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£600 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, 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 gaming machine, that’s the build to buy.

WINNER: Gladiator

“=””>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 inc VAT “=””>£600 inc VAT
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