Last though not least we get to the most important element of any gaming PC: its graphics. Incidentally, the HIS Radeon HD 5850 Cryo has used for this machine is the very model we reviewed. Right now ATI's 5850 offers the ideal balance between performance, price, power and noise, making it the best value gaming card around – something that hasn't changed with the recent launch of nVidia's underwhelming GTX 470 and 480.
So how does the PC hold up in gaming? The simple answer is "really well". Surprisingly, it matched the DinoPC i7-Osaurus (which sports a Radeon HD 5870) in most gaming benchmarks, trailing by just a few frames in DirectX11-title Stalker and even beating it consistently in Crysis.
Though Crysis is a more CPU-intensive title than many, we're still at a loss to explain this difference. Cryo's "Cryo Boost" ensures a GPU overclock only on nVidia cards and hence the 5850 in the Nano is running at stock speeds, so we can only surmise driver improvements on ATI's part also play a role. Regardless, we could run Crysis at 1,920 x 1,200 on High Detail without the frame rate ever dipping below 30fps, which is very impressive. Very High Detail, however, was just barely playable at this resolution with a 26.2fps average.
So leaving off the underwhelming optional Graphite finish and poorly-machined Cryo logo, the Nano is a great-looking machine, using high-quality components, relatively compact and quiet, and with absolutely storming performance for its form factor. The only real negatives are generally expensive upgrade prices and the lack of USB 3.0 (a lack no other SFF gaming system we're aware of remedies at the moment). One other consideration is that the company's two-year warranty is return to base (RTB) where many competitors offer collect and return (C&R) at least for the first year.
However, for a water-cooled, overclocked and fully customizable SFF gaming PC that outperforms many tower systems we've reviewed, the Cryo Nano is truly excellent value for money at just under £1,000 – especially as the DinoPC i7-Osaurus has gone up in price dramatically since our review. Put quite simply, the Nano is the gaming PC I would buy if I was looking for a system in its price class, and Cryo wasn't exaggerating when it claimed that its SFF PC "breaks the mould".
The Nano's performance for the price would be impressive enough for a tower system, but Cryo has produced the fastest and most flexible SFF machine we've ever seen. If you want a killer gaming PC in a relatively compact case, this overclocked, water-cooled effort won't disappoint.