Posted by admin | Posted in 8 Stars, Cyberpower | Posted on 29-10-2009-05-2008
CPU: Intel i5 750 2.66GHz Memory: 4GB 1333Mhz DDR3 – Unbranded
Graphics Card: ATI 4850
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2 Micro-ATX Storage: 500GB Samsung 7200rpm
Case: Coolermaster Elite 310
Power Supply: 450w – Unbranded
Optical Drive: 24x DVD/CD RW Combo
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64bit Monitor: None
In these financially stressful times value is paramount, so we’ve asked a few manufacturers to send us some budget-friendly gaming PCs. Coming in at just under £600 for a Core i5 machine, CyberPower’s Infinity i5 Hercules SE certainly lives up to the budget part (and is incidentally also one of the lightest gaming systems we’ve reviewed), so let’s see how it holds up in every other regard.
CyberPower has gone with a Cooler Master mini-tower case, specifically the Elite 310 which – contrary to what its name suggests – resides near the bottom of the Cooler Master range. Its main body is strong steel with a durable matte black paint job, but the front is glossy black plastic, so fingerprints, dust and scratches can quickly detract from the reasonably attractive look. This look is enhanced by a blue pearlescent strip running around the front, with blue hard drive and power LEDs at the front and lit from within by blue LEDs courtesy of CyberPower.
The 310 offers four 5.25in drive bays, one of which is filled by the LG 22x DVD-Rewriter. This optical drive is remarkable only in that it’s an EIDE model, which is something of an unwelcome rarity nowadays. However, aside from aesthetics inside the case and possible compatibility issues with future motherboards that only feature SATA ports (as many do already), there’s no practical downside to this.
Below the case’s 5.25in bays resides a single external 3.5in one, while a second ‘faux’ 3.5in panel holds the pleasantly curved power and reset buttons. Two USB ports as well as silver headphone and microphone jacks are found near the 310’s base. This is not a particularly handy location, however, and the only scenario where these are even usable is if you place the case on your desk.
At the back is a far more user-friendly and indeed generous selection, comprising a PS2 keyboard port, co-axial and optical digital audio outputs, ten USB ports, eSATA and FireWire connections, a Gigabit LAN port and six analogue audio jacks for eight-channel surround sound from the motherboard, plus DVI and VGA from the video card.
Opening the case up is achieved simply by undoing two thumbscrews with plastic grips. Inside CyberPower has gone nuts on the extras, making this system even better value than its components would suggest. This includes a 12in blue neon light tube (£4), three 120mm Akasa Silent LED-lit fans (£25), Sound Absorbing Foam (£19), Anti-vibration Fan Mounts (£5) and the CyberPower Power Supply Gasket (£3). That’s £56 of upgrades thrown in for a price that’s already lower than the system would previously have been on its own.
Unfortunately the neon light tube largely goes to waste, as this Cooler Master 310 case is the version without the optional Perspex side window and the fans alone are adequate to light visible areas. The anti-vibration fan mounts (basically just soft rubber plugs) aren’t very durable as two were broken off on arrival, leaving one of the fans almost loose.
The gasket works well but doesn’t cover all the PSU’s contact points with its mounts, and finally the fans don’t live up to their name by being a tad noisy – especially the one mounted on the side panel that’s powered directly from the power supply (rather than fan headers on the motherboard) and thus runs at a constant high speed.
However, once the side fan is unplugged it does all add up to a PC that, while far from quiet, is noticeably less audible than a few other rigs we’ve had through the office recently.
Getting to what’s inside the case, the basis for this setup is a Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD2 Micro-ATX motherboard. CyberPower’s choice to go with a micro-ATX rather than a regular board definitely pays off in leaving the insides of the Elite 310 case feeling roomy, with plenty of space for good air flow. This is helped by the excellent job CyberPower has done on cable-tidying, despite the case’s lack of routing options.
Though not an overclocker’s board per se, the GA-P55M-UD2’s user-friendly BIOS has extensive options for tinkering to your heart’s content. However, despite the case’s extra fans the Intel stock cooler on the Core i5 750 is simply not up to much, as even with a relatively modest overclock of 3.15GHz (over the 750’s standard Turbo maximum of 2.80GHz) temperatures started getting quite high.
The single most important element of any gaming system is its graphics, and here CyberPower has stuck with an AMD/ATI Radeon 4850. While this card won an award when we reviewed it last year, things have moved on since then – but it’s still a decent option at the Infinity i5 Hercules SE’s price point. In Call of Duty 4 for example, it returned an eminently playable 56 frames per second (fps) at 1,920 x 1,200 with details at maximum and two samples of anti-aliasing. As usual though, Crysis did not run as happily. At the same resolution, the game was just about playable at high detail with an average of 24fps, but we had to drop down to 1,680 x 1,050 to get a (mostly) smooth 27fps.
At this stage some of you might be considering buying this PC to throw in a second Radeon 4850 card at a later date. However, this is not a good option thanks to a quirk of the Gigabyte motherboard. You see, despite high-end features like Ultra Durable 3 technology and claimed support for CrossFireX, the GA-P55M-UD2’s second 16x slot actually runs at only 4x maximum as opposed to the usual 8x (for P55 boards).
Of course there’s always the option to upgrade the primary card to begin with, and CyberPower offers the full gamut of nVidia and ATI cards – all the way up to the GeForce GTX295 or fantastic Radeon HD 5870, a single one of which will more than blow dual 4850s out of the water. If you are going this route, the £208 HD 5850 is currently the best value upgrade though. With a 700W PSU there should certainly be enough power for even the biggest cards – despite the generic-looking Win Power unit CyberPower has used here failing to inspire too much confidence.
In fact the only real weak link in this good-value gamer system is its graphics, which are adequate for most games at moderate resolutions but should be the first port of call when upgrading. While we do usually prefer better graphics over a faster CPU though, in this case the future-proofing provided by the P55 platform is worth the trade-off. Having said all that, the Infinity i5 Hercules SE is not quite as special as its name would imply and not without its faults. As we should be getting a few other systems in soon around this price point it’s worth keeping an eye out before making your buying decision.
If you want a new Core i5 gaming system that won’t break the bank, CyberPower’s Infinity i5 Hercules SE is definitely worth considering, especially if you don’t mind upgrading the graphics card at a later date.