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Relative newcomer DinoPC sent us its best shot at a sub-£1,000 gaming PC recently with the brilliantly-named DinoPC i7-Osaurus. Indeed it represented great value for money and thus won itself a Recommended Award. Now we're looking at a new entrant at this price point, the £949 Wired2Fire Hellspawn. With the company's previous Hellspawn ALC winning one of the same awards, we have great hopes that it will be a worthy challenger.
At a quick glance, the Hellspawn offers an inferior list of components. It sports the same 4GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive capacity, but uses a Core i5 750 processor instead of the i7-Osaurus' i7 860, and comes with a slower AMD/ATI Radeon HD 5850 rather than the DinoPC's significantly better 5870. However, to balance the scales a bit, the Hellspawn utilises a massive custom cooler where the i7-Osaurus used the stock Intel one. Accordingly, Wired2Fire has worked its usual overclocking magic to give a guaranteed CPU speed of between 3.8 and 4GHz. You also get a Blu-ray drive to make for a more complete entertainment experience.
The PC comes very well packaged, though the chassis lacks complete internal padding. It uses neither a CoolerMaster nor an Antec case, thus setting it apart from many rivals (not to mention its Hellspawn Xfire and Xtreme cousins) from the get-go. Instead, this PC is housed in a mid-tower Asgard case by relatively little-known Xigmatek. This is a 'budget' case easily available online for around £30, but it's far better than you would expect, offering quite a few premium features.
For one thing, Xigmatek claims "the inviolable Asgard is the world's first black coating entry-level chassis". In plain English, it's the only case below £35 we've come across that's finished in matte black both outside and inside. Not that you'll be able to appreciate its insides too much, as there's no proper side window; but there is a large perforation pattern on the left side which with some lighting inside (conspicuously absent in the Hellspawn) should be adequate to appreciate this extra.
The main body, side panels and mesh front are constructed using steel, with only some glossy black strips and connection panel evidencing use of plastic. Build quality is very solid indeed for the price, its relatively lightweight, and its dimensions of 185(W) x 475(D) x 408(H) mm make it compact enough to be easy to carry. Its front panel houses four 5.25in mesh drive bays, one 3.25in one and a mesh 120mm fan intake panel with its own dust filter. Remove the black thumb screws and the side panels come away easily.