Best desktop PC : £500/$750, £600/$900 and £700/$1,050 AMD and Intel gaming PCs

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn

We review six cheap gaming PCs – three Intel-based and three AMD – to find the best desktop PC at three different price points.

AMD vs Intel is one of the technology world’s biggest and oldest battlegrounds, with the firms trading blows in the CPU arena for decades. Both have led the way, both have fallen behind, and both remain among the biggest players in the PC world.

The fight is as fierce as ever, so we’ve decided to have these two tech titans lock horns to find out which company has the best gear for your next gaming PC.

We’ve recruited six of Britain’s best PC firms and divided them into pairs, with two systems at £500/$750, another couple at £600/$900 and the final systems at £700/$1,050. At each price we’ve made the companies pick sides, with AMD-based rigs squaring up against systems with Intel silicon.

The battle lines are drawn, and we’re determined to find out which firm’s CPUs are the best base for your next gaming rig. There are six systems to choose from and a huge amount of hardware on show – so there’s nothing left to do except get stuck in.

Gladiator versus PC Specialist

THE SYSTEMS

The £500/$750 tier is occupied by Chillblast’s Fusion Matrix and the CCL Cyrex machine. They cost little more than a new console and a handful of games, but both take aim at Full HD gaming. The former deploys an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 and an AMD Athlon processor, while the latter relies on a Core i5 CPU and AMD Radeon R7 360 graphics card.

Stepping up at £600/$900 is the Gladiator Quantum 970 and PC Specialist Helios. These two deliver a tense graphical showdown between the older Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 and AMD’s brand-new Radeon RX 480.

Our final tier sees the £780/$1,170 Overclockers Kinetic H3 and £700/$1,050 CyberPower Ultra Fusion 480 arriving for a battle between two more of AMD’s new RX 480 cards. That GPU is billed as the best new option for 1080p and 1440p gaming, so I’m going to find out which system is most deserving of your cash.

PROCESSORS

The battle between AMD and Intel has raged for years, but it’s rarely been a clean-cut case of CPU vs CPU for these huge tech firms.

AMD has led the way in the past, but Intel has spent the past decade on top of the heap – especially when it comes to high-end power. The status quo has prompted AMD to change tactics, and over the past few years it’s conceded the high end to Intel while developing a tempting range of more affordable processors.

The change in direction from AMD means there’s ample choice from both sides of the fence in this affordable PC group test – not least because none of the machines here have the budget to offer any of Intel’s high-end chips.

Intel logo

AMD’s processors are divided into two ranges, with APUs and FX-series chips available. The former parts are Accelerated Processing Units, which cram traditional processing cores and AMD Radeon graphics hardware into the same bit of silicon.

Most of them use a different architecture to AMD’s processors, with more concentration on efficiency, and they use a different kind of socket – so motherboard choice is important.

The amount of hardware inside these chips means that they don’t offer the same amount of processing power as pure CPUs, but they do have better integrated graphics than many traditional processors – and they’re cheaper than most, too.

AMD’s most powerful chips bear the FX brand. These CPUs differ from APUs because they don’t have integrated graphics, but they make up for that with a more muscular architecture – so they run at higher clock speeds and have more cores. That means they’re far more capable processors, with the top chips squaring up alongside Intel’s Core i3 and Core i5 chips in the middle of the market.

AMD Radeon R9 Fury

AMD’s use of APUs and CPUs makes plenty of sense, but the firm is undoubtedly lagging behind in some areas – not least the efficiency of its architectures. That means its chips usually generate more heat than their Intel counterparts, which makes them trickier to cool. That’ll change when new architectures are introduced later in 2016 or early 2017, but it’s something to bear in mind right now, especially when considering the cooling hardware and noise output of these affordable gaming desktops.

Intel doesn’t offer any kind of two-tiered system like AMD does with its APUs and CPUs. Instead, it deploys the same architecture across its consumer range, with prices and performance levels defined by the clock speed, cache and number of cores included with each chip.

Celeron and Pentium chips sit at the bottom of the market and are designed for basic computing tasks, but the first Intel hardware in this group test comes from the Core i3 range. These dual-core chips are the gatekeepers to mid-range power, and they tend to have more competitive clock speeds and cache levels.

Most of the Intel PCs in this group test use Core i5 CPUs. These parts are among the most popular processors on sale today, and with good reason – they have enough power to avoid bottlenecking games, but they won’t break the bank.

I touched on AMD’s efficiency issues, but Intel doesn’t face such challenges. Its Skylake architecture is far more efficient, which means that Intel PCs are easier to cool than their AMD counterparts – so they’re often quieter, too.

GRAPHICS

This is a gaming PC group test, so it’s key to pay attention to the graphics cards deployed in these systems. It’s important to examine key attributes such as clock speed and stream processors, but it’s worth looking beyond those to ensure you’re really getting the best graphics performance

Check out the manufacturing process, for instance, because a 14nm-process Radeon card will be more efficient than a 28nm GeForce GPU. Look at the memory, too: a card with 4GB rather than 2GB of memory will deliver better frame rates for longer as games become more demanding.

The graphics card is inherently tied to the rest of the PC. Not only because it slots into the motherboard and interfaces with the processor – but also because our six systems are built to tight budgets.

Cyberpower vs Overclockers

As a result, spending a large sum on a graphics card can lead to performance issues elsewhere. Games won’t run as quickly if a powerful GPU is undermined by a weak processor or sluggish memory, and it’s no good if any expansion potential is hindered by a cheap motherboard.

You should also take care to ensure that any new PC has enough room for future upgrades. If you might add an SSD or a second hard disk somewhere down the line, check that the case has the space and that the motherboard has enough SATA connectors of ample bandwidth.

Make sure the motherboard has the right slots for wireless or audio cards, and that there are plentiful mounts to add additional cooling if the components begin to get toasty.

And, finally, there’s the warranty. This is key, because it ensures that your PC is protected should anything go awry – but go further than just making sure you’re covered.

Examine the kind of coverage included with a system: some will include a courier service to collect and return a faulty rig, while others will demand that you pay for transit yourself. Replacement parts will be covered by some warranties, but others will only pay for labour.

Warranties will often last different lengths of time, and most manufacturers will also upgrade your warranty for a fee if you’re keen on some extra peace of mind.

HOW WE TEST

I’ve put these six systems through a battery of benchmarks to find out which is best for gaming and general-purpose computing.

I use three titles to test each PC’s gaming capability: DIRT Rally, GTA V and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Each game is run at its maximum settings at Full HD. Those tests are augmented by 3DMark Fire Strike, which provides a solid baseline for graphical performance, while also illustrating which systems are hindered by underwhelming processors.

My first CPU test is Geekbench, which runs chips through a single- and multi-core suite of tasks that mirror real-world scenarios to test the single- and multi-threaded abilities of any processor. I use PCMark 8’s Home and Creative suites to give each PC a proper workout: the first test simulates writing, web-browsing, light gaming and video chat; the second mimics video and photo editing, media transcoding and trickier gaming scenarios.

Overclockers

I test SSDs using AS SSD, and then run each PC through a stress-testing routine that uses Prime95 and Unigine Heaven 4.0 to run the CPU and GPU at 100% load. This test establishes whether each PC is stable, and if there are issues with heat or noise levels.

PRICING

Double-check any prices before taking the plunge with the systems featured in this group test.

Every machine was sourced at £500/$750, £600/$900 and £700/$1,050, but the extreme fluctuations in British exchange rates currently have seen computer component prices go haywire; in the vast majority of cases, it’s resulted in the price of components rising. The Overclockers PC is a prime example of this, more than £80 more expensive at the time of writing than the day it was sourced.

Several manufacturers had to tweak their prices before I finished testing the machines. It’s an unfortunate and unavoidable fact right now, but check before placing an order.

£500/$750 Gaming PC: CCL vs Chillblast

Which of these two bargain gaming systems can offer more frame rates for less cash?

The two £500/$750 machines in this group test aim to provide top-notch gaming experiences for little more than the cost of a new console and a bundle of games. The CCL Cyrex is based around Intel technology, while the Chillblast Fusion Matrix revolves around AMD silicon.

500 desktop pc

KEY SPECIFICATIONS
CCL Cyrex Chillblast Fusion Matrix
CPU 3.2GHz Intel Core i5-6500 3.7GHz AMD Athlon X4-860K
GPU 8GB Crucial 2,133MHz DDR4 2 x 4GB Crucial 1,600MHz DDR3
Memory XFX Radeon R7 360 2GB Zotac GeForce GTX 960
Storage 120GB PNY CS1311 SSD, 1TB Seagate hard disk 1TB Seagate hybrid hard disk

There’s one component that stands out across both of these machines: the CCL system’s Intel Core i5-6500 processor.

This is an exceptional chip for a system at this price. It’s been plucked from the middle of Intel’s latest range of Skylake CPUs, and it has four cores, 6MB of L3 cache, a stock speed of 3.2GHz and a Turbo peak of 3.6GHz.

It doesn’t have Hyper-Threading, but in every other department it possesses the kind of oomph that I expect to see in machines that cost hundreds of pounds more.

It certainly compares well to the Chillblast’s AMD Athlon X4 860K. That chip shares its modest Kaveri architecture with a host of the firm’s APUs, but it doesn’t have an integrated graphics core. Instead, it has core and Turbo clocks of 3.7GHz and 4GHz but just 4MB of cache. Those speeds compare well to the Intel chip, but AMD’s APUs have usually fallen behind their Intel rivals.

CCL versus Chillblast

CCL’s machine kicks off well with that Core i5 chip, but the concentration on CPU power leaves the Cyrex languishing elsewhere.

Its XFX-made AMD Radeon R7 360 graphics core loses out to the Chillblast’s Zotac-made Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 in several key areas: the R7 360 has 768 stream processors while the GeForce has 1,024, and its clock speed of 1,050MHz is slower than its rival’s 1,127MHz pace. Both have 2GB of GDDR5 memory with a 128-bit bus, but the Chillblast’s card runs its RAM at 7,010MHz rather than 6,500MHz.

The two machines trade blows elsewhere. The CCL machine’s 8GB of memory is only single-channel, but it’s 2,133MHz DDR4 – better than the Chillblast’s 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3, although that’s installed in a dual-channel configuration.

The CCL gains back some ground with its motherboard, too. Both systems include micro-ATX boards, but the Cyrex’s MSI H110M PRO-VD offers more than the Chillblast’s Gigabyte board. It includes support for SATA 6Gbps, a spare memory socket and one free PCI Express x1 slot.

The Chillblast’s Gigabyte GA-F2A58M-HD2 board only has support for SATA 3Gbps and a spare legacy PCI socket.

The H110 chipset’s support for SATA 6 means that CCL has fitted a 120GB PNY CS1311 SSD as its boot drive – another advantage over the Chillblast. That system doesn’t support quicker SATA connections, and so makes do with a 1TB hard disk.

The two machines trade blows in specifications, then, and seem closely matched. The CCL’s Core i5 processor is an unexpected start, but it’s countered by the Chillblast’s better graphics card. Both machines have competing memory and motherboards, with different chipsets and platforms having an impact.

The standard Chillblast warranty is one of the most generous in the business. It’s a five-year labour deal with two years of collect-and-return coverage. The only thing missing is parts coverage, and it feels mean to complain about its absence in the face of such great coverage elsewhere. Chillblast’s deal is two years longer than the CCL’s collect-and-return deal, and it covers both parts and labour.

PERFORMANCE

The two machines competed well in application benchmarks. The Chillblast’s AMD chip was noticeably slow in Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests, with scores of 2,420 and 7,478 outpaced by the CCL’s results of 3,154 and 10,672.

However, the AMD silicon took a slim lead in the PCMark 8 Home test with a score of 3,751 to 3,736 – and it then widened that lead in the Creative benchmark. That’s a tougher test, and perhaps where the AMD chip’s higher clock speeds came to the fore.

CCL Cyrex

For day-to-day computing, then, both of these machines will be absolutely fine.

There was no such competition in the gaming tests. The Chillblast’s GTX 960 scored 5,583 in 3DMark’s Fire Strike test, while the CCL’s R7 360 could manage only 3,284.

That huge gulf was galvanised in real-world games tests. The Chillblast delivered a 48.3fps average in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, while the CCL couldn’t break the 30fps barrier, and its 55.95fps average in Dirt Rally was more than 20 frames faster than the Cyrex. The GTX 960’s 49.85fps result in GTA V battered the 37.9fps score of the Cyrex.

The CCL machine fought back in storage tests. Its PNY SSD rattled through the sequential read and write benchmarks at 498MB/sec and 357MB/sec, while the Chillblast’s hard disk managed only 66MB/sec and 168MB/sec in the same tests.

Chillblast Fusion GTX 960

That’s a win for the Cyrex, but it isn’t the most crucial bit of hardware here – and in real-world terms will only mean that its boot and loading times are a little quicker.

The two machines are closely matched in application tests, and both are broadly good enough for general tasks. The real winner here is the Chillblast’s graphics card, which easily outpaces the Cyrex’s R7 360.

DESIGN, BUILD AND EXPANSION

The two enclosures offer similarly middling build quality, and the Chillblast’s Zalman Z1 Neo chassis is noticeably larger and looks more outlandish than the Cyrex’s case.

Windows are present on both boxes, although they’re of limited use on a build where there’s no room in the budget for lights or fancy, good-looking components.

Both also have motherboard trays, which are a boon for cable-tidying – and their PSUs have cables covered with black braiding, which hides the ugly multi-coloured wires that can trail across many budget builds. Cables inside these two systems only appear through routing holes when needed, and any spare wires are hidden discreetly. CCL has concealed chunkier wires around the back of its motherboard tray, while the Chillblast has routed them through a raised section in the middle of the case.

It’s easy to work inside both machines because they’re filled with small components, but if you’re considering expansion room then the Chillblast’s larger case is better. The Fusion Matrix has three free hard disk bays and two empty 5.25in bays, and those hard disk bays can also be used to fit SSDs. The CCL machine features only a single 3.5in and 5.25in bay empty, and room for one more SSD.

There’s little to choose between the two systems, which both offer similar case designs and features: the CCL’s chassis is smaller, but the Chillblast offers a little more room to grow.

VERDICT

It’s tricky to say which one of these systems is a clear winner – both are good in different, competing ways.

The CCL Cyrex includes that Core i5 processor alongside an SSD and a motherboard with the more versatile H110 chipset.

Chillblast’s machine has an AMD APU, no SSD and a more restrictive chipset, but it has a better case and a far faster GPU.

If you’re after an all-rounder, the Cyrex is the better bet – and it has enough power for 1080p gaming. But gamers will want to look towards the Chillblast, which makes up for its deficiencies with far better frame rates.

Winner: Chillblast

For £100/$150 more, you can get 1440p graphics performance… head to the next page to see our £600/$900 pairing.

CCL Cyrex Chillblast Fusion Matrix
CPU 3.2GHz Intel Core i5-6500 3.7GHz AMD Athlon X4-860K
Motherboard MSI H110M Pro-VD Gigabyte GA-F2A68HM-HD2
Memory 8GB Crucial 2,133MHz DDR4 2 x 4GB Crucial 1,600MHz DDR3
Graphics XFX Radeon R7 360 2GB Zotac GeForce GTX 960
Storage 120GB PNY CS1311 SSD, 1TB Seagate hard disk 1TB Seagate hybrid hard disk
Case Corsair Carbide 88R Zalman N1 Neo
PSU XFX XT 500W EVGA 100-W1-0500 500W
Ports 1 x USB 3, 1 x USB 2, 2 x audio; Rear: 2 x USB 3, 4 x USB 2, 1 x PS/2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x audio Front: 1 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 2 x audio; Rear: 2 x USB 3, 4 x USB 2, 1 x PS/2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x audio
OS Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Warranty 3yr C&R 5yr labour (2yr C&R)
Price £500/$750 inc VAT £500/$750 inc VAT

£600/$900 Gaming PC – Gladiator vs PC Specialist

The Gladiator Quantum 970 and PC Specialist Helios might arrive with prices that are in the same ballpark, but these two machines take two very different approaches when it comes to CPU technology.

600 desktop pc

KEY SPECIFICATIONS
Gladiator Quantum 970 PC Specialist Helios
CPU 3.7GHz Intel Core i3-6100 3.5GHz AMD FX-6300
GPU Asus GeForce GTX 970 Strix XFX Radeon RX 480
Memory 8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 2,400MHz DDR4 8GB Kingston Fury HyperX 1,600MHz DDR3
Storage 120GB Kingston HyperX Fury SSD; 1TB Toshiba hard disk 120GB Kingston UV400 SSD; 1TB Toshiba hard disk

The Gladiator machine arrives with a Core i3-6100 chip installed. It uses Intel’s latest Skylake architecture, but it’s one of the firm’s weakest current-generation chips: its two cores have Hyper-Threading but they can’t replicate the multi-tasking skills of proper quad-core processors, and its 3.7GHz stock speed isn’t enhanced by any Turbo Boosting.

PC Specialist has gone in the other direction with the AMD FX-6300. It’s a six-core processor designed to excel with multi-threaded workloads, and its decent base speed of 3.5GHz can use Turbo to reach a peak of 4.1GHz. It also has 8MB of L3 cache to the Core i3’s 3MB.

The two machines differ in almost every department. Although both have 8GB of single-channel memory, Gladiator’s Intel machine can equip 2,400MHz DDR4 memory while the AMD machine is restricted to 1,600MHz DDR3 silicon.

The Gladiator deploys Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970 graphics. That’s one of last year’s best cards, and the firm has used an Asus Strix version. That means the 1,050MHz core has been overclocked to 1,114MHz, and it remains partnered with 4GB of 7,010MHz GDDR5 memory.

PC Specialist has opted to use AMD’s factory-fresh Radeon RX 480. It’s a brand-new card that aims to nail 1440p and VR gaming for less than £200/$300, and its specification looks tasty: it’s the first time I’ve seen the fourth iteration of the Graphics Core Next architecture, and it’s moved from a 28nm manufacturing process down to 14nm.

Gladiator versus PC Specialist

Its core sits at 1,120MHz, it uses 2,304 stream processors, and it has 8GB of memory – twice as much as the GTX 970 offers.

PC Specialist has plugged the new GPU into an Asus M5A97 R2.0 motherboard. It includes a reasonable slate of mid-range features, with three empty memory slots and vacant PCI Express x16 and x1 slots, but AMD’s 970 chipset lets it down. It doesn’t support PCI Express 3.0, and Asus has only been able to fit SATA 6Gbps ports to the board by deploying a third-party controller.

It isn’t as good-looking as the Gigabyte G1.Sniper B7 included in the Gladiator PC. That board’s chipset supports PCI Express 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps natively, and it also supports more USB 3 ports – it has four rather than the two on the Asus board. That board also has an M.2 connector for super-fast storage, a built-in audio amplifier, and even a row of green LEDs along the right-hand side – ideal for a case that arrives with a window.

Gladiator has protected this machine with a four-year labour warranty that includes two months of collect-and-return coverage and a year of parts. That’s more generous than the PC Specialist’s three-year labour deal, which also includes a year of parts coverage but only stumps up for a month of collect-and-return.

PERFORMANCE

The intriguing graphical battle saw the Gladiator’s overclocked GTX 970 emerge triumphant.

Its 3DMark Fire Strike score of 8,517 is almost 1,000 points better than the PC Specialist’s RX 480 could manage, and it then averaged 83.87fps in Dirt Rally – a long way ahead of the 69.87fps scored by the PC Specialist system.

Gladiator’s system then averaged 73.4fps with a minimum of 31.8fps in GTA V, which was a long way ahead of the 53.8fps average and 20.3fps minimum returned by the PC Specialist system.

PC Specialist’s new card could only overhaul its rival in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, where it averaged 84.24fps – about five frames ahead of the competition. Despite that, its 57.9fps minimum wasn’t even two frames quicker than the GTX 970.

Gladiator PC

The Gladiator’s triumph wasn’t under threat even in two of those games tests, despite the two GPUs being positioned relatively closely in the marketplace. I can only surmise that the RX 480 hasn’t worked too well with the PC Specialist’s AMD processor or slower memory – or that it’s suffering from some driver issues.

The two machines were more closely matched in application benchmarks. The Gladiator’s Intel chip scored an excellent 3,606 points in Geekbench’s single-core test, while the PC Specialist managed only 2,195 points. The tables turned in the multi-tasking benchmark, where the six-core PC Specialist scored 8,110 – better than the 7,972 scored by Gladiator’s Intel-based system.

The PC Specialist fell behind in the PCMark 8 Home test, where a result of 3,720 was more than 1,000 points behind the Gladiator. This time, though, it couldn’t make up ground in the tougher Creative benchmark – its 5,523-point result languished behind the Intel machine by a similar margin.

PC Specialist RX 480

PC Specialist’s machine was finally victorious in storage tests. Its sequential read and write speeds of 505MB/sec and 361MB/sec were faster and more consistent than the Gladiator’s 456MB/sec and 104MB/sec results – although that’s a hollow victory when the rest of the PC falls behind.

DESIGN, BUILD AND EXPANSION

PC Specialist’s Enigma 6003B case ticks many typical gamer boxes. Its facade is covered with dramatic slats and angled sections, but build quality is merely middling – the metal and plastic offers reasonable strength, but nothing more.

It’s a mixed bag on the inside, too. The motherboard tray isn’t particularly accommodating and the PSU hangs from the roof. That power supply doesn’t come with the good-looking, black-covered cables I’ve seen on other machines, which means that ugly multi-coloured cables are left to trail through the case with only a bare minimum of routing and tidying attempted.

This isn’t a deal-breaker because there’s no window on the side of the PC Specialist’s case, but it’s still hardly a pleasant sight when the side panel is eased away.

Gladiator versus PC Specialist

It’s a cramped rig, too. A storage cage covers the entire front portion of the machine, which is good in terms of upgrade room, but the Radeon graphics card juts across a couple of the bays. The top half of the machine is dominated by the PSU and the tall, narrow Titan Dragonfly CPU cooler. The cramped chassis isn’t a deal-breaker, but it did contribute to the graphics card’s peak temperature rising to 89°C – a high figure, especially for AMD’s new Radeon RX 480.

The Gladiator’s BitFenix Nova case has a similar storage cage dominating the front portion of the enclosure, but this rig is better organised than its rival. Cables are tied down more securely and kept out of the way, and the graphics card doesn’t quite encroach on the spare drive bays.

It also helps that the PSU sits at the bottom of the case, and that the CPU is topped off with Intel’s smaller stock cooler.

Gladiator further spices up this rig with a strip of blue LEDs in the top of the case. These pair with the motherboard’s green LEDs to give the rig a healthy glow, illuminating the key components through the case’s window.

VERDICT

PC Specialist has taken a gamble with its six-core AMD CPU and brand-new Radeon graphics card, but its components are beaten into second place by the more reliable hardware inside the Gladiator Quantum 970.

The GTX 970 graphics card is faster than its rival in both tests, and the dual-core i3-6100 is better in most benchmarks too – the six-core AMD chip only overhauls it in one multi-threaded test.

Gladiator’s machine has a more versatile motherboard and chipset and a tidier design, which is a tad easier to manage. If you’re after a £600/$900 gaming machine, that’s the build to buy.

WINNER: Gladiator

For £700/$1,050, you can get the same graphics performance and much better processing grunt. Click through to the next page to see our final match-up.

Gladiator Quantum 970 PC Specialist Helios
CPU 3.7GHz Intel Core i3-6100 3.5GHz AMD FX-6300
Motherboard Gigabyte GA.Sniper B7 Asus M5A97 R2.0
Memory 8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 2,400MHz DDR4 8GB Kingston Fury HyperX 1,600MHz DDR3
Graphics Asus GeForce GTX 970 Strix XFX Radeon RX 480
Storage 120GB Kingston HyperX Fury SSD; 1TB Toshiba hard disk 120GB Kingston UV400 SSD; 1TB Toshiba hard disk
Case BitFenix Nova Enigma 6003B
PSU Thermaltake TR2 Challenger 500W Corsair VS550 550W
Ports Front: 1 x USB 3, 1 x USB 2, 2 x audio; Rear: 4 x USB 3, 1 x USB 2, 1 x PS/2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 5 x audio Front: 1 x USB 3, 1 x USB 2, 2 x audio; Rear: 2 x USB 3, 6 x USB 2, 2 x PS/2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 6 x audio
OS Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Warranty 4yr labour (2mth collect & return, 1yr parts) 3yr labour (1mth C&R, 1yr parts)
Price £636/$954 inc VAT £600/$900 inc VAT

£700//$1,050 Gaming PC: CyberPower vs Overclockers

The top tier in this gaming PC group test sees two of the UK’s biggest system builders go head-to-head: the brooding Overclockers Kinetic H3 faces up to the brash CyberPower Ultra Fusion 480.

700 desktop pc

Key Specifications
Overclockers Kinetic H3 CyberPower Ultra Fusion 480
CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400 3.6GHz AMD A10-7860K
GPU Sapphire Radeon RX 480 AMD Radeon RX 480
Memory 2 x 4GB Team Group Elite 2,400MHz DDR4 2 x 4GB Kingston HyperX 1,866MHz DDR3
Storage Kingston 240GB SSDNow V300 SSD; 1TB Seagate hard disk 120GB Kingston SSDNow UV300 SSD; 1TB Western Digital hard disk

These machines might look different, but there’s one crucial area where they’re identical. Both rigs rely on AMD’s new Radeon RX 480, which has been released to offer the best bang for buck in the mid-range.

It’s an impressive GPU. It uses the fourth iteration of the Graphics Core Next architecture, which shrinks the silicon’s manufacturing process from 28nm down to a tiny 14nm, and it deploys 2,304 stream processors – one of the highest figures I’ve seen in a mid-range GPU.

Its clock sits at a base level of 1,120MHz and can reach 1,266MHz with Turbo Boost, and there’s a whopping 8GB of GDDR5 memory on-board clocked to 8,000MHz.

The systems diverge in every other department. The Overclockers’ Core i5-6400 is the entry-level mid-range chip from the Skylake range and has four cores clocked to 2.7GHz, with a potential Turbo Boost peak of 3.3GHz.

Cyberpower vs Overclockers

CyberPower has opted for one of AMD’s most powerful Kaveri APUs. The chip has four 3.6GHz cores and a 4GHz turbo peak, and it also comes with an integrated Radeon R7 GPU – although here it obviously isn’t needed. It’s chilled by the entire test’s only water-cooling unit: the Cooler Master Seidon 120V. It attaches to the rear of the CyberPower’s case with a 120mm fan, and its two cables snake towards the chunky waterblock.

The Overclockers machine uses its better Intel chipset to serve up 8GB of dual-channel 2,400MHz DDR4, while the CyberPower has to rely on older 1,866MHz DDR3 memory. The Overclockers system has a larger SSD, too: its 240GB Kingston SSDNow UV400 drive is twice as big as the 120GB Kingston SSD in the CyberPower.

The motherboards, too, are vastly different. The Overclockers machine has an Asus H110-Plus board. It isn’t the best-looking motherboard out there, but it’s an ATX slab with reasonable room to grow: two PCI Express x1 and three PCI sockets sit free alongside several empty SATA and fan connectors.

That’s a far cry from the CyberPower’s Asus A68HM-K. It’s only a micro-ATX board, so expansion room is limited to a single PCI socket and some SATA connectors. The Asus board has the AMD A68H chipset, which only supports PCI Express 2.0 and a smaller number of USB ports than the Overclockers board.

PERFORMANCE

There’s a clear gulf between the two systems when it comes to application performance. The quad-core Intel CPU inside the Overclockers scored 3,625 and 11,019 in the Geekbench tests – while the CyberPower machine could manage only 2,514 and 8,079.

Cyberpower vs Overclockers

The Kinetic H3 continued to excel in PC Mark’s benchmarks, where it scored 4,369 in the Home test and 6,096 in the Creative run. Both results beat the CyberPower comfortably. The Overclockers system then went on to outpace the CyberPower in both SSD benchmarks.

The Kinetic used its better processing power and memory to beat its rival in games tests, too. Its 3D Mark result of 9,516 is 2,000 points ahead of the CyberPower, and that gain comes from a similar lead in the physics test – clearly an area where the extra CPU and memory power pays off.

The Overclockers machine averaged 89.83fps in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which was around seven frames better than the CyberPower system – but then it accelerated. Its Dirt Rally result of 94.08fps is about 25 frames ahead of the CyberPower, and its 82.6fps average in GTA V was almost 30 frames quicker than the Ultra Fusion could manage.

DESIGN, BUILD AND EXPANSION

CyberPower has opted for the most outlandish-looking case in this entire group. The Cooler Master HAF 912 is huge and striking, with a raised area for peripheral storage and a front facade decorated with mesh.

The HAF backs up its design with incredible strength. No other case in this group of six is sturdier thanks to thick side panels, solid plastic and a rigid central skeleton.

The CyberPower’s case has impressive practicality, too. The front portion of the PC is filled with storage cages that can be removed if more room is needed, and the bottom has a small box for storing two extra SSDs. The motherboard tray is wide enough to accommodate plenty of cabling, which means this is an impressively tidy PC.

It’s a shame that CyberPower opted for such a small motherboard, then, because there’s certainly room for something bigger here. My only other complaint concerns the looks: this case is practical, but its bare-metal and a lack of ornamentation do it no favours.

Overclockers

The Overclockers Kolink Refractor case is smaller, darker and more brooding than its rival. The front panel is plain and glossy, and the interior is black, rather than just finished in plain metal. Build quality is reasonable – it only loses out to the CyberPower because that chassis is so unusually strong.

It’s less flashy on the inside, too. There’s the stock Intel cooler rather than the water-cooled affair in the CyberPower, and the PSU’s multi-coloured cables are tied down neatly but without any huge attention paid to their routing.

Both cases offer a similar amount of upgrade room. The Overclockers also has a front section dominated by removable 3.5in and 2.5in drive cages – ideal if you want to add extra storage, and easy to remove if you’d like to add fans or a longer graphics card.

VERDICT

CyberPower’s machine impresses with its big, sturdy enclosure, but that’s the only area where the Ultra Fusion 480 manages to outpace the Overclockers Kinetic H3.

The Overclockers system might not look as flashy, but it provides similar versatility on the inside, a better motherboard, and speedier results in every important benchmark.

The Kinetic H3 might cost a little more than its rival due to unfavourable exchange rates, but it’s the clear winner here – I’d happily be willing to stump up the extra cash.

Winner: Overclockers

Overclockers Kinetic H3 CyberPower Ultra Fusion 480
CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400 3.6GHz AMD A10-7860K
Motherboard Asus H110-Plus Asus A68HM-K
Memory 2 x 4GB Team Group Elite 2,400MHz DDR4 2 x 4GB Kingston HyperX 1,866MHz DDR3
Graphics Sapphire Radeon RX 480 AMD Radeon RX 480
Storage Kingston 240GB SSDNow V300 SSD; 1TB Seagate hard disk 120GB Kingston SSDNow UV300 SSD; 1TB Western Digital hard disk
Case Kolink Refractor Cooler Master HAF 912
PSU Kolink KL-500 500W Cooler Master RS-500-ACAB-B1 500W
Ports 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 2 x audio; Rear: 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 2 x PS/2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x audio Front: 2 x USB 2, 2 x audio; Rear: 2 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 2 x PS/2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 3 x audio
OS Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Warranty 3yr RTB (2yr C&R, 1yr labour) 3yr labour (2yr parts, 1mth C&R)
Price £780/$1,170 inc VAT £700/$1,050 inc VAT

(trustedreviews.com, http://goo.gl/hRqk5l)

Comments

comments

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on StumbleUponTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn