- Review Price: £999.00
For the PC buyer that doesn’t like the idea of building their own system, there are two basic purchasing options available. Either you go with one of the big name manufacturers, like Dell, HP, Lenovo, or Alienware who make their own custom systems or you go with one of the myriad of smaller local companies that build systems from off the shelf components. Both alternatives have their advantages – unique styling and generally simpler component choice for the former vs having greater choice but a potential mishmash in terms of design for the latter – and which one you choose to go with is entirely up to you but on test here today we have a PC that falls firmly in the latter category.
CyberPower Systems is a UK based system integrator (PC builder to you and me) that, just as I’ve described, takes all the components you select, from its comprehensive list, and puts them together for you, installs whatever software you choose, slaps a 3-year warranty on it and sells the lot to you at a moderate premium. It offers a wide variety of system themes from cheap and cheerful, through stylish home theatre models, to powerful gaming rigs like the one I’m looking at today. So, let’s find out whether this no frills approach to system building is one that gets our thumbs up.
The model I’m looking at is the Gamer Infinity Crossfire HD. It comes configured with an Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 CPU, 4GB 800MHz DDR2 RAM, two ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics cards, an Asus P5E motherboard, a 500GB Samsung hard drive, a DVD/CD writer, and a Hiper 630W power supply. The whole lot is wrapped up inside an NZXT Tempest chassis and the CPU and memory have both been given a healthy overclock.
CyberPower offers overclocking as an optional extra with two levels available. The cheaper option is dubbed S&S, or Safe and Stable, and looks to boost performance by 10 – 20 per cent. Alternatively you can go all out and get the XXX option that aims to push your system to between 20 and 30 per cent higher than stock. The former will set you back £49 while the XXX option costs a hefty £89. Our system had the memory overclocked to 888MHz and the CPU to a not inconsiderable 4GHz, which by our calculations makes for a 33 per cent increase, i.e. XXX all the way!
The system came with Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit pre installed and an OEM Vista disc is included to restore your computer back to its original settings should anything go wrong. No extra software was included, which is something we, as enthusiasts, value, but there are options for having basic productivity and security programs installed if you wish.
As you may imagine from that comprehensive components list, this machine is large and heavy, which is quite understandable. However, the fact it is also very noisy is less forgivable. The main culprits seemed to be a fan in the front of the case that was only capable of running at full pelt or not at all (I just unplugged it in the end) and the CPU fan. This was running at full speed because – now this is one we’ve come across before – the motherboard’s temperature based fan speed controllers had been disabled to ensure a consistently stable overclock.
As I say, this is a problem we’ve seen before and we really just don’t understand it. If you’re going to disable the fan controller to get a better overclock, use either a manual controller to find a balance between fan speed (i.e. noise) and cooling to at least try and bring the noise level down or just use a better cooler. This is all the more pertinent considering we found this system suffered from a common problem that besets many review PCs that come pre overclocked – it simply wasn’t stable.
Running the Prime95 torture test the system threw up errors within seconds. Admittedly we had no problems during our benchmarking but were we running some intense video encoding, for instance, it seems likely the system would’ve crashed. Moreover, we’d simply never recommend running a system that’s so close to the edge. Quickly dialling back the FSB from 444MHz to 400MHz, which brought the memory back to stock speed and the CPU to a more modest 3.6GHz, and the same torture test passed without any problems. Essentially, when the website says extreme overclocking, don’t take it lightly!
It’s certainly little things like this that would always make me wary of buying a system that conglomerates a whole variety of different components and certainly one overclocked like this. That said, the fact that everything is off the shelf, and thus easy to replace, means that sorting problems like the fan noise yourself is very easily done and if you find your system unstable a quick call to tech support should sort any overclocking problems.
Considering the systems from CyberPower are fully customisable I won’t comment too much on the merits of each individual component and I’ll let you decide whether the blue strip lights and black plastic look of the chassis is one that appeals to you. However, I will give you a brief overview.
The chassis has room for eight 3.5in hard drives and three 5.25in drive bays, one of which incorporates a 3.5in drive adapter for mounting a floppy drive or memory card reader. The layout is slightly unconventional with the power supply mounted in the bottom and the motherboard above. It’s a layout that makes sense though as the ATX standard that normally has the power supply mounted above the motherboard is an inefficient design. It tends to create a pocket of heat around the CPU and memory, which in turn raises the temperature of the power supply lowering its efficency. By moving the power supply out of harm’s way heat from the CPU and memory can be drawn directly out of the top of the case, keeping things considerably cooler.
Talking of fans, this case is packed to the gills with them and they’re all large too. In front of the hard drive bays are two 120mm intake fans that include dust filters. On the top there are two giant 140mm blowers that are just perfect for mounting a large water cooling radiator under (if you fancy doing a bit of tinkering). Finally, there is a further 140mm fan on the back just next to the CPU. All this lot combined does an excellent job of keeping all the components cool and, although the industrial design is rather uncompromising in achieving the impressive cooling performance still, we’d recommend it for an extreme system like this.
Aside from the aforementioned problems with noise and stability, the build quality is top notch with all cables routed in such a way as to optimise airflow and keep clutter to a minimum. There’s nothing extravagant here that’s going to impress your mates, like you would get with the machines Vadim used to produce, but everything’s neat enough and the optional basic lighting and UV trimming adds a little something if you like that sort of thing.
One thing I must applaud is the balance of components that CyberPower has put together. All too often you see ”gaming” PCs configured with £500 quad core CPUs, terabytes of storage, and only 2GB of RAM and a single graphics card. By combining a relatively low cost CPU with ample 4GB of RAM and Vista 64-bit, your everyday computing experience is going to feel snappier and the dual graphics cards give you miles of headroom for gaming. Considering we gave CyberPower no influence on what type of system to send us, it’s good to see its version of a quality gaming system fits in exactly with ours.
We started our performance testing with PCMark Vantage, which tests all aspects of a PC’s performance including image editing, video encoding, gaming, web browsing and productivity. The CyberPower achieved an overall score of 5366, which is not bad at all. Obviously the gaming score is high and the CPU and memory help considerably but hard drive speed in particular would seem to be the main reason this otherwise fast machine doesn’t get a higher score.
Next we moved onto game testing and very quickly it became obvious this machine glided through games with the ease of water off a duck’s back. Call Of Duty 4 at 1,920 x 1,200 with 4xAA, was running at over 90fps. Moving onto the ultimate test – Crysis – we fired up our usual test run at 1,920 x 1,200 with 2xAA and got a very playable 50.46 fps. An ultimate gaming machine this is without doubt – it really is amazing what £1,000 can buy you nowadays!
We asked CyberPower to send us the best gaming PC it could for £1,000 and the machine we received fit the bill superbly. The combination of components is near enough exactly what we would’ve picked ourselves and the incredible performance, particularly in our gaming tests reflects this. The build quality is fine, though not outstanding and we did have a few stability issues due to the extreme overclocking that had been applied but we’re sure these issues could easily be fixed with a quick call to tech support and the three-year warranty ensures you’ll be trouble free for the life of the PC.
”’UPDATE”’ here is the direct link to order this PC for £998.75 inc VAT
Score in detail
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