce_gtx_690_nvidias_dual-kepler_videocard_benchmarked" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 690</a> card our zero-point runs. The Haswell CPU also slams the zero-point’s six-core <a title="sandy bridge e" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/sandy_bridge-e_benchmarked_intel_retains_performance_crown" target="_blank">SNB-E</a> in Stitch.Efx and ProShow, but then itself gets slammed in the multithreaded workloads of Premiere Pro and x264—no surprise. Up against something more modern, such as this month’s Build It PC, the Zeus is pretty close in the CPU-limited benchmarks. Not so in the graphics department, where the Build It rig is about 26 to 28 percent faster due to its overclocked and SLI’d GTX 780 cards. Of course, there’s also a big difference between the two in price, with the Build It pushing $3,700. We’ll note, however, that our Build It has the added amenities of a custom paint job and much beefier storage.</p> <p>And storage is actually our No. 1 ding against the Zeus. The box really should have a larger SSD, or caching enabled. This ultimately hurts its score, but still, we have to give CyberPower props for delivering so much performance at such a good price.</p> <p><strong>$2,200,</strong> <a href="http://www.cyberpowerpc.com/">www.cyberpowerpc.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/cyberpower_zeus_evo_thunder_3000_se_review#comments 2013 CyberPower Zeus Evo Desktop Hardware Hardware maximum pc nzxt Review September 2013 Reviews Systems Fri, 22 Nov 2013 21:57:07 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 26668 at http://www.maximumpc.com Maingear Shift Super Stock Z87 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/maingear_shift_super_stock_z87_review_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A Jolly Green Giant of GPU performance</h3> <p><strong><a title="maingear" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Maingear" target="_blank">Maingear</a></strong> calls its <strong>Shift Super Stock Z87</strong> the Mean Green Machine and it’s hard not to agree with that moniker.</p> <p>Is there any other way to describe a gaming rig with not one <a title="GeForce GTX Titan" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/nvidia_geforce_titan_%E2%80%93_benchmarks2013" target="_blank">GeForce GTX Titan</a>, or even two—but freakin’ three of them? Yes, three of the world’s fastest single-GPU cards all singing harmoniously together against the tyranny of slow frame rates.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/maingear_shift_super_stock_z87_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/maingear_shift_super_stock_z87_small.jpg" alt="For a tri-SLI rig, the Shift is actually fairly compact." title="Maingear Shift Super Stock Z87" width="620" height="594" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>For a tri-SLI rig, the Shift is actually fairly compact.</strong></p> <p>The Shift isn’t just about new GPUs, though—Maingear splashes out on other gourmet goodies. There’s none of that freeze-dried, last month’s Ivy Bridge in this box. It’s all Haswell. If you read our <a title="haswell review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/haswell_review_2013" target="_blank">coverage on Haswell</a>, you know we’re a little melancholy about the chip because, well, we want more! Perhaps we’re being too negative. Months of dour news about the PC world can do that to a nerd. But you know what makes it all better? Speed. And the Haswell-sporting Shift has that.</p> <p>But, back to the tri-SLI. There have been concerns that, like Ivy Bridge and Z77, the Haswell/Z87 doesn’t have the available PCIe 3.0 bandwidth to serve tri-SLI. If that’s true, we can’t find evidence of it here in the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 board. The three Titans easily belted out the highest score we’ve ever seen in, well, all of our graphics tests. In 3DMark 11, for example, it spit out just under 14,000. How fast is that? <a title="dream machine 2012" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/hardware/dream_machine_2012_future_now" target="_blank">Last year’s Dream Machine</a> with quad-SLI (two GTX 690s) mustered a mere 10,906. The Geekbox Ego Maniacal mustered but 12,090, with a liquid-cooled quad-SLI setup. The Shift’s score in Batman: Arkham City is similarly impressive. The <a title="geekbox maniacal review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/geekbox_ego_maniacal_review_2013" target="_blank">Geekbox Ego Maniacal</a> has held the record with 134fps but the Shift pushes the bar to 184fps. Again, we’re not talking about a pair of busted up GeForce GTX 460 cards here—that’s a liquid-cooled quad-SLI setup that the Shift easily outpaces.</p> <p>Like we said, the Shift can deliver on the CPU front, as well. The <a title="i7-4770K" href="http://ark.intel.com/products/75123" target="_blank">Core i7-4770K</a> at 4.7GHz snaps the needle in Stitch.Efx 2.0 and ProShow Producer with new benchmark records. We have to point out one obvious thing, though: The <a title="falcon northwest fragbox" href="http://www.falcon-nw.com/sites/all/themes/falcon/images/reviews/details/MaxPC-FragBox-August2013.pdf" target="_blank">Falcon Northwest FragBox 3</a> ain’t that far behind the Shift in the CPU tests. Neither quad-core box, however, can touch the Geekbox’s scores in the multithreaded tests such as Premiere Pro CS6 and x264.</p> <p>One thing we wish Maingear had lifted from Geekbox is its GPU liquid cooling. The Shift’s CPU is kept chilly using what the company calls its Epic 300 Open-loop Super Cooler, which doesn’t cool just the CPU but also the voltage regulation circuits on the board. That’s fine, but the three Titans, when pushed hard for long periods of time, tend to get a little audible, even with a massive fan pushing air straight through them. That’s because Maingear overclocks the hell out of the three Titans and picked a very loud fan profile. Apparently, Maingear anticipates people using the Shift in the sweltering summers on Venus. The good news is that you can easily trim the fans back to reasonable levels in the nifty EVGA utility that comes pre-installed.</p> <p>An even better solution is liquid cooling, but it’s very, very hard to argue with graphics performance that crushes even quad-SLI systems. That’s no small accomplishment and demands respect.</p> <p><strong>$7,800,</strong> <a href="http://www.maingear.com/">www.maingear.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/maingear_shift_super_stock_z87_review_2013#comments 2013 August 2013 august 2013 computer Consumer Desktops green Hardware Hardware Maingear Shift maximum pc Review Rig z87 Reviews Systems Wed, 06 Nov 2013 19:05:39 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 26523 at http://www.maximumpc.com Dell XPS 18 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/dell_xps_18_review_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>When form offers function</h3> <p>On paper, the <strong><a title="dell xps 18" href="http://www.dell.com/us/p/xps-18-1810/pd" target="_blank">Dell XPS 18</a></strong> all-in-one/tablet hybrid shouldn’t work, with its massive 18.4-inch screen potentially destroying any possibility of portability. And yet, it works well.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dell_xps18_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dell_xps18_small.jpg" alt="The XPS 18’s large body is surprisingly light, thin, and portable." title="Dell XPS 18" width="620" height="437" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The XPS 18’s large body is surprisingly light, thin, and portable.</strong></p> <p>While its five-pound chassis isn’t necessarily light, it weighs less than many gaming laptops and is quite svelte for its class, measuring 11x18.25x.69 inches, and is half the weight of Sony’s similar <a title="tap 20" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/sony_vaio_tap_20_review_2013" target="_blank">Tap 20</a> AiO/tablet hybrid. Although it’s more than double the weight of the <a title="razer edge review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/razer_edge_review2013" target="_blank">Razer Edge</a>, a 10-inch tablet we criticized for being too heavy, we never felt like we had to lift the XPS 18, as it could rest on our laps comfortably. And because its screen is so large, our necks never had to strain to look down.&nbsp; Flip-out stands on either end of the XPS 18 allow it to be used propped up on a desk in landscape mode—with a higher angle suitable for sitting, and a lower angle for using the device from a standing position. The XPS 18 is really made to be moved from desk to desk, but it’s so elegantly designed that you could use it as a giant tablet, provided you’re OK with the strange looks you’ll surely get in public (and yes, we know this firsthand).</p> <p>Of course, the thinness that makes it viable as a tablet also leads to some compromises as an AiO, especially when it comes to ports. The XPS 18 has just two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot. This means no HDMI out or in, no Ethernet port, no DVD drive. Furthermore, although an 18.4-inch screen is huge for a tablet, it’s quite modest for an AiO.</p> <p>Luckily, the screen itself is gorgeous. The XPS 18 features a 1920x1080, 10-point capacitive-touch IPS display with great viewing angles and vibrant colors. Although it features a glossy surface, it’s not overly reflective like other AiOs we’ve reviewed.</p> <p>Most tablets feature speakers on the back directing audio away from you, but Dell’s offering has them side-mounted, which contributes to the XPS 18’s clear sound—the volume capabilities, however, might disappoint headbangers hoping to blast the audio to 11.</p> <p>Our unit came with a stand that raises the AiO about three inches and allows you to tilt the screen roughly 40 degrees. Supplementing it were Dell’s Tangerine wireless keyboard and mouse. While the peripherals’ black-and-gray aesthetic doesn’t quite match the XPS 18’s completely black design, both accessories are solid in use. The 15-inch keyboard has a nice weight to it and doesn’t feel like a cheap add-on, and the mouse features a scroll wheel that can be shifted left to right, which allows users to navigate horizontally through the Windows Modern UI.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the XPS 18’s specs aren’t anything to write home about. Besides its 8GB of RAM, its parts are relatively humble: a 1.8GHz Core i5-3337U CPU that can Turbo up to 2.7GHz and a 500GB hard drive with a 32GB caching SSD that helps access times in frequently used programs. But its lack of a video card is its biggest flaw.</p> <p>Because of this omission, the XPS 18 got blasted by our GeForce GT 630M–equipped <a title="asus et2300" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_et2300_all--one_pc_review" target="_blank">Asus ET2300</a> zero-point by roughly 50 percent in both our STALKER: CoP and Metro 2033 tests. This once again proves that integrated graphics can’t match even the weakest graphics cards—yet. While you certainly won’t be playing Crysis 3 on max here, we were able to get frame rates in the mid-50s on Valve’s popular Dota 2 Source Engine game on the lowest settings at 1080p resolution. The XPS 18’s dual-core CPU also could not rival our ZP’s quad-core Core i5-3330 processor, losing by similarly dramatic margins in our multithread-loving x264 benchmark. It fared a little better in our other CPU tests, but nothing worth mentioning. Booting the system took 21 seconds, which is about right for a computer with a hard drive and caching SSD combo. Battery-side, the XPS 18 lasted three hours and 22 minutes watching a high-def movie ripped from disc. While this isn’t great for a traditional tablet, it’s good for a laptop, and unprecedented for any AiO we’ve tested since, well, most don’t have batteries.</p> <p>At $1,350, what you’re paying for here is the unique form factor and dual use cases. What it lacks in ports and power, the XPS 18 makes up for with its excellent large screen, relative portability, and thoughtful design.</p> <p><strong>$1,350,</strong> <a href="http://www.dell.com/">www.dell.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/dell_xps_18_review_2013#comments 2013 August 2013 18 inch aio All in one august 2013 Dell XPS 18 Hardware Hardware large tablet maximum pc portable Review Reviews Systems Wed, 06 Nov 2013 18:44:33 +0000 Jimmy Thang 26582 at http://www.maximumpc.com Sapphire Edge VS8 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/sapphire_edge_vs8_review_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A feisty little machine</h3> <p>Considering how poorly AMD’s A-series APU did in our <a title="cheap desktop computers" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/cheap_desktop_computers_2013" target="_blank">Budget Builds</a> story, you’d think that type of chip would be outclassed by its AM3+ siblings and Intel’s crew in all scenarios. But, while that’s true in the case of big desktops, when you miniaturize the chassis to something you can slip into your murse, things get a bit more competitive. Such is the way with <a title="VS8" href="http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/product/?cid=6&amp;gid=1186&amp;sgid=1190&amp;pid=1747&amp;lid=1" target="_blank">Sapphire’s Edge VS8</a> mini PC. Built around AMD’s A8-4555M mobile chip, this quad-core proc boasts a 1.6GHz chip that Turbo Clocks up to 2.4GHz. Boxes this small have typically included Intel Atom and AMD E-450 series chips, and though both are getting better, they are pretty weak CPUs. AMD’s A8-4555M, on the other hand, uses the fairly powerful Piledriver dual-core modules on the x86-side of things, and a Radeon HD 7600G for graphics. Initially, we thought we’d compare the Edge VS8 to an older E-450 or Atom-based mini PC, but the pricing of the Edge VS8 puts it firmly in the neighborhood of Intel’s Core i3-3217U-based NUC. That’s because to get the $300 NUC up and running, you’d need to add an mSATA SSD, RAM, wireless card, and OS, pushing the price to $600.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/sapphire_7854_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/sapphire_7854_small.jpg" alt="An SSD would greatly help the performance of this tiny PC." title="Sapphire Edge VS8" width="620" height="845" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>An SSD would greatly help the performance of this tiny PC.</strong></p> <p>In general compute performance, we found the A8-4555M couldn’t quite go head-to-head with the Core i3-3217U, but it put up a decent fight, and was nowhere near as dog-slow as an Atom or E-450 processor. In ProShow Producer, the Edge VS8 was about 17 percent slower than the i3-based NUC and 34 percent slower than the NUC in Stitch.Efx 2.0. In gaming, the Edge VS8 got its payback, cranking out a 3DMark 11 score that was about 47 percent faster than the NUC’s HD4000 graphics. When performance was isolated to just the GPU, the Radeon HD 7600G produced a score about 61 percent higher. We put the NUC’s graphics capability in real games at something akin to Portal 2 on low settings. The Edge is definitely better equipped for gaming, but at 1600x900 rather than 1080p.</p> <p>In our opinion, the Edge VS8 is better suited for HTPC applications. Here it excels with enough computing power to drive even the new PowerDVD 13 and its new real-time frame-by-frame sharpening algorithms. PowerDVD 13 played HD-res files as well as Blu-ray discs just fine. There were a couple of hitches when trying to skip forward several chapters, but it quickly smoothed out after a few blips. Of course, you’ll need a USB Blu-ray drive to play actual discs, but the Edge VS8 had plenty of pep to do that.</p> <p>Overall, Sapphire’s Edge VS8 does a great job of fulfilling all our HTPC streaming needs. Our primary complaint is probably with its 500GB laptop drive. We’ve become so accustomed to SSD performance that we forgot how slow laptop hard drives can be. Any enthusiast can quickly swap out the drive for an SSD, though, by opening the case. Once inside, you’ll also see a pair of SO-DIMMs and the machine’s sole source of noise: a small heat pipe and fan. Externally, the Edge VS8 features a nice rubberized finish with a built-in stand. The machine can lie on its side but it will wobble a bit.</p> <p>An SSD would greatly help the out-of-the-box performance but it would also exacerbate our other complaint, which is that once an OS is added (yes, it ships sans OS), the cost tips $550. That’s within striking distance of the NUC outfitted with a 128GB mSATA SSD and 8GB of RAM, plus OS. We wish the Edge VS8 was about $100 cheaper, but once you get down to the $350 range, you’re back into the sluggish territory of Atom and E-350/E-450 parts. Still, it’s a powerful enough box with a healthy graphics advantage over the NUC.</p> <p><strong>$450, </strong><a href="http://www.sapphiretech.com/">www.sapphiretech.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/sapphire_edge_vs8_review_2013#comments July 2013 2013 Hardware Hardware July 2013 Review Sapphire Edge VS8 Reviews Systems Tue, 24 Sep 2013 19:41:03 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 26272 at http://www.maximumpc.com HP Envy 23 TouchSmart Review http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_envy_23_touchsmart_review_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Clean-and-simple design at a premium price</h3> <p>We have to hand it to <a title="hp" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/hp" target="_blank">HP</a>. Despite all the trendy all-in-one PC/tablet hybrid designs coming out, its new <strong>HP Envy 23</strong> opts for a more traditional space-efficient AiO.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/hp_envy_23_touchsmart_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/hp_envy_23_touchsmart_small.jpg" alt="The included keyboard and mouse can be neatly tucked under the monitor." title="HP Envy 23 TouchSmart" width="620" height="465" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The included keyboard and mouse can be neatly tucked under the monitor.</strong></p> <p>The 23-inch panel sits atop a sturdy base and is adjustable to 40 degrees. A 3-inch gap between the monitor and the 17x8-inch base lets you stow the keyboard under the monitor when not in use. Though hardly innovative, it gets the job done.</p> <p>For amenities, the Envy 23 offers a slot-load Blu-ray combo drive and an HDMI-out port on the right; four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, an external audio-out on the back; and two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone/mic jack, and an SD card reader on the left. Finally, the power button is located on top of the display, which isn’t exactly ideal, as we found ourselves accidentally turning it off when adjusting the monitor.</p> <p>The monitor itself is a 1920x1080-resolution TN display that looks sharp and sports a very glossy, mirror-like finish. The panel’s vertical off-axis is OK; its horizontal off-axis wasn’t particularly impressive, but that’s par for the course for TN panels. The display supports 10-point touch and is fairly responsive, but compared to, say, this month’s Razer Edge tablet, it was perceptibly slower when dragging a digit across the screen.</p> <p>Beneath the screen, the Envy 23 is equipped with a 3.1GHz Core i7-3770S, 12GB of dual-channel DDR3/1600, and a GeForce GT 630M. Our particular unit was also loaded with a beefy 3TB hard drive, which is much heftier than our zero-point’s Asus ET2300 1TB solution.</p> <p>The Envy’s Core i7 processor allowed it to easily lump up the ET2300’s quad-core Core i5-3330 in all of our CPU tests, especially in the multithread-hungry TechArp x264 benchmark, where the Hyper-Threading gives the i7 a 37 percent advantage. To our surprise, though, despite the Envy and ET2300 both sporting GeForce GT 630M GPUs, HP’s offering lagged by 15.5 percent in both our Metro and 3DMark 11 graphics tests. Why? It might be because the Envy’s 630M features a slightly slower .2 GTexel/s texture fill rate and 10MHz slower GPU clock, or it could simply be driver differences. Note to those who want reference drivers: Neither the Asus nor the HP allowed us to run the latest reference drivers.</p> <p>As a more real-world game workload for the box, we played Portal 2, a nontaxing Source game, and achieved average frame rates in the low 30s on max settings at native resolution, but inconsistent dipping makes this setting ill-advised. On BioShock Infinite, we got an average 31fps on the lowest settings at 1080p, which suggests the game is only playable if you scale down the resolution.</p> <p>On the audio front, the Envy 23 features Beats Audio, which gives the built-in speakers a nice bassy low end, which even works with headphones plugged-in. The speakers sound better than the ET2300’s flat-sounding thumpers, but they still pale in comparison to a quality 2.1 speaker setup.</p> <p>The included wireless keyboard is a bit flimsy, but it does its job. The mouse is equally competent, though you’ll probably want to adjust the sensitivity out of the box. Whereas our zero-point features a detachable USB dongle that occupies a USB slot, the Envy’s dongle is built into the PC itself. While that does free up a USB port, it also means you won’t be able to use the peripherals on other computers.</p> <p>The Envy 23 doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel and ends up being a decent PC in the process. While it certainly won’t replace your gaming rig, it is a capable workstation/family PC. But at $1,840, it costs a whopping $540 more than the ET2300 without giving our zero-point much to be envious about.</p> <p><strong>$1,840,</strong> <a href="http://www.hp.com/">www.hp.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_envy_23_touchsmart_review_2013#comments June 2013 2013 aio all in one pc Hardware Hardware HP Envy 23 June 2013 Review touchsmart Reviews Systems Tue, 24 Sep 2013 18:38:35 +0000 Jimmy Thang 26106 at http://www.maximumpc.com Acer Aspire 5600U Review http://www.maximumpc.com/acer_aspire_5600u_review <!--paging_filter--><h4>Trades thin figure for performance</h4> <p>The <strong><a title="Acer Aspire" href="http://us.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/series/aspireu" target="_blank">Acer Aspire</a> 5600U</strong> is a slim and somewhat-sexy all-in-one. It features a 1.3-inch-thin chassis and a 23-inch display atop a clear-plastic base, giving the illusion that it’s floating in air. Once you get past the aesthetics, however, you’ll find that the 5600U is lacking where it counts.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/acer_7844_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/acer_7844_small.jpg" alt="The 5600U’s keyboard and mouse match the AiO’s slick, glassy aesthetic." title="Acer Aspire 5600U" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The 5600U’s keyboard and mouse match the AiO’s slick, glassy aesthetic.</strong></p> <p>Keeping the AiO upright is an adjustable kickstand that allows it to tilt 30 to 80 degrees, which is limber enough to use sitting or standing. Alternately, a slide-in VESA mount makes it possible to attach the 5600U to an arm or wall. While it doesn’t feature a keyboard docking area like our Asus ET2300 zero-point, you can tuck the peripherals behind the display, in between its frame and the AiO’s stand. All in all, the 5600U doesn’t take up much space, with a desktop footprint of just 8x22.5 inches.</p> <p>Another nice feature of the AiO is its 1920x1080-resolution monitor. While it’s a TN panel, it offers much better viewing angles than the HP Envy 23 we reviewed last month, though it has a similarly glossy screen that’s far too reflective for our tastes; the panel supports 10-point touch. While attractive, the thin profile doesn’t do wonders for audio, as the top-mounted speakers themselves sounded thin and project the audio toward the ceiling as opposed to at us.</p> <p>In terms of ports, the left side of the AiO features two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and a mic/speaker-in. The right side has the power button, DVD drive, and monitor controls. On the back of the AiO there are three USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, S/PDIF port, and two HDMI ports for in/out options.</p> <p>The transparent aesthetic of the included wireless mouse and keyboard is cool-looking and matches the 5600U, but in use we were unimpressed with the peripherals’ plasticky feel. This is especially true of the mouse, which is made of a low-quality, toy-like plastic. The compact keyboard feels slightly better, but oddly omits lights of any kind, such as a Caps Lock indicator.</p> <p>While the AiO makes a nice first impression, once you get past its looks, you become aware of its deficiencies under the hood, even at the relatively affordable price of $1,000. It comes with a dual-core 3.2GHz Core i5-3230M that can Turbo up to 3.2GHz, 6GB of DDR3/1333, and—while large—a 1TB drive that spins at 5,400rpm. We wish it came with an SSD or at least a caching drive, but its biggest omission is a discrete video card.</p> <p>It’s no surprise, given its specs, that it got creamed in our benchmarks. The Acer’s best showing was a 15 percent lag behind our zero-point’s quad-core 3GHz Core i5-3330M in ProShow Producer. You can thank the 5600U’s Hyper-Threading for that close showing. In the multithreaded TechARP x264 HD test, however, it got bullied by 40 percent. The integrated graphics got stomped by 45 percent in Metro 2033. Our zero-point’s GPU is but a GeForce 630M, too, so integrated graphics still have a long way to go in competing with even the humblest video cards.</p> <p>Firing up the less stressful Portal 2, the 5600U was capable of just 15fps at 1080p on max settings. We were able to hit the 60fps range by disabling AA and setting everything to medium, so it’s playable if you don’t mind image quality taking a hit. In terms of boot times, the 5600U started up in 24 seconds, which is typical given its specs.</p> <p>The Aspire 5600U is low-cost, but in more ways than one. While it might work as a decent touchscreen AiO for your parents, it most certainly doesn’t have the chops for a power user. If you’re looking for something that lives up to the “all-in-one” moniker, we recommend spending $300 more for the Asus ET2300, which features much better specs all around.</p> <p><strong>$1,000,</strong> <a href="http://www.acer.com/worldwide/selection.html">www.acer.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/acer_aspire_5600u_review#comments July 2013 2013 Acer Aspire 5600U aio all in one pc Hardware July 2013 maximum pc Review Systems Reviews Systems Mon, 23 Sep 2013 20:03:10 +0000 Jimmy Thang 26263 at http://www.maximumpc.com How to Build: An Nvidia Titan into an ITX Case http://www.maximumpc.com/small_gaming_PC_titan_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Nvidia's newest GPU was built to provide maximum horsepower to small gaming PCs, so we built a Mini-ITX system to see if the card would fit, and if it could keep cool and quiet under pressure</h3> <p>Nvidia's <a title="GeForce Titan" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/nvidia_geforce_titan_%E2%80%93_benchmarks2013" target="_blank">GeForce GTX Titan</a> video card has a serious cool factor. It's the fastest single-GPU card on the market, for one thing. And it beats the competition without sounding like a fighter jet or getting hot enough to trigger a meltdown. Finally, at 10.5 inches, it's shorter than the reigning single-card champ, the <a title="690" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/geforce_gtx_690_nvidias_dual-kepler_videocard_benchmarked" target="_blank">GTX 690</a>, by half an inch, making the Titan suitable for deployment in small gaming PCs. In fact, when Nvidia launched this card, it specifically pointed out that it was designed for use in small form factor PCs, so we just had to see how things would play out in a Mini-ITX environment. And why stop with the card? We figured we might as well throw in a nice CPU, motherboard, a fast SSD, and some extra cooling so we could dabble in overclocking. Even though we started off with the innocent goal of gauging the experience of building a Titan-based SFF rig, in the end we decided to see just how far we could push this tiny system, and came away surprised by how much performance can be had in a rig with such a small footprint.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small.jpg" title="ITX Case" width="620" height="485" /></a></p> <h3>A Plethora of Options</h3> <p>With our GPU already decided, we had to figure out which platform to build around, and going Mini-ITX narrowed our choices considerably. First off, there are no LGA2011 motherboards in that form factor, and second, Intel’s new socket 1150 <a title="haswell" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/haswell_review_2013" target="_blank">Haswell</a> microarchitecture isn’t available as of press time, leaving just AMD or Intel’s venerable Socket 1155. Because this is a maximum-performance machine, we went with Intel, especially since we wanted to overclock and we know from experience that we can push a Socket 1155 CPU to 4.4GHz. That push necessitated a large CPU cooler and an overclockable motherboard.</p> <p>To hold it all, we chose <a title="Silverstone Sugo SG08" href="http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=317" target="_blank">Silverstone's Sugo SG08</a> case. It’s small and tastefully appointed, yet large enough for both our Titan GPU and an aftermarket CPU cooler since its PSU is mounted in the front of the box instead of the rear. There are larger SFF cases that offer more room for fans and wiring, but we wanted to see the Titan sweat a bit, so we went with the Sugo. We also like the fact that it includes a 600W power supply that’s customized for the chassis; a very nice touch that we’ll discuss later on in more detail.</p> <p>Wrapping it up we chose an OCZ SSD for our OS drive and a WD hard drive for media storage. We went with a slot-fed optical drive since that is the only type this case accepts and we didn’t want the bay to sit empty. Finally, we used a low-profile Silverstone Nitrogon NT06-Pro CPU cooler and Windows 7 Pro.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>URL</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Silverstone Sugo SG08</td> <td><a href="http://www.silverstonetek.com/"><span class="thickbox">www.silverstonetek.com</span></a></td> <td> <p><strong>$200</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>600W SST-ST60F-SG</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>(bundled)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">P8Z77-i Deluxe</td> <td><a class="thickbox" href="http://www.asus.com/">www.asus.com</a></td> <td><strong>$200</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Core i7-3770K</td> <td><a href="http://www.intel.sg/content/www/xa/en/homepage.html"><span class="thickbox">www.intel.com</span></a></td> <td><strong>$325</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Nitrogon NT06-Pro </td> <td><a href="http://www.silverstonetek.com/"><span class="thickbox">www.silverstonetek.com</span></a></td> <td><strong>$60</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">GeForce GTX Titan</td> <td><a href="http://www.nvidia.com/content/global/global.php"><span class="thickbox">www.nvidia.com</span></a></td> <td><strong>$1000</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">2x 8GB Vengeance</td> <td><a href="http://www.corsair.com/us/"><span class="thickbox">www.corsair.com</span></a></td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>256GB OCZ Vector</td> <td><a href="http://ocz.com/"><span class="thickbox">www.ocz.com</span></a></td> <td><strong>$250</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Hard Drive</strong></td> <td>2TB WD Caviar Black</td> <td><a href="http://www.wdc.com/en/"><span class="thickbox">www.wdc.com</span></a></td> <td><strong>$150</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 7 Professional 64-bit</td> <td><a class="thickbox" href="http://www.microsoft.com">www.microsoft.com</a></td> <td><strong>$100</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Optical Drive</strong></td> <td>Samsung SN-208DB/BEBE</td> <td><a href="http://www.samsung.com/pk/">www.samsung.com</a></td> <td><strong>$22</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$1,983</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <h4><span style="font-weight: normal;"><em>Click the next page to see the building process.&nbsp;<br /> <hr /></em></span></h4> <h4>1. ITX-cellent</h4> <p>An Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe is an expensive board, but you are reading Maximum PC, after all. The mobo is loaded with beefy overclocking options, built-in Wi-Fi, USB 3.0 front-panel connectors, and eSATA; it’s just as full-featured as mobos twice its size. Asus manages this feat partly because it added an extension called a “riser,” which holds extra capacitors and other circuitry, effectively extending the board’s size vertically (<strong>image A</strong>).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_8.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_7.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="397" /></a></p> <p>We installed the CPU cooler's backplate before installing the motherboard, as the case has no opening behind the motherboard. The heatsink on the north bridge also has a plastic fastener that we needed to push up a little, to make the CPU backplate fit securely against the motherboard. The board's riser card also has two screws that need to be removed, then re-installed after the motherboard is inside.</p> <h4>2. Cool Customers</h4> <p>CPU coolers like Silverstone's NT06-Pro are designed for use in chassis like this, where the power supply is not installed over the motherboard, leaving a bit of room over the CPU for some additional cooling power. This heatsink is oriented parallel to the CPU instead of sticking up like a tower cooler, so it fits into tight spots where tower coolers won’t. To make the NT06-Pro fit, we initially pointed the tips of its heat pipes towards the PCIe slot, but they were actually blocking it slightly, so we adjusted them to face the rear of the case (<strong>image B</strong>). The CPU fan went on top, blowing air down through the heatsink and complementing the positive pressure airflow from the 18cm case fan right above it. Installation was simple and took only 10 minutes, which included adjusting the orientation of the heatsink. We could have flipped the case fan and used it as an exhaust instead (ideally flipping the CPU fan as well), but this creates "negative" pressure (a slight vacuum), which usually leads to higher temps.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_7.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="395" /></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">3. Godlike Processing Unit</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">Nvidia's GeForce GTX Titan is basically the star of the show here. The SG08 case can technically fit a GeForce GTX 690, which costs the same as the Titan while outperforming it by as much as 20 percent. But dual GPUs means SLI, and that can be glitchy, which is why people prefer single-GPU gaming. The 690 is also noticeably louder under load than the Titan, and it produces substantially more heat.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">To install the video card, we could have gone in from the top or the side. But we chose to go in from the side, at an angle, in order to make sure no cables got trapped below the card. And because the Titan is just 10.5 inches long in a case that can handle 12.2 inches, there was space between the end of the card and the front of the case to hide the power supply cables (<strong>image C</strong>).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_9.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_8.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="370" /></a></p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">4. Drive Me Crazy</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">The 256GB OCZ Vector is our SSD of choice this time. You could save money with a Corsair Neutron GTX, but the price difference is tiny against the system's overall price tag. In our tests, the Samsung 840 Pro is a smidgen faster than the Vector, but it’s close enough that the subjective difference between the two is nonexistent. The SG08's drive cage leaves just enough room to slip two SSDs under the hard drive (<strong>image D</strong>), though we felt compelled to put the Vector in upside-down to orient its SATA cable more comfortably.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">A 2TB Western Digital Caviar Black was also installed to give us much-needed capacity. The drive cage is not toolless however, so a screwdriver is required for installation. Also, the Silverstone SG08 can only fit a "slim" optical drive (normally seen in laptops), but the Samsung was only $22. It needs a special combined power and data connector cable, which Newegg had for a few bucks.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_9.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_8.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="369" /></a></p> <p><em>Click the next page to see how we finished the build.</em><br /><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_9.jpg"></a></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">5. Down to the Wiring</h4> <p style="text-align: left;">The SG08's bundled 600-watt power supply has shortened cables that are specifically designed for the case (<strong>image E</strong>), so that made our job a little easier. It also has just one Molex cable, and one SATA power cable with three connectors on it, so you can only connect up to four devices. The Titan was a bit of a tight fit, but it was OK, and we had enough space to tuck the power cables away. Still, it's difficult to picture an 11-inch video card fitting inside this case, let alone a 12-incher. While the motherboard power cables are braided, the 24-pin cable is still thick and therefore stiff. It and the 8-pin power cable ended up getting looped a couple of times within the spare real estate we had left. The GPU power cables were unavoidably snug against the top of the SG08 when the case cover went on, though; flat cables would be ideal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_9.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_8.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="328" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left;">If anything, the biggest wiring problem we faced was with the three SATA cables we used, since they were all standard length. If we had planned better, we would have ordered some shorter cables to help reduce the clutter.</p> <h4 style="text-align: left;">6. Miscellany</h4> <p>Assembling this build in the order dictated by the layering of components was a challenge. The GPU definitely had to go in last, because the motherboard's riser card obstructs access from the other side of the case. So, once the GPU is in it blocks access to the rest of the motherboard. If we had forgotten to plug in a cable somewhere, we would have had to pull out the GPU to solve the mystery, so it was important to be methodical.</p> <p>We had to get a little creative with the cabling to get everything to fit. For example, the SSD and its right-angle SATA connector ended up going in upside-down because we were running out of room to thread the cable around the power supply. We went over the PSU instead, as there were several millimeters of space between it and the optical drive tray above. The optical drive also uses very tiny screws (<strong>image F</strong>), about the size that you'd see on a pair of eyeglasses. The SG08 comes with them, thankfully, but they took a while to insert because the drive tray is recessed (though it uses precut holes for you to align the screwdriver with the screw holes).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_0.png"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small.png" title="Image F" width="620" height="251" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/system_inside_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/system_inside_small.jpg" title="System Inside" width="620" height="420" /></a></p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">The Little Overachiever in Action</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">With our mini-rig assembled, cooled, and ready to rumble, we were primed to see how hard we could push these components. After all, the SG08 sports a large grill on the side, offering our GPU the chance to pull in cool air, so the Titan has some room to breathe. The case's unusually large 18cm "penetrator" fan blows directly down on the core of the system at up to 1,200rpm, and the CPU has a big heatsink with a 12cm fan that can go up to about 2,200rpm, so we figured cooling wouldn’t be an issue. To our delight, the GPU handled a core overclock of 150MHz and a memory OC of 400MHz without complaints. The Titan did get up to 81 degrees C in our temperature-controlled Lab, which hovers around 20 C (or about 70 F), but Nvidia has told us the Titan is fine up to temps below 95 C. The Titan stayed fairly quiet and pushed almost all of its heat out of the system, too, which was excellent. So as far as the question of a Titan being able to survive in a SFF chassis goes, we’d say it works like a charm, and we can’t see it causing any issues at all in other small cases.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">You’re probably surprised to see that this system’s 3DM11 score of 5,571 was within 5 percent of our zero-point system, which boasts a hexa-core i7-3930K overclocked to 4.2GHz and a GTX 690. However, the 690 was not overclocked, and keep in mind the zero-point's GPU scores were achieved with the drivers that were out when it was built in March 2012, so much of the surprisingly small gap is probably thanks to Nvidia's constant software optimizations made since then.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">The CPU was a trickier affair. Once you get beyond about 4.4GHz, Ivy Bridge CPUs start heating up dramatically. Taking it to 4.6GHz or even 4.5GHz gave us temperatures we didn't think would be sustainable outside of our air-conditioned testing environment. The NT06's bundled fan is also not particularly quiet once it revs up to about 2,200rpm, and the case fan adds noticeable noise when switched to "high." Even though we thought this little rig might be able to sit in our living room and stay quiet while gaming, we’re left to conclude this particular setup would not be the best choice.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">So, the overall system performance was excellent, the build quality of the case was great (though the bundled PSU could use shorter motherboard power cables), the motherboard handled our CPU overclock quite well, and we didn't have to do anything questionable or dangerous to fit everything into the SG08. Overall, we’d say the mission was accomplished. Now, to build a Titan SLI SFF rig.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>Zero-point</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">2,000</td> <td>2,700 <strong>(-26%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td>831</td> <td>768</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">3DMark11 Extreme</td> <td class="item-dark">5,847</td> <td>5,571 <strong>(-4.8%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td>21.1</td> <td>16.95 <strong>(-19.7%)</strong><br /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>1,446</td> <td>1,336<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batman: Arkam City (fps)</td> <td>76</td> <td>80</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K @ 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.<br /></em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/small_gaming_PC_titan_2013#comments June 2013 2013 Build it. June 2013 feature nvidia Silverstone small gaming pc titan Systems Features Mon, 23 Sep 2013 20:03:07 +0000 Tom McNamara 26180 at http://www.maximumpc.com Cheap Desktop Computer Battle http://www.maximumpc.com/cheap_desktop_computers_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Battle of the $750 budget PCs</h3> <p>We’ve always said that building on a budget takes far more skill and savvy than building without financial constraints. Every single component choice has to be carefully weighed for its potential benefits and drawbacks. As if that weren’t enough, budget builders have to decide between three prospective platforms: <a title="intel" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Intel_0" target="_blank">Intel</a>’s LGA1155, and <a title="AMD" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/AMD" target="_blank">AMD</a>’s AM3+ and FM2. With so many permutations possible, and so much room for error, a cash-strapped builder’s got to wonder which thrifty path offers the best all-around performance. We can think of no better way to answer this important question than with a down-and-dirty DIY dust-up.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/budget_pc.jpg" alt="budget pc" title="budget pc" width="620" height="380" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Three Maximum PC editors duke it out to build the best cheap computer.</strong></p> <p>Yes, we set three staffers loose in the Lab to battle it out build-it style. For ground rules, each was assigned one of the three competing platforms and given a hard limit of $750. Since prices shift from day to day, or even hour to hour, all of the competing configurations were priced with the popular PCPartPicker.com tool and the specs were all finalized at 6:00 p.m. of the same day. Since rebates also change daily, they weren’t factored into the total cost.</p> <p>Editors were allowed the freedom of using personal knowledge and the Internets to inform their picks, but since many of the components used in these builds aren’t typically on our “enthusiast” radar, none of the editors really knew for certain if one part was faster than another. And like most buyers screwing together parts from a shopping list, they didn’t know if everything would actually work together in the end, either.</p> <p>You must be dying to know how this all plays out, how the builds perform in the benchmarks against each other as well as against our house Budget box (Blueprint), and which of the budget builds gets the ultimate nod from our panel of judges.</p> <p>The contestants have their tools drawn, so let the battle begin!</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>FM2 Build: Choose Your Battle</h3> <p><strong>Can a GTX 670 ride this rig all the way to victory?</strong></p> <h3><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/imagecache/futureus_imagegallery_fullsize/gallery/me.jpg" alt="chris zele" title="chris zele" width="200" height="200" /></h3> <h4>Chris Zele's Plan</h4> <p>I was given the task of creating an AMD FM2 system, so my initial plan was to build a hybrid CrossFire AMD A10-5800K box, leveraging the integrated graphics to assist a discrete GPU in graphics chores. I planned to use the quad-core part coupled with a Radeon HD 6670 and overclock them both. That whole plan went out the window, though, when I learned that Tom and Gordon were going to use GPUs that were far faster than a hybrid CrossFire setup. I had to zig instead of zag, so I decided to go for broke on the graphics side, spending half my budget on the GPU. I had to rob Peter to pay Paul, so my quad-core A10-5800K was swapped out for a dual-core A6-5400K. This might seem foolish, but it was a calculated risk. Both of my competitors have CPU platforms with chip options far faster than FM2. The Piledriver cores in FM2 CPUs can’t really compete with six-core FX chips or any LGA1155 quad part, so I conceded the CPU tests. I figured that if I was going to lose in CPU benchmarks I may as well try to win all of the GPU benchmarks. I just hoped that the A6-5400K I selected wouldn’t hold back the video card’s performance too much.</p> <p>After Gordon saw my build, he dubbed it the “Scud Missile,” as it had a bunch of low-end parts flanked by a kick-ass GPU.</p> <h4>The CPU and Cooler</h4> <p>This is a category where FM2 can be easily outclassed by the other two sockets. On the AM3+ build, Tom could scale all the way up to eight cores. And since both the FM2 and AM3+ parts use the same Piledriver cores on the latest CPUs, there’s just no way to beat the FX-6300 CPU in Tom’s rig. I knew if I wanted to win any of the benchmark rounds I would have to downgrade my CPU to a dual-core A6 5400K. I considered an overclock but settled on the stock cooler. The best part is it’s free and I saw no point in overclocking my wimpy dual-core—it still wouldn’t win any computing chores. The AMD 5400K comes with a stock clock of 3.6GHz and a Turbo Boost of 3.8GHz, which I thought would be more than enough for some of our GPU-heavy benchmarks.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Parts list</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">CPU</td> <td class="item-dark">AMD 3.8GHz A6-5400K</td> <td><a href="http://www.amd.com/uk/Pages/AMDHomePage.aspx">www.amd.com</a></td> <td>$75</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Motherboard</td> <td>MSI FM2-A55M-E33</td> <td><a href="http://www.msi.com/">www.msi.com</a></td> <td>$49</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">RAM</td> <td class="item-dark">Kingston Black 8GB/1600</td> <td><a href="http://www.kingston.com/en/">www.kingston.com</a></td> <td>$37</td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>HGST 500GB</td> <td><a href="http://www.hgst.com/">www.hgst.com</a></td> <td>$55</td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>MSI N670GTX-PM2D2GD5/OC </td> <td><a href="http://www.msi.com/language/">www.msi.com</a><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> <td>$349</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Case</td> <td>Corsair 200R</td> <td><a href="http://www.corsair.com/">www.corsair.com</a></td> <td>$50</td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>Corsair CX430</td> <td><a href="http://www.corsair.com/">www.corsair.com</a></td> <td>$45</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>Windows 8</td> <td><a href="http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx">www.microsoft.com</a></td> <td>$90</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$750</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h4>The Motherboard</h4> <p>Despite its budget persona, the FM2 platform actually offers some very nicely outfitted dual-GPU motherboards. My build, though, would have none of that. I wanted to save money for my other parts, which is why I picked a budget microATX board: MSI’s FM2-A55M-E33. The inexpensive mobo comes with four SATA ports, one x16 PCIe slot, and four USB 2.0 ports. Yup, no USB 3.0. The board has two DIMM slots but they support up to 16GB of DDR3/1866. It may be basic, but at least it’s only $49.</p> <h4>RAM</h4> <p>My FM2 box needed to make up ground wherever possible, so as a result, I went with a pair of Kingston Black 4GB DDR3/1600 modules for $37. I hoped that by having slightly faster RAM and more of it I would get a small edge in performance against Gordon and Tom, as they both chose lesser amounts of 1,333MHz RAM. Tom’s box is even running in single-channel mode, too.</p> <h4>The GPU</h4> <p>After Tom and Gordon revealed their respective plans for the beefier Radeon HD 7870 and GeForce GTX 660 boards, I knew I had to get something that would trounce them in performance. I decided to go with a <a title="670" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/msi_geforce_gtx_670_power_edition" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 670</a> from MSI, which would easily outperform the GPUs they selected. With a strong GPU to counter-balance my low-end processor, my goal was to win out on the gaming benchmarks, as half of the benchmarks we chose to determine performance were GPU-based.</p> <h4>The Case</h4> <p>For my case, I wanted something that would give me tool-less drive bays, cable-routing accommodations, and a clean design, all for $50. As luck would have it, the Corsair 200R was on sale for that price. The 200R offers everything I was after, plus sports two fans along with front-panel USB 3.0 ports. Sadly, my mobo doesn’t support USB 3.0, but I could still make use of the ports using the USB 2.0–to–USB 3.0 adapter that came with the case.</p> <h4>The Storage</h4> <p>My primary storage for this build was a HGST 7,200rpm 500GB mechanical hard drive. I decided to forgo an SSD because it would blow out my budget. I also figured an SSD wasn’t imperative with <a title="Windows 8" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Windows_8" target="_blank">Windows 8</a>, which is very quick and responsive even on mechanical hard drives.</p> <h4>The PSU</h4> <p>Like Gordon, I gambled a little on my PSU choice. The GeForce GTX 670 needs dual 6-pin connectors to power up. As my Corsair CX430 V2 has only one 6-pin, I had to use a Molex-to-6-pin adapter to power my GPU, and I wasn’t 100 percent certain it would work. Luckily for me, it did, and I had no problems using the adapter.</p> <p>Yes, I took a chance with the PSU, but not like Gordon who opted for a “free” PSU with a warranty period shorter than the expiration of a gallon of milk—30 days. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. My CX430 V2 does, though. It has a 3-year warranty and I’m pretty certain it’ll handle the 170-watt needs of the MSI GTX 670 card.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/first_image_small2_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/first_image_small2.jpg" title="FM2 Build" width="620" height="454" /></a></p> <h4>The Benchmarks</h4> <p>Despite my best efforts, my rig got the crap kicked out of it in the benchmarks. It was like a ragdoll being ripped to shreds by rabid pit bulls. Yeah, not pretty. And I’m not just talking about the two other builds in this competition, either. The A6-5400K couldn’t even hang in some CPU-bound tests with the Phenom II X4 965 from our Budget Blueprint. But hey, we’re talking a dual-core with shared resources versus a quad-core with four actual separate cores. What’s interesting is how much better the Piledriver cores are over the Phenom II in some encoding tests. The little A6-5400K actually beat the Phenom II X4 in ProShow Producer, which is optimized for four threads. (Encoding has long been a weakness in the old Phenom II.) I’m also surprised the A6 did as well against the Phenom II 965 in Stitch.Efx 2.0 and x264 encoding. The results may look ugly, but remember, it’s only a dual-core and it even shares resources, too.</p> <p>In gaming, the GeForce GTX 670 easily made mincemeat pie out of the Radeon HD 7770 card in the Budget build, but that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, that card didn’t give me the advantage I was counting on against Tom and Gordon’s builds.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>Zero-point</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,813</td> <td>2,665 <strong>(-32%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>3,127</td> <td>2,973</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">8</td> <td>3.5 <strong>(-56%)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>STALKER: CoP (fps)</td> <td>29.9</td> <td>58.1<br /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Hitman: Absolution (fps)</td> <td>14</td> <td>19.1<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark 11 Performance</td> <td>3,983</td> <td>4,096</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Our current Budget build uses a Phenom II X4 965 BE, a Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3, 4GB of DDR3/1333, an Asus Radeon HD 7770, a 120GB Samsung 840, and WD Caviar Blue 1TB HDD. All tests were run on Windows 8.</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>AM3+ Build: A Hex on the Competition</h3> <p><strong>Made from parts you’d actually want to buy</strong></p> <h4><img src="/files/u154082/tom_headshot.jpg" alt="tom mcnamara" title="tom mcnamara" width="200" height="273" /></h4> <h4>Tom McNamara's Plan</h4> <p>Intel's Ivy Bridge provides a lot of value, but I thought we needed an AMD system to keep things interesting. I could have just dropped in a Phenom II X4 965 for $100, but I can have intelligible conversations with people who are younger than that CPU. I managed to wedge in an FX-6300, which is based on AMD's newer <a title="vishera" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/vishera_review" target="_blank">Vishera</a> microarchitecture. Combine it with a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo cooler and an ASRock 970 Extreme3 motherboard, and we should have some overclocking headroom to shorten the distance between this chip and Gordon's quad-core Intel system. I briefly considered jamming in an eight-core FX-8320, but I would have had to make some ugly sacrifices. My goal was to build a respectable machine that a person might want to buy, made of parts with a greater reputation for reliability. I'll leave it to my competition to strap a rocket to a roller skate, even if it means losing on a few benchmarks.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h4>The CPU and Cooler<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>The FX-6300 is officially a hexa-core CPU, although its cores share three floating-point units when the conventional math would, well, call for six of them. At stock, it runs at 3.5GHz, but its microarchitecture is different enough from Intel’s (and even the Phenom II) that you can't make direct comparisons. Either way, it's a very solid unit for the price, and pairing it with a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo allows me to overclock to 4GHz easily, so it’s worth the extra expense.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Sure, I could have spent that $30 or so on an optical drive or another 4GB of RAM, but I also wanted a system that would not sound too loud under load. 4GB is a fine starting point for a general-purpose system. And once your system is installed, it's a heck of a lot easier to snap in another stick of RAM than it is to replace a stock CPU cooler. It would also be a shame to yoke a nice CPU and motherboard to a stock heatsink. And unlike the Phenom II 965, FX chips have support for AVX and FMA calculations, so they'll be better at stuff that requires lots of floating-point operations.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Parts list</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">CPU</td> <td class="item-dark">AMD 3.5GHz FX-6300</td> <td><a href="http://www.amd.com/uk/Pages/AMDHomePage.aspx">www.amd.com</a></td> <td>$130</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooler</td> <td>Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo</td> <td><a href="http://www.coolermaster.com/">www.coolermaster.com</a></td> <td>$33</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Motherboard</td> <td class="item-dark">ASRock 970 Extreme3</td> <td><a href="http://www.asrock.com/">www.asrock.com</a></td> <td>$85</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>Kingston Value 4GB DDR3/1333</td> <td><a href="http://www.kingston.com/en/">www.kingston.com</a></td> <td>$19</td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>WD Caviar Blue 500GB</td> <td><a href="http://www.wd.com/en/">www.wd.com</a><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> <td>$55</td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>MSI Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition</td> <td><a href="http://www.amd.com/uk/Pages/AMDHomePage.aspx">www.amd.com</a></td> <td>$230</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Case</td> <td>NZXT 210 Elite</td> <td><a href="http://www.nzxt.com/">www.nzxt.com</a></td> <td>$50</td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>Corsair CX500</td> <td><a href="http://www.corsair.com/">www.corsair.com</a></td> <td>$58</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>Windows 8</td> <td><a href="http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx">www.microsoft.com</a></td> <td>$90</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$750</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h4>The Motherboard<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h4> <p>I chose ASRock's 970 Extreme3 primarily for two reasons. One, it's one of the cheapest motherboards you can get that has heatsinks on the voltage regulator modules. This feature is critical for overclocking and recommended for general stability. Two, it has four RAM slots thanks to its full ATX form factor. So although there's 4GB in there now, you can easily have up to 16GB without having to swap anything. And it'll take up to 32GB clocked up to 2,100MHz; both features are actually pretty handy for encoding HD video. Its additional PCI Express Slot, five SATA 6Gb/s ports, eSATA, UEFI BIOS, optical and coaxial audio, and Japanese-manufactured capacitors are just gravy, in my opinion.</p> <h4>The RAM</h4> <p>Yes, it would have been nice to have 8GB of RAM, or even two 2GB sticks to at least have dual channels. But both options carried a premium that would have busted my budget. Such is the price of including high-quality parts elsewhere. In fact, the day after we ordered our parts, the price of DDR3 began to creep up across the board, so we dodged that bullet. At least I have a common 1,333MHz stick branded by Kingston, so getting a genuinely matching stick later on should not be too difficult.</p> <h4>The Storage</h4> <p>I took the most conservative option here. I thought that an SSD worth buying wasn't really in the cards, and I could do without an optical drive. It's going to cost me some performance, but I was determined to have uniformly recommendable parts in my build. Since Windows can be installed from a USB stick, and there isn't much else that truly requires an optical drive, I didn't feel too bad about my decision, even if it meant having fewer lasers involved.</p> <h4>The GPU</h4> <p>Since I'd already gone AMD with the CPU, I liked the idea of sticking with the brand for my video card. And the MSI <a title="7870" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/reviews/xfx_radeon_hd_7870_black_edition_review" target="_blank">Radeon HD 7870</a> GHz Edition is no slouch. It will perform roughly the same as Gordon's <br />Nvidia GTX 660. I also overclocked the core to 1,100MHz and the memory to 1,400MHz.</p> <h4>The Case</h4> <p>The <a title="nzxt 210 elite" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/nzxt_announces_source_210_gaming_case_cheapskate_gamers" target="_blank">NZXT 210 Elite</a> has a front USB 3.0 port, lots of room for long video cards, a painted interior, tool-free drive cages, two bundled fans (12cm and 14cm), a bottom PSU mount with external ventilation, and seven fan mounts. It's the kind of product that you can keep between builds, rather than donating it to someone or stowing it in a basement. Being able to use a case like this multiple times offsets its higher cost in the long run. Like the power supply, its benefits will not be reflected in the benchmarks. Like Gordon's caching SSD, it's a thing you have to see and feel firsthand to appreciate. Once you've assembled a computer with a solid case like this one, it's hard to go back to a generic box.</p> <h4>The PSU</h4> <p>This was the other half of what I sacrificed for. The Corsair CX500 might not be the flashiest unit in its class, but with 80-Plus Bronze efficiency, a single 12-volt rail, two 8-pin PCIe cables, a thermally controlled fan, sleeved cables, and a respectable 3-year warranty, it's also the kind of product you can use with confidence for several years of moderate-to-heavy usage. I would have preferred a modular unit, but the 210 Elite has enough room for me to tuck the extra cables out of the way.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/second_image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/second_image_small.jpg" title="AM3+ Build" width="620" height="454" /></a></p> <h4>The Benchmarks</h4> <p>The zero-point's Phenom II X4 965 can't keep up with a modern hexa-core CPU. But the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition makes by far the biggest difference versus a Radeon HD 7770, with its greater bandwidth, additional video memory and shaders, and higher clock speeds. These two cards are more like cousins than siblings. Overclock the FX-6300 to 4GHz, and the difference in overall system speed becomes even more apparent; we dominate in every game benchmark and rock the multithreaded apps for good measure. The zero-point's Samsung 840 solid-state drive will make the desktop experience feel much snappier overall, but the expense of this storage device clearly doesn't end at the cash register, as that system sacrifices GPU and CPU horsepower to stay within budget.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>Zero-point</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,813</td> <td>1,640</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>3,127</td> <td>1,950</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">8</td> <td>11.4</td> </tr> <tr> <td>STALKER: CoP (fps)</td> <td>29.9</td> <td>54.9<br /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Hitman: Absolution (fps)</td> <td>14</td> <td>28<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark 11 Performance</td> <td>3,983</td> <td>6,671</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p class="spec-table orange">&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Our current Budget build uses a Phenom II X4 965 BE, a Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3, 4GB of DDR3/1333, an Asus Radeon HD 7770, a 120GB Samsung 840, and WD Caviar Blue 1TB HDD. All tests were run on Windows 8.</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>LGA1155 Build: Quad-Core Curveball</h3> <p><strong>Intel parts can’t compete on price, or can they?</strong></p> <h4><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/imagecache/futureus_imagegallery_fullsize/gallery/gordon_1.jpg" width="200" height="200" /></h4> <h4>Gordon Ung's Plan</h4> <p>Once I was assigned with building a budget box around LGA1155, I originally sketched out a sedate dual-core Ivy Bridge machine (Core i3 or Pentium G) using the Corsair Carbide 200R, upgradeable motherboard, and a quality PSU. Yes, the Honda Civic of budget boxes. It gets your computing done in a reliable and boring fashion. In a drag race of budget rigs, though, and up against overclocked FX and A-series chips with more cores, I don’t believe a non-overclocking i3 has what it takes. But to even get into an overclocking part for Intel breaks my budget, too, so I figured there was no way LGA1155 could possibly win at $750 with OS. Once I sat down and started running the numbers, though, I decided I didn’t want to go down without a fight. And to quote Admiral James Tiberius Kirk, “I don’t like to lose.”</p> <p>But would my curveball strategy really upstage the other rigs with their cost advantage, or would I be marooned for an eternity on dead, nonfunctional PC island? In essence, buried alive. Buried alive.</p> <h4>The CPU and Cooler</h4> <p>Rather than a predictable dual-core CPU, I decided to bet the farm that a quad-core Ivy Bridge part would give me an advantage over the overclocked A-series and FX chips I expected to face. For that, I turned to the Core i5-3350P. This 22nm CPU is a full-on quad-core Ivy Bridge part. It lacks Hyper-Threading but has a mild Turbo Boost mode. There’s a modest overclock available but as a non-K part, it ain’t much, and only on Z-series chipsets. The Core i5-3350P graphics core is disabled but it’s actually 100MHz faster than the pricier Core i5-3330. Besides the clocks, spec-for-spec it’s the same as the Core i5-3570K. The chip comes with a stock cooler that’s not horrible, either, with its copper slug.</p> <p>I think this highlights a weakness in Intel’s lineup: There’s no unlocked part to be had for less than $200. Ideally, I would have used a modern version of the old Core i5-655K chip.</p> <p>Could I have sacrificed a couple of the other “luxuries” in the rig to get a Core i5-3570K and cheap cooler, so I could overclock, too? Perhaps, but I thought going that far would seriously compromise the machine beyond actual usefulness.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Parts list</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">CPU</td> <td class="item-dark">Intel 3.1GHz Core i5-3350P</td> <td><a href="http://www.intel.sg/content/www/xa/en/homepage.html">www.intel.com</a></td> <td>$176</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Motherboard</td> <td>ECS H77H2-M3</td> <td><a href="http://www.ecsusa.com">www.ecsusa.com</a></td> <td>$65</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">RAM</td> <td class="item-dark">Kingston Value 4GB DDR3/1333</td> <td><a href="http://www.kingston.com/en/">www.kingston.com</a></td> <td>$26</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ODD</td> <td>Lite-On iHas IHAS 124-04</td> <td><a href="http://www.liteonit.com/">www.liteonit.com</a></td> <td>$16</td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>A-Data Premiere Pro SP600 32GB</td> <td><a href="http://www.adata-group.com/index_US.html">www.adata-group.com</a></td> <td>$45</td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>WD Caviar Blue 500GB</td> <td><a href="http://www.wd.com/en/">www.wd.com</a></td> <td>$55</td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>Gigabyte GV-N660OC-2GD</td> <td><a href="http://www.gigabyte.us/">www.gigabyte.us</a><strong><br /></strong></td> <td>$216</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Case</td> <td>Rosewill R218 w/450W PSU</td> <td><a href="http://www.rosewill.com/">www.rosewill.com</a></td> <td>$61</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>Windows 8</td> <td><a href="http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/default.aspx">www.microsoft.com</a></td> <td>$90</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Total</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>$750</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <h4>The Motherboard</h4> <p>Besides socket, my motherboard decision was dictated primarily by price and also by chipset selection. As Intel only offers its RST SSD caching (more on that later) on 7-series boards, I knew the minimum I could run is the H77 chipset. There’s no top-shelf luxury brand here, either, for my budget. No, it’s a basic ECS H77H2-M3 in microATX trim. It’s pretty bare-bones with its two DIMM slots and one x16 PCIe slot but at least I get two SATA 6Gb/s ports, and two USB 3.0 ports, plus the SSD caching that will have my mechanical drive hopefully singing like an SSD. ECS isn’t a brand too familiar to enthusiasts but it’s well known in budget circles. In fact, I turned to ECS back when I gave former editor Dave Murphy a sound thrashing on a budget build challenge in 2007 (read it at: <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/the_500_pc_build_off">http://bit.ly/a3ipW4</a>).</p> <h4>The RAM</h4> <p>I originally considered running a single 4GB DIMM in single-channel mode to save funds, as few apps are actually bandwidth-sensitive, but I decided that I didn’t want to take the hit on any transcoding or encoding tests; so as much as it pains me, I filled the only two DIMM slots with a pair of 2GB Kingston DDR3/1333 modules. I decided 8GB was too pricey and Windows 8 runs fairly nicely on 4GB of RAM.</p> <h4>The Storage</h4> <p>I could have taken the easy way out and stripped out the optical drive and gone mechanical-only. But enough readers have convinced me that the optical is still needed—for now. So $16 went to the Lite-On iHas IHAS 124-04. I also really wanted to give the machine the luxurious feel of an SSD. One way to do that on the cheap is with Intel’s Storage Response Technology, aka SSD caching software. It allowed me to pair the cheapest SSD I could find, A-Data’s 32GB Premier Pro SP600, with a Western Digital 7,200rpm Caviar Blue 500GB drive. The Premier Pro SP600 is no Samsung 840 Pro, but with sequential reads of about 363MB/s and writes of 136MB/s it should give the rig a peppiness the other boxes won’t have.</p> <h4>The GPU</h4> <p>I originally planned to use a hotter GPU but then realized that I’d not only pay extra for a Radeon HD 7870, but for a fatter PSU, too. Then I really thought about how much of an actual increase in performance I would see. Maybe 5 to 10 percent? Should I really throw the optical drive and SSD-like feel of my system overboard just to go from 23fps to 28fps in a game? No. In the end, Gigabyte’s GeForce GTX 660 OC would fit the bill. The card has the same memory interface as the pricier 660 Ti, 2GB of RAM, and more importantly, it runs on a single PCIe 6-pin power plug.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/third_image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/third_image_small.jpg" title="LGA1155 Build" width="620" height="454" /></a></p> <h4>The Case</h4> <p>Rosewill’s R218 has long been a means to an end for budget builds. It’s not sturdy, doesn’t have the latest bells and whistles such as front USB 3.0 ports, but it’s low-cost and it comes complete with a 450W PSU. I admit, this enclosure is a compromise, but I’ll also say that once it’s tucked far enough under my desk and has attracted enough dust, I won’t even notice.</p> <h4>The PSU</h4> <p>The freebie 450W PSU that comes with my R218 case was the biggest gamble. Would it have the cojones to run the GeForce 660 and my quad Ivy Bridge? I didn’t know going into this. One thing that does make me feel better is that Rosewill is Newegg’s house brand, so technically, recourse is possible if something goes awry.</p> <h4>The Benchmarks</h4> <p>There’s no surprises here. You can’t put an Ivy Bridge quad-core against an AMD Phenom II X4 965 and expect anything except a total beat-down in anything that’s CPU-heavy. The same can be said of the budget Radeon HD 7770 against the GeForce GTX 660. I will say one thing about our current Budget rig, it at least has an optical drive and a luxurious Samsung 840 aboard, which boosts its pleasure factor as well as its performance in disk-heavy tests. I could go on ad nauseum about this benchmark or that, but I’m more concerned about the other two rigs here, not our old budget build.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td>Zero-point</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,813</td> <td>1,197</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>3,127</td> <td>1,802</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">8</td> <td>10.2</td> </tr> <tr> <td>STALKER: CoP (fps)</td> <td>29.9</td> <td>57<br /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Hitman: Absolution (fps)</td> <td>14</td> <td>23.4<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark 11 Performance</td> <td>3,983</td> <td>6,148</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Our current Budget build uses a Phenom II X4 965 BE, a Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3, 4GB of DDR3/1333, an Asus Radeon HD 7770, a 120GB Samsung 840, and WD Caviar Blue 1TB HDD. All tests were run on Windows 8.</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>The Closing Arguments</h3> <p><strong>Each editor makes a final case for his config</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/4_small_5.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/4_small_4.jpg" title="FM2: GPU FTW" width="620" height="703" /></a></p> <p>My system might be unbalanced, but it has the video chops to do every GPU task imaginable.</p> <p>Members of the Maximum PC court, let me start by stating that almost everything that a PC enthusiast does on his or her desktop uses the GPU in one way or another—from using multiple monitors to gaming. If you set your video encode to run on the GPU, the GeForce GTX 670 would easily smoke the Radeon HD 7870 GHz Edition chosen by Tom and the GTX 660 selected by Gordon. Those who have high-res panels of 2560x1600 will also benefit from the 670, as it outperform the other video cards at higher resolutions. My processor might not have as much oomph as an FX part or an Ivy Bridge chip, but it gets the job done well enough while my GPU handles the brunt of my PC’s load.</p> <p>Helping to get these video tasks done is 8GB of Kingston Black DDR3/1600 RAM, which will more than suffice for your multitasking needs. The RAM is clocked higher than my competitors’ and should give an edge when running multiple programs, too.</p> <p>Something I found to be interesting is that every part I used in my system came with a manufacturer warranty of two or more years. Gordon, on the other hand, has a case and PSU covered for an almost insulting 30 days. The rig I put together might be lopsided when it comes to my CPU and GPU, but at least it’s graphically appealing inside and out.</p> <h4>AM3+: Future Shock</h4> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/5_small_0.png"><img src="/files/u152332/5_small.png" title="AM3+: Future Shock" width="620" height="701" /></a></p> <p>At this budget level, the quality of individual components can be unreliable. Since a person spending this kind of money probably can't afford many replacement parts or major upgrades, it's better to start with the bar set as high as possible. The places you cut corners can end up costing you double when they break down unexpectedly. And you don't want to have to buy a whole new motherboard just to upgrade your CPU or add more RAM. Boards are a pain to replace, and if you have an OEM version of Windows, it's usually a violation of the user license to reinstall the OS on a system that has a different board.</p> <p>My 970 Extreme3 has heatsinks on the voltage regulators, high-quality capacitors, four RAM slots, several PCI slots, five SATA 6Gb/s ports, three audio outputs, and an eSATA port. And the AM3+ socket should stay relevant for a few more years. None of this shows up directly on a benchmark, but there is high value for a builder who wants reliability, expansion, and adaptation.</p> <p>The CX500's dual 8-pin PCIe cables can take every single-GPU card available, too. The Evo 212 cooler will allow big overclocks and should be compatible with the next couple of iterations of FX CPUs. The 210 Elite case can take a 24cm radiator despite costing about 50 bucks, and you don't need a modular power supply to keep the insides tidy, thanks to some generous space for cable management. My system may not win every benchmark, but I can say that it's built to last.</p> <h4>LGA1155: Looks Ain’t Everything</h4> <p><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/6_small_6.jpg"></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/6_small_5.jpg" title="LGA1155: Looks Ain’t Everything" width="620" height="700" /></p> <p>Your honors, let me first state that I intended to present my argument for winning by using a short movie produced and written by Steven Spielberg and directed by J.J. Abrams with Tom Hanks playing my role. That idea was canned when I realized my competitors had no ability to play a DVD, much less burn a CD.</p> <p>I will instead state my case like so: What matters most? How “pretty” a case is or whether your photo chores take twice as long as the box next to it? Sure, you might get a few more frames at a still unplayable frame rate (is 28fps vs. 23.4fps really something to crow about when you’re actually playing the game?), but what about the extra 15 seconds it takes to launch the game or your favorite app? Yes, Windows 8 does indeed have speedier launch times, but it ain’t as speedy as you’d expect on a 7,200rpm low-areal-density drive. The LGA1155 truly gives you the luxurious feel of a rig with an SSD.</p> <p>And lest anyone play the “upgrade” card by saying LGA1155 is a dead man walking, let me remind the judges that there is indeed a healthy upgrade path for this system, as you could drop in a Core i7-3770K tomorrow, if you could afford that luxury chip.</p> <p>So to reiterate: This is the only balanced system here offering top-of-the-line performance in all categories while giving you smooth, SSD-like responsiveness and an optical drive so you don’t have to panhandle a drive or USB stick from your buddy just to install the OS.</p> <h3>Taking It to the Benchmarks</h3> <p><strong>The test scores tell the story of where each rig succeeds and fails</strong></p> <p>To evaluate the performance of our systems, we pitted them against our current Budget Blueprint, a Phenom II X4 965 box with a fresh install of Windows 8, in a subset of our system benchmarks, in addition to a couple of games run at 1920x1080 rather than the typical nut-busting 2560x1600 we use to test $5,000 boxes. We also ran an additional set of benchmarks to increase our data. You can see the full suite of test results at&nbsp; MaximumPC.com when the story is posted online.</p> <p>The benchmarks you see here held the most sway over our panel of judges. The results were a bit eye-opening.</p> <p>First up, our CPU benchmarks. TechArp.com’s x264 5.01 encoding test is heavily multithreaded and if you have eight cores, it’ll use them. ProShow Producer 5.0 is optimized for four cores and Stitch.EFx 2.0 is a combination: The first two-thirds of the run is single-threaded with the last third exploiting multiple threads. The FM2-based A6 CPU gets destroyed by the FX and Core i5 parts. It even gets pummeled by the Phenom II in x264 and Stich.Efx, but shockingly beats the quad-core Phenom II in ProShow Producer. Between the FX and Core i5, the more efficient i5 easily trounces the FX in Stitch. The spread came as a surprise since we didn’t think the relatively low clocks of the Core i5 would spank the FX part so badly, especially with the overclock Tom put on the FX CPU. The overclock definitely helped the FX in ProShow, too. It didn’t win, but it came surprisingly close to the Ivy Bridge quad CPU. Finally, in the second pass of x264, the six cores of the FX put it on top—and we expected the Core i5 to take top honors.</p> <p>Moving on to gaming, we had expected the FM2 platform to spank both other boxes with its $350 GPU, but the dual-core/shared-core design of the CPU put it at a severe disadvantage in 3DMark 11 and Hitman: Absolution. Both feature physics tests, which are CPU-heavy, and the dual-core severely sags. The good news for the FM2 box is that it did manage to win the STALKER: CoP test, but if you look at the numbers, it’s not what you’d expect of a $350 GPU. We’ve long said that gaming is 90 percent GPU, but seeing this data, we’re inclined to revise that to 75 percent—but only when coupled with a decent quad-core chip.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/benchmark_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/benchmark_small.jpg" title="Budget Battle Benchmarks" width="620" height="423" /></a></p> <h3>And the Best Budget Build Is….</h3> <p>To pick our winner, each PC was presented to an independent panel of Maximum PC editors not involved in the contest.</p> <p>The FM2 system was almost immediately eliminated from contention. Yes, it did have the highest score in STALKER: CoP, but that’s it, and it wasn’t exactly by a large margin. The overall thrashing it took from the LGA1155 and the AM3+ as well as the older Phenom II 965 relegated it to a distant third place in all three judge’s eyes.</p> <p>That made it a two-horse race between the AM3+ and LGA1155 system. After seeing the benchmark data and poking around the interiors of the systems, Judge Josh Norem selected the AM3+ as the winner. Norem said the arguments were pretty clear-cut: The AM3+ has easy upgrade options in the empty DIMM slots, a full ATX motherboard, and a case that’s far superior to the LGA1155’s Rosewill enclosure for enthusiasts.</p> <p>Judge Katherine Stevenson, however, sided against Judge Norem, arguing that the better CPU performance and the close-enough gaming performance (Gordon’s “28fps vs. 23fps—big whoop” argument obviously worked) put the LGA1155 ahead. She also said the SSD caching was a persuasive factor in her pick, as 500GB HDD performance is nothing anyone wants to be stuck with, even if the case is prettier. Judge Stevenson even did some mouse driving on both systems and timed how long it took to launch games and apps and boot the systems. The results only cemented her belief that the LGA1155, though ugly as hell, was the winner.</p> <p>The swing vote on the panel was Judge Jimmy Thang. Judge Thang crunched the benchmark numbers and decided that the LGA1155 was the overall better system. Judge Thang felt the CPU-heavy wins were more persuasive than the GPU wins, which were pretty close when you look at the frame rates. He also said the caching SSD proved to be a critical advantage in performance and agreed that the ability to cut application and launch times outweighed a sturdier PSU or case since those don’t impact felt performance.</p> <p>It’s not a unanimous decision, but the judges have ruled: The LGA1155 system is the Budget Build winner.</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/cheap_desktop_computers_2013#comments June 2013 2013 affordable amd budget Build cheap desktop computers fm2 Gaming graphics card haswell intel ivy bridge LGA1155 pc Systems Features Mon, 09 Sep 2013 19:52:30 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung, Tom McNamara, and Chris Zele 26192 at http://www.maximumpc.com