- Review Price: £899.00
Despite the amazing progress that has been made in miniaturisation, it’s still almost impossible to get impressive gaming performance from a small PC while staying within a reasonable budget. We’ve looked at a few mini-ITX systems recently, but haven’t found one we would unreservedly recommend – at least not for gamers. The Tranquil PC ixL was beautifully built and utterly silent, but severely limited in the graphics department, while Dino PC’s Mini Carnivore allowed us to play most games, but never at anything close to high detail. The Cryo Pico was the only machine a serious gamer would consider, yet it was barely small enough to be considered a mini-ITX system and slightly noisier than we would have hoped.
Now we have an entrant from Cyberpower that might well steal the crown. Its daringly named Game Qube is far smaller than the Pico yet almost as powerful (more so in some regards). It packs a water-cooled, overclocked quad-core Core i5 CPU, USB 3.0 motherboard and overclocked DirectX 11 Nvidia GTX 460 graphics – all in a case that has nearly the same footprint as the Mini Carnivore (though it’s twice as high). Best of all, this diminutive monster can be yours for a mere £899.99, which is cheap considering its size and specialised components.
Cyberpower has housed its tiny gaming PC in Silverstone’s brand-new Sugo SG07 case, which measures 222 x 190 x 350mm (WxDxH). While not quite up to the perfectly-machined finish of the ixL, it’s certainly attractive, with a brushed gun-metal front panel set into a steel matt black main chassis. Build quality is also good, though there’s a little flex in the side and top panels. Impressively, it’s the smallest case on the market that will take an over-sized graphics card like the Radeon 5970, providing the room, cooling and power to install a truly high-end mini-ITX setup.
Its front connectivity is a little disappointing, as all you get are two USB 2.0 ports to either side of 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks. At the bottom left corner is a large power button and a blue hard drive LED. There’s little chance that you’ll ever press the reset button by mistake with this PC, as it’s actually located around the back.
This is also where the rest of the PC’s connectivity is located and, thanks to its use of the same Gigabyte GA-H55N-USB3 motherboard as found in the Mini Carnivore, the selection is very generous. A combined mouse and keyboard PS2 port, six USB 2.0 plus two USB 3.0 ports and powered eSATA are all on hand for hooking up peripherals and external storage. These are joined by Gigabit Ethernet for networking, while audio outputs are provided by six analogue jacks plus a digital optical jack. FireWire is the only notable casualty of the machine’s small size.
Of course there’s also a selection of onboard video connectors, but these are inactive because the Intel Core i5 750 doesn’t carry integrated graphics. However, the dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 460 provides dual DVI and mini-HDMI out, though it lacks DisplayPort as on ATI’s cards.
Unlike Nintendo’s little box, there’s certainly no lack of power inside Cyberpower’s Game Qube. As mentioned, the CPU at the heart of this machine is Intel’s quad-core Core i5 760, which has been given a healthy overclock from its stock speed of 2.88GHz to 3.6GHz (or higher, if you’re lucky). While this might seem low compared to the 4GHz clocks on systems like the Cryo Nano, keep in mind that everything is packed very tightly into the diminutive Sugo SG07 case and higher overclocks are limited by both this and the small motherboard. Still, on the CPU side of things this PC will handle anything you’d care to throw its way with ease.
In fact, Cyberpower has resorted to watercooling the CPU to keep it running with the minimum of noise and without overheating. The waterblock is hooked up to a radiator cooled exclusively by the dimple-bladed 140mm fan fitted to the top of the case. Aside from the video card cooling, the radiator fan and that of the custom 600W power supply are the only fans in the Game Qube. This ensures that, as long as you opt for a quiet graphics card, Cyberpower’s little machine not only makes for one of the smallest but also quietest gaming PC’s we’ve tested.
The CPU is backed up by 4GB of Elixir DDR3 RAM, which takes up both of the motherboard’s available memory slots. We might have preferred a more well-known brand, but at least – unlike a lot of generic memory – the DIMMs feature heatsinks. As far as memory upgrades are concerned, the price of 8GB in two DIMMs is still prohibitive, so if you want that much or more, you might be better off looking at a micro-ATX system (which will offer four slots) instead of mini-ITX.
Permanent storage is provided by a 1TB Samsung F3. At under £1,000 we really weren’t expecting an SSD as found in the Cryo Pico, though it’s definitely an upgrade we would recommend if you can afford it. For optical duties there’s a slimline DVD Rewriter, with the option of a Blu-ray writer for a reasonable £137.
While we’re on the topic of internals, we have to commend the excellent job Cyberpower did of keeping everything as neat as humanly possible despite the Sugo’s lack of advanced cable tidying options.
So far the Cyberpower Infinity Game Qube has effortlessly impressed us, but can it keep up in the gaming stakes? Until recently we wouldn’t have recommended any gaming PC with an Nvidia card – for the simple reason that they produced more heat and noise, and consumed more power than similarly performing ATI Radeon equivalents. However, this all changed with the debut of the award-winning GTX 460 just over a month ago.
To add even more desirability to its system, Cyberpower has chosen to go with an MSI Cyclone graphics card, which enhances the 1GB GTX 460 with a large custom cooler. When idle or under light load, this leads the Game Qube to be almost inaudible. And though the fan does kick up significantly under higher load, it creates a gentle whoosh rather than an annoying rattle or whine, making it easy to live with.
Though even a slightly overclocked GTX 460 can’t quite match the more expensive Radeon HD 5850, not to mention the 5870 as found in the Cryo Pico, nVidia’s latest nonetheless puts in a good performance, and brings Nvidia-exclusive benefits such as stereoscopic 3D and PhysX. Crysis at High detail is not a problem, though at Very High (1,920 x 1,080, no AA) our intense Gaming-PC benchmark pushed it down to a barely playable 24fps average.
DirectX 11 title Stalker: Call of Pripyat ran at a smooth 80fps, with the 460 GTX again trailing the ATI cards by a slight margin.
As we saw with the Mini Carnivore, even Call of Duty 4 can still test the graphics capabilities of small PCs, but not with a ‘proper’ gaming machine such as the Game Qube. In fact you’ll generally need to make very few compromises, and only a minority of the most demanding titles at their highest detail settings will even begin to stress this miniature beast out. Plus you can always upgrade the graphics, or indeed anything else that takes your fancy.
Overall, then, we have a fairly quiet, sleek and small machine, offering excellent build quality and attractive looks, with a capable selection of components, all for just £899. You may find a better-specified tower system for around the same price, but everything considered there’s little that can beat this small Cyberpower. For example, the base configuration Cryo Pico will also set you back around £900, but for that money you get a dual (instead of quad)-core CPU, less powerful HD 5770 graphics, smaller hard drive and weaker power supply, all stuffed into a far bulkier, heavier case that’s noisier to boot. Everything considered, Cyberpower has quite simply built the best small form factor gaming PC we’ve seen.
Cyberpower’s Infinity Game Qube is one of the smallest, quietest and simply best all-round mini-ITX gaming PCs on the market, at a price that’s difficult to beat. If you want a small gaming system that’s stuffed with features and will look great under your TV or on your desk, there’s little that can touch it.
(centre)The video card in the picture above is not the MSI model that our review sample ended up with.(centre)
Score in detail
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