Summer of Computing 2017: Budget Builds

It’s that time of the year again, choose a few components to suit certain builds and compare it against a few retailers, but this time with a bit of a twist. Instead of just gaming, I will throw in a few other categories such as home PC, and HTPC.

A similar format to last year, but instead of running around different retailers, I will stick to just one that has the best equipment on offer for that price.

Each week will focus on a set budget and include one build or laptop which best meets the criteria.


This week will look at some of the lowest budget equipment you can buy; be it pre-built or in components and it will include all peripherals to suit that build. There may be some higher price equipment to make the system feel more user friendly, such as a 1080p monitor instead of a 768p monitor.

My chosen e-tailer will be OverclockersUK (OcUK).

overclockers

OverclockersUK started out in 1999 as a small company set to change the overclocking world by offering CPUs with a known overclocking performance. As the company gained traction it steadily grew until in 2012 it was bought out by German company Caseking where it has grown further.


General Purpose Home PC

This category will focus on building a general purpose PC which everyone has had experience with. It’s by no means a speed machine, but it lets you complete your homework or check out Facebook.

Processor AMD A4-6300 29.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-a4-6300-3.70ghz-socket-fm2-apu-trinity-dual-core-processor-ad6300okhlbox-cp-380-am.html
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 43.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-f2a88xm-ds2-amd-a88x-socket-fm2-ddr3-micro-atx-motherboard-mb-474-gi.html
Memory GeiL Black Dragon 4GB 1333MHz 17.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/geil-black-dragon-4gb-1x4gb-ddr3-pc3-10666c9-1333mhz-single-module-gd34gb1333c9sc-my-119-gl.html
Power Supply XFX XT 400W 34.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/xfx-xt-series-400w-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-021-xf.html
Storage Toshiba P300 1TB 40.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-p300-1tb-7200rpm-64mb-cache-high-performance-hard-drive-hdwd110uzsva-hd-044-ts.html
Case AeroCool CS-110 21.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/aerocool-cs-1101-midi-tower-case-black-ca-194-ae.html
Optical LG 24x DVDRW 13.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lg-24x-dvdrw-sata-rewriter-oem-gh24nsd0-cd-121-lg.html
Operating System Windows 10 94.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/microsoft-windows-10-64-bit-dvd-oem-ms-kw9-00139-sw-172-ms.html
Keyboard LMS Bundle 9.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lms-data-usb-keyboard-and-mouse-bundle-km9014-kb-000-ls.html
Mouse Bundle
Monitor ASUS VE228TR 22″ 1920×1080 79.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-vs228de-22-1920×1080-tn-widescreen-led-monitor-black-mo-066-as.html

Total: £388.82

So that’s actually a pretty decent build considering it includes EVERYTHING to set up and go, okay you need a desk and chair.

It won’t be the fastest and it isn’t the most up to date, but it will have enough space to hold your family photos, complete homework and browse the internet without any issues. A good (and most would consider a must) upgrade would be a solid state drive (SSD) to really perk the system up, but it would push the build over £400 and isn’t strictly required at this stage.

A good side of building this computer compared to spending a little less at high street retailers is the fact you get the full warranty of each component and the components are higher quality.

Ways to save money:

  • If you plan on using a different operating system such as Linux, that can save you up to £94.99;
  • Most digital media can be found online or used via a USB pen drive, you can remove the optical drive;
  • The monitor is a standard 1920x1080p model; this can be swapped out for a lower resolution version to save up to £20.
Processor AMD A4-6300 29.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-a4-6300-3.70ghz-socket-fm2-apu-trinity-dual-core-processor-ad6300okhlbox-cp-380-am.html
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 43.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-f2a88xm-ds2-amd-a88x-socket-fm2-ddr3-micro-atx-motherboard-mb-474-gi.html
Memory GeiL Black Dragon 4GB 1333MHz 17.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/geil-black-dragon-4gb-1x4gb-ddr3-pc3-10666c9-1333mhz-single-module-gd34gb1333c9sc-my-119-gl.html
Power Supply XFX XT 400W 34.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/xfx-xt-series-400w-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-021-xf.html
Storage Toshiba P300 1TB 40.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-p300-1tb-7200rpm-64mb-cache-high-performance-hard-drive-hdwd110uzsva-hd-044-ts.html
Case AeroCool CS-110 21.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/aerocool-cs-1101-midi-tower-case-black-ca-194-ae.html
Keyboard LMS Bundle 9.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lms-data-usb-keyboard-and-mouse-bundle-km9014-kb-000-ls.html
Monitor ASUS VS197DE 18.5″ 1366x768p 59.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-vs197de-18.5-1366×768-tn-led-monitor-black-mo-052-as.html

Total: £259.84

Shaving off a few simple parts can gain a pretty substantial saving.


Home Theatre PC

This will focus more on building a computer for under your TV. Very likely used to stream content from Netflix of Amazon Video.

Processor AMD A4-6300 29.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-a4-6300-3.70ghz-socket-fm2-apu-trinity-dual-core-processor-ad6300okhlbox-cp-380-am.html
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 43.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-f2a88xm-ds2-amd-a88x-socket-fm2-ddr3-micro-atx-motherboard-mb-474-gi.html
Memory GeiL Black Dragon 4GB 1333MHz 17.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/geil-black-dragon-4gb-1x4gb-ddr3-pc3-10666c9-1333mhz-single-module-gd34gb1333c9sc-my-119-gl.html
Power Supply XFX XT 400W 34.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/xfx-xt-series-400w-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-021-xf.html
Storage Toshiba P300 1TB 40.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-p300-1tb-7200rpm-64mb-cache-high-performance-hard-drive-hdwd110uzsva-hd-044-ts.html
Case Silverstone ML03 HTPC Case 68.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-milo-ml03-htpc-case-black-sst-ml03b-ca-163-sv.html
Optical LG 24x DVDRW 13.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lg-24x-dvdrw-sata-rewriter-oem-gh24nsd0-cd-121-lg.html
Operating System Windows 10 94.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/microsoft-windows-10-64-bit-dvd-oem-ms-kw9-00139-sw-172-ms.html
Keyboard Logitech K400 PLUS 29.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/logitech-wireless-touch-keyboard-k400-plus-black-uk-layout-kb-257-lg.html
Mouse Bundle

Total: £375.91

You’ll notice a few key components will be the same as they’re good for what they are and can carry out this level of work perfectly.

We’ve removed the monitor because HTPC’s are generally connected to a TV. A wireless keyboard/ mouse combo has been added so you can use it on the other side of the room (up to 10 metres away) and the case should be ideal to fit in most TV stands without much issue.

The price is quite high due to needing more specialist parts, an extra £20 on a wireless keyboard/ mouse for example.

Just like the previous system, money can be saved by removing the operating system and optical drive:

Processor AMD A4-6300 29.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-a4-6300-3.70ghz-socket-fm2-apu-trinity-dual-core-processor-ad6300okhlbox-cp-380-am.html
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 43.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-f2a88xm-ds2-amd-a88x-socket-fm2-ddr3-micro-atx-motherboard-mb-474-gi.html
Memory GeiL Black Dragon 4GB 1333MHz 17.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/geil-black-dragon-4gb-1x4gb-ddr3-pc3-10666c9-1333mhz-single-module-gd34gb1333c9sc-my-119-gl.html
Power Supply XFX XT 400W 34.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/xfx-xt-series-400w-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-021-xf.html
Storage Toshiba P300 1TB 40.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-p300-1tb-7200rpm-64mb-cache-high-performance-hard-drive-hdwd110uzsva-hd-044-ts.html
Case Silverstone ML03 HTPC Case 68.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-milo-ml03-htpc-case-black-sst-ml03b-ca-163-sv.html
Keyboard Logitech K400 PLUS 29.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/logitech-wireless-touch-keyboard-k400-plus-black-uk-layout-kb-257-lg.html
Mouse Bundle

Total: £266.93


Gaming PC

Moving on to gaming, an area which can get quite expensive. Let’s see how cheap we can make this while keeping the cost low. A gaming computer within this price range won’t play GTA V with high settings at 1080p smoothly, but CS:GO or DOTA will play perfectly fine with around 60FPS.

Processor AMD A8-7650k 74.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-kaveri-a10-7890k-wraith-12-compute-core-apu-w-radeon-r7-graphics-4-cpu-8-gpu-compute-cores-cp-396-am.html
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 43.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-f2a88xm-ds2-amd-a88x-socket-fm2-ddr3-micro-atx-motherboard-mb-474-gi.html
Memory GeiL Black Dragon 4GB 1333MHz 17.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/geil-black-dragon-4gb-1x4gb-ddr3-pc3-10666c9-1333mhz-single-module-gd34gb1333c9sc-my-119-gl.html
Power Supply XFX XT 400W 34.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/xfx-xt-series-400w-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-021-xf.html
Storage Toshiba P300 1TB 40.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-p300-1tb-7200rpm-64mb-cache-high-performance-hard-drive-hdwd110uzsva-hd-044-ts.html
Case AeroCool CS-110 21.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/aerocool-cs-1101-midi-tower-case-black-ca-194-ae.html
Optical LG 24x DVDRW 13.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lg-24x-dvdrw-sata-rewriter-oem-gh24nsd0-cd-121-lg.html
Operating System Windows 10 94.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/microsoft-windows-10-64-bit-dvd-oem-ms-kw9-00139-sw-172-ms.html
Keyboard LMS Bundle 9.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lms-data-usb-keyboard-and-mouse-bundle-km9014-kb-000-ls.html
Mouse Bundle
Monitor ASUS VE228TR 22″ 1920×1080 79.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-vs228de-22-1920×1080-tn-widescreen-led-monitor-black-mo-066-as.html

Total: £433.82

Slightly more expensive than the previous builds, but it does include a better processor for gaming. It is by no means a “beast”, but for the price and what it includes, it is a pretty capable machine.

If you only plan on gaming with Steam games, you can save £95.99 and install Steam OS. However, with that saved money, I would buy better peripherals.

Processor AMD A8-7650k 74.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-kaveri-a10-7890k-wraith-12-compute-core-apu-w-radeon-r7-graphics-4-cpu-8-gpu-compute-cores-cp-396-am.html
Motherboard Gigabyte F2A88XM-DS2 43.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-f2a88xm-ds2-amd-a88x-socket-fm2-ddr3-micro-atx-motherboard-mb-474-gi.html
Memory GeiL Black Dragon 4GB 1333MHz 17.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/geil-black-dragon-4gb-1x4gb-ddr3-pc3-10666c9-1333mhz-single-module-gd34gb1333c9sc-my-119-gl.html
Power Supply XFX XT 400W 34.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/xfx-xt-series-400w-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-021-xf.html
Storage Toshiba P300 1TB 40.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-p300-1tb-7200rpm-64mb-cache-high-performance-hard-drive-hdwd110uzsva-hd-044-ts.html
Case AeroCool CS-110 21.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/aerocool-cs-1101-midi-tower-case-black-ca-194-ae.html
Keyboard Steelseries APEX RAW Keyboard 19.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/steelseries-apex-raw-gaming-keyboard-64123-kb-051-st.html
Mouse ASUS Cerberus Gaming Mouse 24.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-cerberus-performance-gaming-mouse-sp-012-as.html
Monitor ASUS VE228TR 22″ 1920×1080 79.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-vs228de-22-1920×1080-tn-widescreen-led-monitor-black-mo-066-as.html

Total: £359.83

Still not bank breaking and even some change from £400 to get some games in the Steam sales.


Summary

There we have it, a range of budget pleasing computers to suit most needs. As I said earlier, don’t expect miracles, manage your expectations. AMD is still king at this price range with the APU range based on the FM2+ socket. If AMD can keep the train running from Ryzen and introduce a FM3/3+ range of APU’s, that would seal the deal for cheap computers for the future.

A recommendation I would make is to add a Solid State Drive (SSD), this can really improve the performance for an extra £50-£70 depending on capacity and model.

I would personally choose the Western Digital Green 120GB model for £52.99.

Wondering why component prices have risen in the last 12 months? Check out my post here.

These computers are nearly as cheap as you can buy brand new, you can save extra money by opting for less memory and a small hard drive, but with Google Chrome needing 3GB just to open and all of our media consumption being digital; larger capacities are better.

Next week, Week 2: 

NB: Prices were correct as of 12pm 27/06/2017.


If you like what this post has given, give it a share and also comment to tell me what you’d like to read in the future.

Want me to review a certain product? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

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Review: LG 29UM68-P Ultrawide Monitor

I’ve been hunting for a nice little (haha yeah right!) ultrawide monitor for a while now,  ever since I witnessed the displays at CeBIT 2015 I loved them. Very few people I know have one and anyone I ask usually jumped on the 4K hype train, even the sales “advisor” at a local PC World even said I should spend the money on a 4K display; well that was until I ripped him to pieces saying how he shouldn’t assume everyone can afford a £500+ graphics card to adequately handle 4K gaming.

Back on track, I have finally purchased one, it’s not the model I wanted, but I did get change from £250. The LG 29UM68(-P) is one of the more budget orientated models on the market, but don’t let it’s target put you off. It features a tasty 2560x1080p IPS panel, AMD FreeSync technology, and sRGB over 99%, it has more than enough appeal for everyone.

Why did I choose 2560×1080?
The answer is simple, practicality! Firstly, I have a very small office and two monitors side by side would be too large to fit into this room. I get most of the benefits of a multi-monitor setup without the large bezel and footprint. Yes, a 1440p or even 4k monitor would have been more beneficial but that’s where point two comes in. I loved my multi-monitor setup in my old office in games, the slightly extended and natural Field of View made for a much more immersive experience.


Specifications
So let’s take a look at what the monitor has to offer (specifications taken directly from LG website):

Size (Inch) 29″ Flat
Panel Type IPS
Color Gamut (CIE1931) sRGB over 99%
Colour Depth (Num of Colours) 8bits (6bit+FRC), 16.7M
Pixel Pitch (mm) 0.2628(H) x 0.2628(V)
Resolution 2560 x 1080
Brightness(Typ.) 250cd/m2
Contrast Ratio(Original) 1000:1
(DFC) Mega
Response Time_Typ.(on/off) 14ms
(GTG) 5ms
Viewing Angle(CR≥10) 178/178

LG never cease to impress with IPS panel implementation, 99% sRGB, 178° viewing angle and a relatively low 5ms (GTG) response time stack this to be a pretty decent offering.


Images
And what about the monitor itself?

If you’ve never seen an ultrawide monitor in person before, the appearance may shock you on first look. For a 29″ panel, it has the overall height of a panel around 24″, but the width of a monitor around 32″.

SAMSUNG CSC

Personally, I’d say this monitor is targeted at the entry level and it does show that with the display input options. Just a single DisplayPort 1.2, 2x HDMi 1.4 ports, AUX out and DC power.

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

The base is disappointing, considering how small the screen is vertical, I would have liked a height adjustable stand. This stand places the bottom of the screen just 10cm off the surface.

SAMSUNG CSC

It does have a small cable management hook…..wow.

SAMSUNG CSC

It does have a nice profile when installed and it does allow the monitor to tilt up to 20°.

SAMSUNG CSC

Fully assembled, you get a small shudder as you realise the space on your desk isn’t enough.

 

SAMSUNG CSC

 

Box and accessories
The box is very non-flashy, a focus on “economic” has taken the logistical world in recent years.

It does show off the fact it has AMD FreeSync, but I think the logo should have been bigger on the front of the box to really reel in customers.

SAMSUNG CSC

 

SAMSUNG CSC

 

No DisplayPort cable? Really LG?

SAMSUNG CSC


Usage
Using the monitor is near enough the same as a standard 16:9, but you may have to position yourself slightly differently if [like me] your desk was set up perfectly to look at the centre of a 16:9.

Desktop
Desktop usage is simple, you might have to drag your mouse further to get to the edges so get used to falling off your mouse pad a few times. You can comfortably fit two windows on the same screen without having to compromise and sometimes have to deal with mobile mode (shudders).

Windows

Video
So what about watching a video, surely the weird horizontal resolution would play up here? and it does.

As you can see in the images below, the top is a standard 1280×720 video window and the bottom is a standard 1920×1080 video window. If you try to watch something on YouTube, it will usually upscale to the 1080p format, but you will still have the black bars either side. There is software available to change this, but the distortion makes for an unfavourable experience.

720example11080example1

So what about gaming?
21:9 monitors have been touted as perfect gaming monitors, giving a multi-monitor experience without the central bezel. While this is true, expect some minor compatibility issues as 21:9 isn’t a default resolution just yet.

Game #1: Need For Speed (2015): I wanted to test this game because I’ve heard mixed reviews with scaling. At 2560×1080, the in-game (driving) scales perfectly and actually just makes it look like you’ve adjusted your viewing angle. However, the videos and menus are fixed 1920×1080 and it does detract slightly; especially if you wipe out and expect to witness it in full resolution.

nfs1080 nfs2560

Game #2: Battlefield 4: Shooters are typically where wide Field of View comes in handy, you can see slightly more to your sides which give you a slight tactical advantage. Here you gain that wider viewing angle as seen by the door, radiator and wall markings.

bf4 2016-08-14 18-53-08-77bf4 2016-08-14 18-51-53-67


Menus
The monitor comes with a menu joystick style navigation. A single click opens up a sort of Apple style scroll wheel choice. The menus are then very intuitive to navigate with the joystick on the bottom of the monitor.

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

SAMSUNG CSC

Game Mode
No matter what type of technology you buy, there’s a good chance it has a Unique Selling Point (USP), obviously offering a 5ms, 2560×1080, IPS monitor with FreeSync isn’t enough for LG. Game mode is a simple menu choice which enables a few pre-determined settings to give you a competitive edge when gaming. The two key settings are FreeSync and Black Stabilizer. FreeSync tries to sync up the graphics card and monitor refresh rate to prevent screen tearing; usual stuff. However, Black Stabilizer is a little different, it is a simple brightness increaser to brighten up dark areas of a game where an emery may be hiding to jump out. I find this setting a little pointless as most games now come with a setup brightness process to ensure your brightness level is optimum for the game.


Final Thoughts
For a bargain basement 29″ ultrawide monitor that features a respectable response time, IPS panel and AMD freeSync, this monitor is bloody brilliant.

The monitor itself has brilliant out-of-box settings, the colours are deep and true to life with no washout. I love how there is no backlight bleed either, you tend to find with larger monitors that the corners tend to darken or brighten to over-compensate.

I have a NVIDIA graphics card, so the FreeSync functionality is lost on me, but the cheapest 21:9 G-Sync monitor is around £600; so that was out of the question. The addition is great though if you have an AMD graphics card and maybe I’ll test this out in the future if I can get my hands on one (hint hint). The fact that I am using a NVIDIA graphics card doesn’t impede functionality, but I did notice a small amount of tearing on Battlefield, however, that could have been due to an improper configuration (I was constantly swapping from 2560×1080 to 1920×1080 and it was resetting the settings).

To complete this review, I had to edit a few photos. I found it incredibly easy to edit them and get, what I thought, were pretty accurate colours. The IPS technology really helps with this and the factory colour settings are very good, I wish I had a calibration tool to fully test the settings.

Game mode, like I said earlier, seems rather pointless. The two main features I took note of are likely already configured before you even start playing the game.

What I liked:

  • IPS panel
  • Easy to navigate menus
  • Strong construction
  • Non-glaring LED power indicator
  • Productivity potential
  • Gaming FoV increase

What I disliked:

  • No height adjustment
  • Glossy finish
  • No included DisplayPort Cable

Recommendation:

  • I would have loved this monitor to be curved

Price
Place of Purchase: Currys PC World — £239.99
Recommended Retailer: Overclockers UK — £249.95

There’s a reason why I listed OcUK, despite it being more expensive. Finding and having a hands-on experience with a monitor is very difficult and an ultrawide monitor can be considered niche to the point where no one knows what it is in most shops. I asked the sales adviser if I could at least open the box to check it out and the firm answer was “no” with a strict no returns policy if I don’t like it (I’ll see about that). OcUK on the other hand, will allow you to return the product, it might charge a small restocking fee (usually non-refundable postage).  Why did I buy it from possibly the worst customer service and experience place in the UK? Because I’m extremely impatient and I wasn’t about to drive 3 hours to get to a good stockist.

Summer of Computing 2017: Mainstream Builds @ 1080p

This has been a little while in the making, university and some very unpredictable prices thanks to mining meant any accurate pricing is very hard to do. I can’t leave it any longer, it will be Christmas before I finish!

This will follow a similar format to the previous Summer of Computing post, this time there will only be two builds; Home Theatre PC (HTPC) and gaming.

This week will look at 1080p for both categories. The vast majority of gamers and media streamers will use a 1080p monitor, TV or even projector view the content. Luckily the 1080p market hasn’t really taken a hit due to the current boom in mining, so prices shouldn’t be ridiculous, but let’s find out.


OverclockersUK (OcUK) prices have had more consistency with prices over the last few weeks, so I will continue using it for prices.

overclockers

OverclockersUK started out in 1999 as a small company set to change the overclocking world by offering CPUs with a known overclocking performance. As the company gained traction it steadily grew until in 2012 it was bought out by German company Caseking where it has grown further.


Home Theatre PC

Really last weeks build will suffice for 1080p streaming, it could have done with a SSD to really perk the whole system up, but that was about it.

Processor Intel Pentium G4560 64.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/intel-pentium-g4560-3.50ghz-kaby-lake-socket-lga1151-processor-retail-cp-62o-in.html
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-B250N-Pheonix 109.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-ga-b250n-phoenix-wifi-intel-b250-socket-1151-ddr4-mini-itx-motherboard-mb-550-gi.html
Memory Kingston Fury 8GB DDR4 68.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/kingston-fury-white-8gb-1x8gb-ddr4-pc4-19200c15-2400mhz-single-channel-module-hx424c15fw2-8-my-278-ks.html
Graphics Card Palit GT730 2GB 52.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/palit-geforce-gt-730-silent-2048mb-gddr3-pci-express-graphics-card-gx-024-pl.html
Power Supply Silverstone SST-ST30F 300w SFX 45.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-strider-sst-st30sf-sfx-series-300-watt-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-355-sv.html
Storage #1 WD Green 120GB 52.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/wd-green-120gb-2.5-sata-6gbps-solid-state-drive-wds120g1g0a-hd-53l-wd.html
Storage #2 Seagate Barracuda 2TB 2.5″ 89.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/seagate-barracuda-2tb-2.5-5400rpm-sata-6gb-s-128mb-cache-hdd-pc-and-ps4-st2000lm015-hd-37a-se.html
Case Silverstone SST ML06B 59.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-sst-ml06b-usb-3.0-milo-slim-htpc-mini-itx-black-ca-363-sv.html
CPU Cooler Raijintek Zelos 14.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/raijintek-zelos-low-profile-cpu-cooler-hs-010-rt.html
Optical LG GS40N 33.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lg-gs40n-slot-load-dvd-rw-rewriter-dual-layer-optical-drive-slim-sata-cd-119-lg.html
Operating System Windows 10 94.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/microsoft-windows-10-64-bit-dvd-oem-ms-kw9-00139-sw-172-ms.html
Keyboard Logitech K400 PLUS 29.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/logitech-wireless-touch-keyboard-k400-plus-black-uk-layout-kb-257-lg.html
Mouse Bundle

Total: £719.80

So a move away from outdated AMD base components to the newest Kaby Lake based Intel CPU and Motherboard. The biggest and most notable addition to this build is the graphics card, it’s not really required to push out 1080p content, but it does take the strain from the CPU to let it run at its peak.

I’ve chosen to keep the keyboard and mouse combo, it works very well for what it is and lends itself well to media streaming.

This is starting to turn into the base of a good gaming/ media PC and something most people would happily have as their gaming rig.

There is a cheaper option to this, ditching a few key components can save a few pennies here and there.

Processor Intel Pentium G4560 64.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/intel-pentium-g4560-3.50ghz-kaby-lake-socket-lga1151-processor-retail-cp-62o-in.html
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-B250N-Pheonix 109.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-ga-b250n-phoenix-wifi-intel-b250-socket-1151-ddr4-mini-itx-motherboard-mb-550-gi.html
Memory Kingston Fury 8GB DDR4 68.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/kingston-fury-white-8gb-1x8gb-ddr4-pc4-19200c15-2400mhz-single-channel-module-hx424c15fw2-8-my-278-ks.html
Power Supply Silverstone SST-ST30F 300w SFX 45.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-strider-sst-st30sf-sfx-series-300-watt-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-355-sv.html
Storage #1 WD Green 120GB 52.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/wd-green-120gb-2.5-sata-6gbps-solid-state-drive-wds120g1g0a-hd-53l-wd.html
Storage #2 Seagate Barracuda 2TB 2.5″ 89.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/seagate-barracuda-2tb-2.5-5400rpm-sata-6gb-s-128mb-cache-hdd-pc-and-ps4-st2000lm015-hd-37a-se.html
Case Silverstone SST ML06B 59.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-sst-ml06b-usb-3.0-milo-slim-htpc-mini-itx-black-ca-363-sv.html
CPU Cooler Raijintek Zelos 14.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/raijintek-zelos-low-profile-cpu-cooler-hs-010-rt.html
Keyboard Logitech K400 PLUS 29.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/logitech-wireless-touch-keyboard-k400-plus-black-uk-layout-kb-257-lg.html
Mouse Bundle

Total: £537.87

I didn’t want to strip too much from this, the SSD I would say is a requirement just as much as the hard drive. All of the latest base components are still here, so it can be upgraded slowly over time.


Gaming PC

Things are starting to get more difficult to find the best “bang for buck” for components, especially with gaming in mind.

Processor Ryzen 5 1400 149.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-ryzen-5-quad-core-1400-3.40ghz-socket-am4-processor-retail-cp-3a1-am.html
Motherboard Asrock A320M Pro4 64.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asrock-a320m-pro4-amd-a320-socket-am4-ddr4-micro-atx-motherboard-mb-157-ak.html
Memory GeIL Pristine 8GB 56.5 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/geil-pristine-amd-edition-8gb-pc4-19200-2400mhz-single-module-black-gap48gb2400c16sc-my-20n-gl.html
Graphics Card ASUS GTX 1050 Expedition 2GB 115.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-geforce-gtx-1050-expedition-2048mb-gddr5-pci-express-graphics-card-gx-40r-as.html
Power Supply Corsair CX-M 550w 69.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/corsair-cx-m-series-550w-80-plus-bronze-semi-modular-power-supply-cp-9020102-uk-ca-220-cs.html
Storage #1 WD Green 120GB 52.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/wd-green-120gb-2.5-sata-6gbps-solid-state-drive-wds120g1g0a-hd-53l-wd.html
Storage #2 Toshiba P300 2TB 59.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/seagate-barracuda-2tb-2.5-5400rpm-sata-6gb-s-128mb-cache-hdd-pc-and-ps4-st2000lm015-hd-37a-se.html
Case Bitfenix Neos ATX Window 36.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/bitfenix-neos-atx-tower-black-red-window-ca-219-bx.html
CPU Cooler Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo 28.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/cooler-master-hyper-212-evo-cpu-cooler-hs-035-cm.html
Optical LG 24x DVDRW 13.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lg-24x-dvdrw-sata-rewriter-oem-gh24nsd0-cd-121-lg.html
Operating System Windows 10 94.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/microsoft-windows-10-64-bit-dvd-oem-ms-kw9-00139-sw-172-ms.html
Keyboard Steelseries Apex [RAW] 19.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/steelseries-apex-raw-gaming-keyboard-64123-kb-051-st.html
Mouse Steelseries Rival 24.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/steelseries-rival-optical-mouse-limited-edition-white-62278-kb-08a-st.html
Monitor AOC E2460SH 24″ 109.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/aoc-e2460sh-24-1920×1080-tn-widescreen-1ms-gaming-led-monitor-black-mo-023-ao.html

Total: £900.21

Ryzen is overkill for this system, but you can’t argue for 8 threads at £150! This will be the base system I would consider for being a streamer. The 8 threads are under powered compared to Intel, but at this price point, it can’t be beaten.

A modular power supply has been introduced to save some space inside the case and a GTX 1050 will smash almost every game at 1080p with reasonable settings.

The price may seem steep at just over £900, but remember this includes EVERYTHING to get started up.

Personally I would scrap windows and opt for Steam OS and throw the money at a better graphics card, but I know most users will use this computer as their main PC and will do work and other tasks also. Around £100 can be saved by moving from Windows and removing the optical drive.

Processor Intel i3-7100 109.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-ryzen-5-quad-core-1400-3.40ghz-socket-am4-processor-retail-cp-3a1-am.html
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-B250M-DS3H 69.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-ga-b250m-ds3h-intel-b250-socket-1151-ddr4-micro-atx-motherboard-mb-54z-gi.html
Memory Kingston Fury 8GB DDR4 68.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/kingston-fury-white-8gb-1x8gb-ddr4-pc4-19200c15-2400mhz-single-channel-module-hx424c15fw2-8-my-278-ks.html
Graphics Card ASUS GTX 1050 Expedition 2GB 115.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-geforce-gtx-1050-expedition-2048mb-gddr5-pci-express-graphics-card-gx-40r-as.html
Power Supply Corsair CX-M 550w 69.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/corsair-cx-m-series-550w-80-plus-bronze-semi-modular-power-supply-cp-9020102-uk-ca-220-cs.html
Storage #1 WD Green 120GB 52.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/wd-green-120gb-2.5-sata-6gbps-solid-state-drive-wds120g1g0a-hd-53l-wd.html
Storage #2 Toshiba P300 2TB 59.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/seagate-barracuda-2tb-2.5-5400rpm-sata-6gb-s-128mb-cache-hdd-pc-and-ps4-st2000lm015-hd-37a-se.html
Case Bitfenix Neos ATX Window 36.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/bitfenix-neos-atx-tower-black-red-window-ca-219-bx.html
CPU Cooler Coolermaster Hyper 212 Evo 28.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/cooler-master-hyper-212-evo-cpu-cooler-hs-035-cm.html
Keyboard Steelseries Apex [RAW] 19.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/steelseries-apex-raw-gaming-keyboard-64123-kb-051-st.html
Mouse Steelseries Rival 24.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/steelseries-rival-optical-mouse-limited-edition-white-62278-kb-08a-st.html
Monitor ASUS VE228TR 22″ 1920×1080 79.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-vs228de-22-1920×1080-tn-widescreen-led-monitor-black-mo-066-as.html

Total: £738.68

Drop down to a 22″ monitor and move to an Intel i3-7100 can save just over £160. Probably my preferred route as this can now be upgraded more easily to the unlocked Kaby Lake processors.


Summary

 

So that’s it, the mainstream section of building a PC and where most people would probably aim their first builds. My first PC was around this specification, albeit 10 years ago.

We’re now at the point in the specification road map where parts won’t really change drastically, but just become more powerful, for example changing the i3-7100 to the i5-7600k while keeping the rest of the build nearly the same. What I’ve shown here isn’t the best of the best, but it will play games and content at 1080p at 60fps without burning out.

If you are deciding to build a PC in the near future, I would take a look at the second hand market, Ethereum mining is starting to yield less and miners are selling their graphics cards for relatively cheap prices.

Wondering why component prices have risen in the last 12 months (mining excluded)? Check out my post here.

Next time, Week 3: 4k!

NB: Prices were correct as of 12pm 16/07/2017.

Yes I know these haven’t been released in “weeks”, it bugs me too….


If you like what this post has given, give it a share and also comment to tell me what you’d like to read in the future.

Want me to review a certain product? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

Second Hand Components, a Quick Buyers Guide

A common question I get asked by a lot of my friends and family is “I found this part on this website, it’s B-Grade. Is it OK to use?”

My first answer would be no, buying new is better because you have the full warranty and what not, but now manufacturing processes have improved to the point that components are lasting years beyond their given warranty, maybe it’s worth it? Also most websites offer a 90 day warranty and a faulty product will normally fail in that time.

Let’s take a little look into the main components and what I would recommend you should buy new or what you could buy used. I will focus more on private sellers for this post as that will likely be where most buyers will source second hand parts.


A computer is generally made up of the following main components:

  • Processor
  • Motherboard
  • Power Supply
  • Memory (RAM)
  • Storage (SSD and HDD)
  • Graphics Card

Processor

I was in two minds with this, a processor is normally the most expensive part in your entire system apart from your graphics card. I would have normally recommended buying this new because of this fact.

Now, after a fair amount of experience removing processors out of motherboards, leaving them on tables, boxes, clothes and other non-favourable places, I would actually say buy used.

I’ve learnt that processors generally don’t “fail” on their own, external factors such as poor power, poor motherboard contacts or overclocking will cause a failure long before the processor would fail from wear and tear.

You can save a lot of money, but here are some recommendations.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the CPU – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller. Avoid overclocked processors if possible, only consider them if you want a guaranteed overclock or it is a last resort;
  • Avoid de-lidded processors – This trend is great to reduce the temperatures of your processor and there are tools which take most of the risk out, but you can’t always guarantee if there is any damage;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point;
  • Buying older processors, check the pins – Not as much of an issue in recent years, but older processors have pins which can be easily bent,

Would I buy used?

Yes


Motherboard

Motherboards actually follow a similar theme to processors. I have used and abused many motherboards. Thrown them around, built systems on carpet and even held a motherboard by the heat sinks while walking between systems.

As long as you’re not completely ruthless and bend a motherboard to the point of cracking, you should be OK.

Motherboards tend to have a lower saving potential because they are generally cheaper. Bigger savings can be made if you want more expensive (£250+) motherboards.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the motherboard – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller. Avoid motherboards that have been modified;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point;
  • You can check the socket pins – Same as with the processors, newer motherboards have pins within the socket. The worst part about this is that damage can happen during posting if the socket cover wasn’t put on properly. Make sure it has insurance!!!

Would I buy used?

Yes, in-fact, my motherboard is used!


Power Supply

Power supplies are a tough one, they supply the life into your system and is vital to make sure they are in peak condition.

While power supplies are being made better and better each year, they’re cheap enough to buy new and the potential savings to be made are minimal.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the seller – Check any build logs and make sure the seller hasn’t used and abused it;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point;
  • You’re desperate!!

Would I buy used?

No


Memory (RAM)

 

Memory has lifetime warranty and in some cases is transferable to other buyers (check the manufacturer website first).

Same as with processors, RAM doesn’t die without some abuse either via overclocking or bending.

Due to the increase in memory prices, resale values have held strong and probably doesn’t make sense to buy used.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the memory – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller. Avoid overclocked memory if possible, only consider them if you want a guaranteed overclock or it is a last resort;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point.

Would I buy used?

Yes


Storage (SSD and HDD)

 

This is a tough one, probably the toughest on the list. We all need storage, but typically someone owns a HDD or SSD over the course of 2-3 computer builds (3-5 years). At this stage, any working units are stripped of all data and sold on at extremely cheap prices.

There is also a security element to this, as technology advances, its getting easier to pull data from storage drives, even if they have been stripped of all tangible data. This then leads to drives being destroyed.

Probably the biggest concern for buyers is the performance of the SSD with the early performance and longevity issues posed. While these issues aren’t as prominent, most people are put off because of this.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the drive – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller;
  • The buyer will provide performance screen shots – This should be common practice now with programs such as CrystalDisk and SSDLife being free and can provide a lot of information for prospective buyers;

  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point.

Would I buy used?

No


Graphics Card

Graphics cards are probably the most sold and bought component in the used market next to cases, fans and peripherals.

This category carries the same risks as processors with previous owners overclocking and removing heat sinks to perform modifications such as water cooling. Graphics cards are also more prone to failure compared to other components (storage excluded) with artifacts being the main tell to the failure.

Strangely, the higher risk in failure doesn’t actually put many people off as the potential savings outweigh the risk. In some cases, you can buy a 6-8 month old graphics card for around 20% cheaper.

You can save a lot of money, but follow the following recommendations.

Only buy if:

  • You can verify the life of the GPU – Check build logs and previous posts from the seller. Avoid overclocked graphics cards if possible, only consider them if you want a guaranteed overclocked or it is a last resort;
  • The seller accepts returns – If the seller will not accept returns, return to your searching;
  • You can buy from someone reputable – This sort of backs up the previous point.

Would I buy used?

Yes


Summary

So there we have it, my recommendations when buying used parts. I could go further into it, but this is designed to be a very high level buying guide.

I would always recommend buying brand new components, you then have the full warranties available and you know that the parts haven’t been tampered with.

Used parts are good if you are on a budget or in a pinch if a part isn’t available. I personally look at sale forums to check out used parts before buying new. My motherboard is used and it saved nearly 30% just 2 months after launch (Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7). I know some review companies sell samples after a review for up to 60% less than retail, yes, at one point I knew of a NVIDIA GTX 980Ti being sold for £300 just days after release.

The best place I’ve found for used parts is the OverclockersUK forums. You need to rack up posts or be a member for a set amount of time to be able to view the marketplace, but most sellers are very trustworthy and sell parts are very good rates.

AOC Announce Five new Business Monitors

I work with computers all day, working on two 16:9 Lenovo monitors with pretty large bezels. This is quite annoying when I want to work on say a webpage optimised for ultra wide monitors and I have almost 2 inches of bezel in the middle.

AOC knows this is an issue and has addressed it with their new range of business orientated monitors. These feature 3 “bezel-less” borders and a stylish gunmetal grey chin bar and matching base.

These monitors ranging from 24-inch to 27-inch sizes and equipped with the advanced IPS panels with wide colour gamut are aimed at businesses and demanding prosumers. Users will appreciate their sleek 3-sided frameless design for seamless multiple monitor set-ups. AOC’s eye-protecting features reduce discomfort for users working long hours, and the monitors’ high energy-efficiency helps to reduce costs and users’ carbon footprint. Three of the new models are also equipped with an ergonomic and easily mountable stand.

Model I2490VXQ I2790VQ I2490PXQU I2790PQU Q2790PQU
Size and Panel 23.8″ IPS 27″ IPS 23.8″ IPS 27″ IPS 27″ IPS
Resolution 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080 1920 x 1080 2560 x 1440
I/O VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort VGA, HDMI,  DisplayPort, USB 3.0 VGA, HDMI,  DisplayPort, USB 3.0 VGA, 2 x HDMI,  DisplayPort, USB 3.0
MSRP £149 £219 £179 £249 £349

All monitors include a range of energy efficient software; E-Saver turns the power consumption down when the user is away and Eco Mode automatically adjusts the screen settings depending on the content being displayed. A nice feature being introduced is the i-Menu which allows for typical on screen menu controls via physical buttons to be controlled via mouse; an earlier version can be seen in my review of the Philips 241P6VPJKEB.

We can expect to see stock in July 2017, and September 2017 for the Q2790PQU.

 

Brexit, How Have Component Prices Changed?

It’s been a year since Brexit was made official and I’m sure most of us have seen a rise in prices of most components thanks to the weakened Pound conversion rates. I will take into account the rate of inflation of approximately 3% and offset against the final figures.

For the comparison, I will use posts from my mini series “Summer of Gaming” from last August.  At this point, Brexit was already announced, but this delay has given exchange rates time to level out.

If any parts are discontinued, I will find the next comparable part. This may include having to “uplift” other parts to suit the build.

To keep things fair, I will choose 3 of the most popular retailers in the UK and randomly choose one for each section.


Summer of Gaming: Week 1

For this, I chose Scan Computers, it was the one retailer to stock the majority of the parts.

The APU and SSD were swapped out for the next comparable (and in some case cheapest) parts left in the line up.

August 2016 (£) June 2017 (£) Percentage Change (%)
CPU AMD A6-6400K/ AMD A6-6420K 42.99 46.99 +9.30
Mobo Gigabyte GA-F2A68HM-HD2 38.99 41.48 +6.39
RAM Corsair 4GB XMS3 1333MHz 17.63 29.99 +70.11
Storage #1 Toshiba 500GB 35.75 38.48 +7.64
Storage #2 AMD R3 120GB/ Kingston A400 120GB 30.95 52.49 +69.60
PSU ThermalTake TR2 500W 34.99 39.98 +14.26
CPU Cooler Arctic Freezer 7 Pro 17.99 17.99 0.00
Case CiT F3 24.98 28.49 +14.05

That’s not a pretty picture. Memory production prices in general have skyrocketed in the last 10 months. While ever increasing memory price is a pretty standard thing, it’s not until you see the figures that it hits home just how extortionate the increase is.

The key reason behind the memory increase is due to manufacturers transitioning to a smaller manufacturing process and it failing in most cases. The demand has then not been met with stock and has pushed prices up.

Excluding the memory, the average increase is 7.3%, which is only an additional 4% over inflation. However, with everything in mind, it will cost an extra £52 (or 21%) to build this computer excluding postage.


Summer of Gaming: Week 2

Moving on to our £500 budget, I’ll change to Novatech to see how this company has held it’s prices.

August 2016 (£) June 2017 (£) Percentage Change (%)
CPU Intel G3460/ Intel G4500 59.99 65.71 +9.53
Mobo MSI H81M-P33/ MSI H110 M Pro-VD 38.99 42.3 +8.49
RAM Klevv Fit 8GB 1600MHz/ Kingston Hyper X Fury 8GB 29.99 63.36 +111.27
Storage #1 Toshiba 1TB 40.79 42.65 +4.56
Storage #2 Kingston SSDNOW UV400 120GB 38.39 59.78 +55.72
PSU EVGA 500W 42.98 33.98 -20.94
CPU Cooler Cooler Master Hyper 212X 27.98 29.26 +4.57
Case Bitfenix Neos 36.98 36.95 -0.08
GPU MSI GTX 970 ARMOR/ MSI GTX 1060 ARMOR 199.99 199.99 0.00

It’s not all doom and gloom though, some prices have actually reduced in price and quite significantly for the power supply. This single change brings the average increase to just 0.8%; excluding memory).So there is a bigger discrepancy here with the loss of previous generation Intel processor and MSI graphics card, I’ve had to uplift to the next available product which also meant moving motherboard and memory to LGA 1151 and DDR4 respectively.

However, all taken into account, it will still cost an extra £57.90 (or 11%) to build this computer.


Summer of Gaming: Week 3

Last, but not least is the £1000 build. This was the most popular post out of the 3, which shows more interest in this tier of products. There will be new factors to incorporate here thanks to water cooling and the more mainstream ‘K’ series processors, will there be as much of an increase in price?

For this comparison, I will use OverclockersUK.

August 2016 (£) June 2017 (£) Percentage Change (%)
CPU i5-6600K/ i5-7600K 324.98 369.98 +13.85
Mobo Gigabyte Gaming 3/ ASUS Prime Z270-A 0 0 0.00
RAM Kingston HyperX Fury 16GB 2400MHz 52.99 119.99 +126.44
Storage #1 Toshiba 2TB 58.94 64.99 +10.26
Storage #2 Corsair Force LE 240GB/ Kingston UV400 240GB 68.99 89.99 +30.44
PSU Corsair CX550M 63.95 69.95 +9.38
CPU Cooler OCUK Tech Labs 240mm 59.9 75.9 +26.71
Case In-Win 703 54.95 59.99 +9.17
GPU VGA GTX 980Ti SC ACX 349.99 349.99 0.00

So again, price increases across the board, not as drastic with the SSD this time around, but a massive 126% increase for the same set of 16GB DDR4 is shocking.

One increase I wasn’t expecting to be as big was the water cooling system, however, this is a pretty standard theme across the board with the H100i GTX costing around £89 last year to now over £115.

With everything taken into account, it’s £166 (or 16%) more expensive; £88 of that comes directly from the increase in memory chips.


Conclusion

So overall prices have increased. Is this purely down to Brexit? Simple answer is yes, most prices have increased more than the average inflation rate in the UK. This is mainly down to the weakened pound exchange rate and with the elections just around the corner, it could get worse by this time next week.

Long answer is no, the majority of the increase comes from the lack of memory supply in the world right now. An article produced by PC Gamer provides and explanation behind the increase in memory prices. Essentially it is down to the manufacturers not being able to smoothly transition to the newer process and not producing enough memory chips to keep up with demand. A few years ago, hard drives faced a similar price increase due to floods in Thailand which decommissioned a production plant, it took TWO years for prices to settle back to pre-flood rates. 

 

My recommendation: I’ve been watching memory prices over the last few weeks to upgrade to 32GB. The prices have slowly increased by a few pound. If you need memory now or in the near future, buy now. It’s too tricky to judge prices for the distant future, but if current trends continue, we could see another 10-15% added on by Christmas.

Review: Philips 241P6VPJKEB 4k Monitor

It wasn’t too long ago, I went into my local retailer looking for a basic 1080p monitor and the prices being around £200 and when I say basic, I mean basic VGA only. Then new monitors started hitting the market, Quad HD (QHD, 1440p) and Ultra HD (UHD, 2160p). With these monitors, my eyes grew wide in awe; I just had to have one.

Sadly I couldn’t afford one, but my friends at Philips sent out one of the new P-Line 4k monitors, the Philips  241P6VPJKEB; so here’s to you!

philips_2013_logo_detail

Philips has always been a household brand; everyone has owned at least one Philips product in their life, be it a TV, radio, DVD player/ VCR or even batteries. You tend to hear less and less about Philips in the consumer mind, but the products are everywhere; I use Philips bulbs in my car!


Let’s get on to talk about the monitor itself before I take an extended trip down memory lane.

4K monitors are huge, in both senses of the word. Since their conception, the technology has dominated movies, gaming, and even the business world. Along with that, the general size of a 4K monitor is that of an average TV; around 32″. The argument is that once you hit a small screen size, the resolution is then so high that you lose detail from having too much detail.

I have previous experience with 4K and there are two issues with the technology; although one isn’t such an issue since the new Pascal graphics cards were released.

  1. Compatibility: 4K monitors were released before the cable technology was standard. Yes, you could have hit 4K@30hz, but most will argue that 60hz should be the minimum refresh rate for monitors.
  2. Performance: 4K is stupidly demanding for games and very few graphics cards can handle it effectively. I guess this is now redundant with newer graphics cards on the scene, but I’ve seen a 1080 struggle in some instances.

I think Philips 241P6VPJKEB is on the small side, but it is being aimed at professional users with productivity in mind. The 24″ screen size is perfect for most office desk spaces, while the 4K resolution allows to have multiple windows open at once without compromise.

With MHL and a built-in web camera, it’s perfect for conference calls and easily showing off content on your phone.

241P6VPJKEB_00-IMS-en_GB


Specifications
Philips always impress with the quantity and quality of the specification list available online. I’m only going to post the display specification here, but take a look at the full specifications here.

specs

A pretty impressive range of specs here, 4K@60hz, 5ms response time, 178° IPS viewing angle and 99% sRGB. The specifications definitely place this as a professional monitor, but it would also happily handle most gaming scenarios.


Images
And what about the actual monitor itself?

It’s very business like, no “glitz and glamour” here.

monitor1

Along the bottom of the screen are two IR transmitters. These help with a special power saving feature, called PowerSense, by monitoring the user. If the user leaves the desk for any reason, power saving kicks in to save power.

monitor2

powersensor

A pretty standard array of menu buttons, no fancy joysticks or touch pads in sight.

monitor3

This monitor comes with the standard audio jacks, VGA, DVI HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2.

ports

Who ordered all these USB ports? The monitor features 3x USB 3.0 ports, 1 with fast charging and one USB-A to act as a hub; keeping your desk ‘clutter free’.

usbs

A nice looking stand. As you can expect, it has been passed around a few media outlets and has picked up some battle scars.

base1

The stand supports height adjustment of 130mm, 90° pivot, the tilt between -5 and 20°, and swivel of 175° in both directions.

base2

Fully assembled, it looks like a pretty basic monitor with that peculiar camera bulge on the top. With the monitor in place, the vertical movement is very easy and can be done with just one finger.

monitor4

Even though it can, I don’t know why you would pivot this monitor into this position; the camera bulge wouldn’t allow it to sit flush with another monitor.

monitor5

 

Box and accessories

A pretty standard Philips box, clean and crisp with just the key information printed.

box1

A close up of the key features, 4K, IPS, MHL, etc…

box2

A very impressive range of cables here, most notable is the MHL cable (pictured centre, but not included). That power brick is pretty substantial, hopefully the cable is long enough to stash it somewhere out of sight.

cables


Usage
There’s not a lot to run home here, it’s 16:9 and has 4K resolution, by now pretty much everyone has seen a 4K resolution in some form or another. If you are one of those few who has been living under a rock, here are some 1080p to 4K examples.

Desktop
Windows 10 has been built pretty well to handle scaling, along with the majority of apps available such as Google Chrome. So you won’t really notice much different between 1080p and 4K until you start zooming in on an image.

Both of these desktop examples have been kept the same apart from the resolution. Each has 100% scaling enabled to show how much difference there is (note icon and taskbar size), however, you can enable 200% scaling at 4K to enlarge the icons.

1080p Desktop1080p desktop 100% scaling

4K Desktop4k desktop 100% scaling

Split Screen
4K is designed for multiple windows, essentially having the room to place four 1920×1080 monitors together. Thanks to the great compatibility of most applications, there is very little difference between 1080p and 4k at auto settings.

Split Screen 1080p1080p

Split Screen 4K2160

Video
So what about watching a video, surely the high resolution would play up here? and it doesn’t, thanks to near enough perfect scaling; albeit content at 720p will be very pixelated if blown up to 4k.

If you viewed 720p without scaling, the image is fairly small and could be hard to make out details when viewed at a 4K resolution.720pexample

1080p is very similar, 4K has quadruple the number of pixels compared to 1080p, so details can still be lost.1080pexample


Performance
Like I said earlier, 4K is a demanding resolution and requires some hefty graphical processing power to make use of it. During general use or video playback, internal graphics processors will be fine, but gaming will require something special. I’m not going to go nuts here, just a single game to show how much more demanding 4K is.

The following components will be used to test this game. It’s not the latest generation, but it does the job.

Item Clock Speed
Processor Intel i5-2500k Stock Boost
Motherboard ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe
Memory Kingston HyperX Genesis 8GB 1600MHz
Graphics Card Gigabyte G1 Gaming GTX 970 Stock Boost
Storage #1 Samsung 850 Pro 512GB
Storage #2 WD Blue 2TB 7200RPM
Power Supply Corsair AX760i
Cooling Corsair H100i

Tom Clancy’s: The Division
I normally use Battlefield 4 or something of similar age so readers can go view and compare with other sites; however, I like The Division and the built-in benchmark is pretty sweet (short).

As you can see, there is a linear drop in FPS when moving from 1080p to 2160p.

chart


Menus
Singing the tune of an early 2000 monitor, the menu buttons are retro. Inline 5 on the front of the screen itself with small printed images to give some sort of inclination of what they do. In a world of joysticks and direction pad controls; these are very confusing to use.

menu1
menu2 menu3 menu4

SmartControl
Well, I was complaining about the menu navigation earlier and I guess the Philips boffins knew it would be an issue, so SmartControl software was included. It can handle all of the hardware settings of the monitor, leaving out SmartImage, Multi-view, and Audio Source.

It’s very easy to use, but I lost functionality when this was open and I changed the resolution. It required a restart to get it working again.

SmartControl1 smartcontrol2


Final Thoughts
For a 24″ 4K monitor, it’s pretty good. I still think 4K is wasted below 32″ and will continue to think that until someone gives me a good reason otherwise. It has ample of features to keep most happy and offers exactly what it says on the tin.

Out of the box, the monitor has brilliant settings, true to life colours with no washout and deep contrasts to show off blacks well. There is no backlight bleed from any part of the monitor, which is what I would expect from a small panel.

I know I’ve kept harping on about how this is designed for business use and that the non-flashy approach works well, I just wish the menu navigation was simpler; I have become very accustom to touch panels, directional pad, and joysticks and I feel they are the way forward. That being said, once a monitor has been calibrated to taste, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time in the menu’s to care.

Another neutral point is the webcam. It’s brilliant for conferencing and connectivity on Skype and similar applications, but I’ve recently been learning about cyber security and webcams are a massive security risk in some cases. Forcing a customer to have a webcam permanently in view can be off-putting. Although I guess this is why the newer 272B7QPTKEB is featuring a retractable webcam.

Something that really caught my eye with this monitor was the PowerSense technology. I thought it was just a gimmick that rarely worked and saved very little power. I put it to the test by leaving it at idle on desktop and monitoring the wattage. When I was sat at the monitor, the full system was drawing and average of 130w; however, when I moved it dropped to a noticeable 112w. This was consistent over the course of a weekend of testing, but I did notice it didn’t work if the monitor wasn’t aligned properly. Something that may need to be noted if the monitor will be secondary and not in direct view for the IR transmitters.

To complete this review, I had to edit some images. I went into this section with some negative thoughts due to user reviews I read online about poor colour recreation considering it has a 10-bit pallet and 12-bit internal processor. I can safely say that I didn’t experience any issues and all of my images came out as I expected. Not everyone can afford a calibration tool, but the built in settings will be perfect for most users.

What I liked:

  • IPS panel
  • Customisable power LED brightness
  • Built to last
  • Good range of physical adjustment
  • Easy to install and set up
  • Built-in webcam

What I disliked:

  • Awkward menu navigation
  • Built-in webcam

Recommendation:

  • Hidden menu buttons would clean up the front face

Price
Recommended retailer: Box.co.uk @ £387.76


Is there anything else you want me to take a look at? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

AOC Reveal In-House VR Headset at Gamescom

Leading monitor manufacturer, AOC, has revealed its own Virtual Reality (VR) headset at Gamescom, Germany. We all love VR, many can’t use it because of lack of compatibility, others can’t afford it; I fall into the latter, but I’m fine with that until more games become available.

VR has had a major hype train, Oculus being the first to really popularise it with a Kickstarter campaign a few years ago. Since then, the possible use cases have been somewhat limitless with games (obviously), education, military, medical and even the adult industry; however, the choices for buyers has been limited to the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive with a couple of other lower specification versions such as Google Cardboard and Samsung VR being pushed to the main consumer market.

AOC VR oblique

Well now there is another, potentially cheaper and better optimised, option coming onto the market. Yes HTC designed the Vive in collaboration with Valve, but AOC has the technology and R&D to develop a much more compatible version; along with also waiting a few months to iron out bugs with VR games. Everything is purely speculation at the moment, only prototypes are available to view at Gamescom with very little information being passed out to external press at this time.

AOC VR AOC VR top oblique

AOC will be presenting a few of the new AGON monitors at i58 next week, maybe we’ll get a hands on at the show with some pictures, specifications and maybe even a name; AOC HMD doesn’t really have a ring to it like the Rift.

Summer of Gaming Week 3.5: Portable LAN Gaming

So I had a little thought, I’m going to i58 next week and a key staple of the show is BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer). While some people can handle a Corsair 900D in the back of the car, not everyone has a car large enough or even that 15-year-old who needs to put a system in the boot of their parent’s car with coats and other junk in there. As a result, I’m going to create a Portable Gaming edition of the Summer of Gaming series; perfect for LAN gaming and that only without additional upgrades.

This week is going to be slightly different, I’m going to only choose parts from Overclockers UK. The reason for this is, OverclockersUK and GAME have a pretty good partnership where GAME has started to showcase certain systems and accessories from OcUK.

Llxj0vd

Before we start, this isn’t going to be what laptop to choose or laptop vs desktop. This will solely be about creating a portable desktop, maybe with a small comparison at the end.


overclockers

OverclockersUK started out in 1999 as a small company set to change the overclocking world by offering CPUs with a known overclocking performance. As the company gained traction it steadily grew until in 2012 it was bought out by German company Caseking where it has grown further.


MOBA: League of Legends, etc…

The requirement for a LoL build isn’t very high, a basic AMD APU can run it perfectly fine and will do so at a very reasonable cost. The hardest part is making sure you can cram enough power to sustain it into a manageable build.

Processor AMD A6-6400K 43.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-a6-6400k-3.90ghz-socket-fm2-apu-richland-dual-core-processor-ad640kokhlbox-cp-357-am.html
Motherboard MSI A88XI AC V2 79.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/msi-a88xi-ac-v2-amd-a88x-socket-fm2-ddr3-mini-itx-motherboard-mb-278-ms.html
RAM Team Group Vulcan 8GB 2133MHz 38.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/team-group-vulcan-orange-8gb-2x4gb-ddr3-pc3-17100c11-2133mhz-dual-channel-kit-tlaed38g2133hc11adc-my-037-tg.html
Storage #1 Toshiba 500GB 38.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-7k1000.d-500gb-sata-6gb-s-32mb-cache-oem-dt01aca050-hdd-hd-025-ts.html
Storage #2
Power Supply XFX TS 430W 33.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/xfx-ts-430w-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-black-5-year-warranty-ocuk-exclusive-ca-019-xf.html
CPU Cooler
Case Silverstone Sugo SST-SG13WB 36.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-sugo-sst-sg13wb-q-mini-itx-chassis-black-white-sst-sg13wb-q-ca-424-sv.html
Graphics Card

Total: £272.86

This is the absolute basic package I would opt for and at £273, it is a cracking little computer. It will play  most MOBA games at an acceptable FPS and will most certainly play most MOBA games easily; however, I believe the below additions would make this shine for an extra £60.

Processor AMD A6-6400K 43.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/amd-a6-6400k-3.90ghz-socket-fm2-apu-richland-dual-core-processor-ad640kokhlbox-cp-357-am.html
Motherboard MSI A88XI AC V2 79.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/msi-a88xi-ac-v2-amd-a88x-socket-fm2-ddr3-mini-itx-motherboard-mb-278-ms.html
RAM Team Group Vulcan 8GB 2133MHz 38.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/team-group-vulcan-orange-8gb-2x4gb-ddr3-pc3-17100c11-2133mhz-dual-channel-kit-tlaed38g2133hc11adc-my-037-tg.html
Storage #1 Samsung 250GB 850 EVO 86.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/samsung-250gb-850-evo-ssd-2.5-sata-6gbps-32-layer-3d-v-nand-solid-state-drive-mz-75e250b-eu-hd-191-sa.html
Storage #2
Power Supply Corsair CX430w 49.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/corsair-builder-series-cx-430w-modular-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-cp-9020058-uk-ca-115-cs.html
CPU Cooler
Case Silverstone Sugo SST-SG13WB 36.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-sugo-sst-sg13wb-q-mini-itx-chassis-black-white-sst-sg13wb-q-ca-424-sv.html
Graphics Card

Total: £336.90

This build will happily play all MOBA style games with reasonable FPS at 1080p. No, it isn’t the most powerful computer ever, nor will it be able to play top AAA games at high settings, but it is perfectly placed to do what is expected.


Fast Paced Multiplayer: Rocket League, etc…

I haven’t had the pleasure of playing Rocket League or Overwatch, but by viewing multiple game reviews, both games are slightly more demanding than  most MOBA games; so more graphical power will be required.

Processor Intel G4400 53.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/intel-pentium-dual-core-g4400-3.30ghz-skylake-socket-lga1151-processor-retail-cp-593-in.html
Motherboard ASUS H110I Plus 64.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-h110i-plus-intel-h110-socket-1151-ddr4-itx-motherboard-mb-687-as.html
RAM Crucial Ballistix Sport LT 8GB 2400MHz 32.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/ballistix-sport-lt-8gb-2x4gb-ddr4-pc4-19200c16-2400mhz-dual-channel-kit-black-grey-bls2c4g4d240-my-187-cr.html
Storage #1 Samsung 250GB 850 EVO 86.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/samsung-250gb-850-evo-ssd-2.5-sata-6gbps-32-layer-3d-v-nand-solid-state-drive-mz-75e250b-eu-hd-191-sa.html
Storage #2 Toshiba 500GB 38.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-7k1000.d-500gb-sata-6gb-s-32mb-cache-oem-dt01aca050-hdd-hd-025-ts.html
Power Supply XFX XT 500W 39.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/xfx-xt-series-500w-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-ca-022-xf.html
CPU Cooler
Case Silverstone Sugo SST-SG13WB 36.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-sugo-sst-sg13wb-q-mini-itx-chassis-black-white-sst-sg13wb-q-ca-424-sv.html
Graphics Card MSI GTX 960 129.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/msi-geforce-gtx-960-reference-design-2048mb-gddr5-pci-express-graphics-card-gx-32u-ms.html

Total: £484.80

Beefing out the computer, there’s now a newer Intel processor and more storage. The most notable difference here is the addition of a GTX 960 discrete graphics card. The GTX 960 can happily play through Overwatch at 1080p with 80FPS easily, but it allows for any random drops or increased settings/ higher resolution.

The case was kept the same to show how small this could be, but the case could be changed to suit taste to something more ‘showy’ such as the Bitfenix Prodigy in Orange.


Shoot em up’s: Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc…

Probably the most demanding game that would be seen at a LAN event would be BF: Hardline, R6: Siege or Cod. These can be quite graphically intensive and will require a graphics card with some moderate power.

Processor Intel i5-6600K 229.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/intel-core-i5-6600k-3.9ghz-skylake-socket-lga1151-processor-retail-cp-579-in.html
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z170N-WIFI 116.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-ga-z170n-wifi-intel-z170-socket-1151-ddr4-mini-itx-motherboard-mb-536-gi.html
RAM Kingston Fury 16GB 2400MHz 52.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/kingston-fury-black-16gb-2x8gb-ddr4-pc4-19200c15-2400mhz-dual-channel-kit-black-hx424c15fb2k2-1-my-229-ks.html
Storage #1 Samsung 250GB 850 EVO 86.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/samsung-250gb-850-evo-ssd-2.5-sata-6gbps-32-layer-3d-v-nand-solid-state-drive-mz-75e250b-eu-hd-191-sa.html
Storage #2 Toshiba 1TB 40.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-7k1000.d-1tb-sata-6gb-s-32mb-cache-hdd-oem-dt01aca100-hd-024-ts.html
Power Supply Corsair CX-M 550W 58.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/corsair-cx-m-series-550w-80-plus-bronze-semi-modular-power-supply-cp-9020102-uk-ca-220-cs.html
CPU Cooler OcUK 120mm Extreme 56.92 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/ocuk-tech-labs-120mm-extreme-cpu-liquid-cooling-upgrade-bundle-bu-095-tl.html
Case Silverstone Sugo SST-SG13WB 36.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-sugo-sst-sg13wb-q-mini-itx-chassis-black-white-sst-sg13wb-q-ca-424-sv.html
Graphics Card Zotac GTX 980Ti AMP Omega 319.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/zotac-geforce-gtx-980ti-amp-omega-edition-6144mb-gddr5-pci-express-graphics-card-zt-90504-10p-gx-097-zt.html

Total: £1000.80

This is going to be one of the best computers to take to a LAN event. No game will require more than a GTX 980Ti or the best quad core processor unless you like to run some heavy mods on a higher resolution. However, if you’re going to a LAN event, it’s likely you will want to take a 1080p monitor.


Show Off Mode Activated

Some may only want to take their computer to show off, prove that they have the very best computer at the show (unlikely with some of the modder builds at the show such as davido_labido). If this is you, but you still want to cram as much as possible into as small of a case as possible; maybe this is for you.

Processor Intel i7-6800K 409.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/intel-i7-6800k-3.40ghz-broadwell-e-socket-lga2011-v3-processor-retail-bx80671i76800k-cp-611-in.html
Motherboard ASRock X99E-ITX/AC 239.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asrock-x99e-itx-ac-intel-x99-socket-2011-ddr4-mini-itx-motherboard-mb-142-ak.html
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB 3200MHz 179.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/corsair-vengeance-lpx-32gb-2x16gb-ddr4-pc4-25600c16-3200mhz-dual-channel-kit-white-cmk32gx4m2b3-my-487-cs.html
Storage #1 Samsung SM961 1TB NVMe 529.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/samsung-sm961-polaris-1tb-m.2-2880-pci-e-3.0-x-4-nvme-solid-state-drive-hd-226-sa.html
Storage #2
Power Supply Silverstone 600W Titanium 124.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/silverstone-strider-600w-80-plus-titanium-modular-power-supply-ca-434-sv.html
CPU Cooler Corsair H80i V2 89.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/corsair-hydro-series-h80i-v2-extreme-performance-liquid-cpu-cooler-cw-9060024-ww-hs-037-cs.html
Case Lian Li PC-TU100A 94.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/lian-li-pc-tu100a-mini-itx-cube-silver-ca-625-ll.html
Graphics Card ASUS GTX 1080 Founders 695.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/asus-geforce-gtx-1080-founders-edition-8192mb-gddr5x-pci-express-graphics-card-gx-400-as.html

Total: £2365.90

This computer is completely overpowered for 99% of applications that would be present at a LAN event. Maybe you want to live stream and require the additional CPU cores and RAM? If not, this is definitely a show-off build.

If you wanted, this could be beefed up further with an i7-6950X, Titan X Pascal, more RAM, custom water cooling and so on; the only limit is your budget. Why you would spend this much money on a computer solely for LAN events is beyond me, maybe you attend multiple events a year or you do a lot of recording on the go?


How do these stack up to pre-built options?

So what about letting OverclockersUK build the system for you? Some people may not want to build the system themselves through lack of confidence or lack of time. Personally, I like to build my system myself, learning how to build it gives me satisfaction and also you can add/ remove cables to your taste; maybe you want to add another storage drive in the future and don’t want to have to worry about cable routing later.

I’ve aimed to spec as close as possible to the £1000 build while keeping as many components the same.

evosystem

At £1600, this does feature an i7-6700K, slightly larger case and a 240mm radiator.  However, these additions only add up to roughly another £100. You are paying for the convenience of having a computer arrive at your door fully working ready for an operating system, no part lottery plus it comes with a 4.5GHz guaranteed overclock.

What about a laptop?

This generation, laptops have increased in potential to within 10% of their desktop equivalent. Featuring full specification desktop graphics card and near enough full desktop processor.

laptop

The best (and cheapest) I found was the MSI GT72VR gaming laptop. It features a GTX 1070, which is roughly on par with a GTX 980Ti. The only real advantage of a gaming laptop is the ability to carry it around with you and use it in more places such as a train. If I had the option of a gaming laptop, I would choose something like this.


Thoughts

So there we have it, my interpretation of some pretty good and varying LAN appropriate gaming systems. Yes, these systems could be changed to incorporate different processors or graphics cards, maybe you only want mechanical storage or only solid state? However, AMD is dominating the low-end gaming segment, whereas NVIDIA dominates once a discrete card is introduced; especially with the recent price drops.

Pros
–  Experience at building computers
–  Satisfaction of building your own computer
–  Can choose exactly what parts to use
–  Can space purchases out to avoiding paying a large amount at               once
–  Compact and relatively lightweight to move around
–  Takes up little room when at home

Cons
–  Some parts may not work out of the box (damage from factory)
–  Some parts may not be compatible if you buy without research
–  At this size, further compatibility issues can be present with               length of graphics cards and CPU coolers
–  Upgrading parts can be difficult in the future, no room for SLI/           Crossfire and limited room for more storage drives


I’ll be at i58 next week covering all the systems on show, bringing all the latest as it happens.

Event: Insomnia58 @ NEC Birmingham

It’s almost that time again, iSeries has come again for the Summer event held in the ever popular NEC Birmingham. This will be the first event TechHubClub will be attending officially and we’ll offer coverage on Saturday.

Insomnia

Growing from a humble show, iSeries has gone from strength to strength and becoming a staple event in the gaming calendar. Some criticism was thrown around after GAME bought the event and there was a definite console presence at i54, but this has obviously not deterred the hardcore BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) participants with the event having to be moved to a larger location from the Ricoh Arena Coventry to NEC Birmingham.

I will be there covering the event on Saturday 27th, bringing the latest news and products at the show; maybe there will be a vlog?

If you are going to the event, stop by the Gigabyte stand. Gigabyte has been running a charity raffle for the recent events for the baby hospice Zoe’s Place and has raised a huge amount of money thanks to people like you. I’ll be buying a ticket or two.

Are you going to this or any other events for the rest of the year? Let us know in the comments.

Summer of Gaming Week 3: The £1000 Golden Nugget

It’s that time of the week again, Week 3 of the series has come so quickly. With it, NVIDIA has announced some tasty price drops to the Maxwell graphics card line-up, so maybe we can get some pretty epic computers for this price. This week we are going to look at the £1000 budget, generally, this is the area everyone wants to aim for but make compromises somewhere along the line (normally processor or graphics card) to save some cash.

This is the area I normally aim for when speccing up a computer for friends or family. It will have loads of power, play almost any game at max settings and last a fair few years.

Just like last week, I have chosen to link four typical UK retailers, OverclockersUK (OcUK), SCAN, Novatech, and Maplin. OcUK, Scan, and Novatech have a single retail store whereas Maplin has many stores across the UK; which makes this a nicer option if you prefer to purchase your items that day. There are other retailers available, but most were discounted as they didn’t offer products for every style.

overclockers

OverclockersUK started out in 1999 as a small company set to change the overclocking world by offering CPUs with a known overclocking performance. As the company gained traction it steadily grew until in 2012 it was bought out by German company Caseking where it has grown further.

badge-scan

Scan, established in 1987, set out as and still is a tight knit family-run business. The key focus of the company is to find, deliver and support a wide range of computing products to its customers; this is shown through the Scansure product. Scansure allows the customer to purchase and build their computer completely worry free if an accident does happen during the building process.

novatech_logo

Novatech boasts over 27 years experience with its technological background and pushes that knowledge out to its customers. A key focus on customer case and satisfaction are present throughout the transaction process and aftercare; “Worry free computing” at its finest.

500px-Maplin_Electronics_logo.svg

Maplin is the oldest and widest company on the list today. Starting out in 1972 as a basic component reseller and branching out in 1992 to Asia puts this company at the top of the list in terms of recognition. Focussed more on the barebone components such as circuit boards, Maplin has a much more diverse range of products while still catering for the walk-in computer enthusiast.


Week 3: The £1000 Golden Nugget

The £1000 computer has come a very long way in recent years and choosing the right time to build can reap a much better computer than previously thought.

Maplin component list:

Processor Intel i5-4690 194.99 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/intel-core-i5-4690-socket-1150-quad-core-350ghz-processor-a21qy
Motherboard ASUS H81M-PLUS 39.99 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/asus-h81m-plus-intel-motherboard-a28nk
RAM Corsair Vengeance Pro 16GB 1866MHz 84.99 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/corsair-vengeance-pro-16gb-2x8gb-ddr3-1866mhz-cl9-desktop-memory-blksilv-a83nj
Storage #1 WD 2TB 74.99 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/wd-everyday-2tb-internal-35-inch-sata-iii-hard-drive-a14qu
Storage #2 Samsung 120GB 750 EVO 47.99 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/samsung-750-evo-120gb-sata-iii-25inch-ssd-a46uw
Power Supply Corsair CX550M 51.99 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/corsair-cx550m-550w-semi-modular-atx-80-plus-bronze-power-supply-a65uu
CPU Cooler Corsair H60 53.99 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/corsair-hydro-series-h60-120mm-cpu-liquid-cooler-2013-edition-n96qq
Case NZXT S340 59.99 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/nzxt-s340-black-mid-tower-case-a51uy
Graphics Card MSI Armor GTX 1070 429.98 http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/msi-geforce-gtx-1070-armor-oc-8gb-gddr5-graphics-card-a19xx

Total: £1038.90

WHAT? A GTX 1070 with this? Can’t complain about that, although that’s really the only part you can’t really complain about. The processor is a previous generation NON-OVERCLOCKABLE i5-4690 with a really low-end motherboard.

The storage solution isn’t too bad, along with the power supply and case. The CPU cooler isn’t something I would normally opt for, but I decided against an H100i (or similar) mainly due to the lack of overclocking on the CPU.

For what it is, the computer is decent, but there are better options on the market for the price.


OverclockersUK component list:

Processor Intel i5-6600K 324.98 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/gigabyte-z170x-gaming-3-intel-core-i5-6600k-cpu-and-motherboard-bundle-30-pounds-saving-bu-029-gi.html
Motherboard Gigabyte Gaming 3 0 Bundle
RAM Kingston HyperX Fury 16GB 2400MHz 52.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/kingston-fury-black-16gb-2x8gb-ddr4-pc4-19200c15-2400mhz-dual-channel-kit-black-hx424c15fb2k2-1-my-229-ks.html
Storage #1 Toshiba 2TB 58.94 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/toshiba-e300-2tb-5700rpm-64mb-cache-low-energy-hard-drive-hdwa120uzsva-hd-047-ts.html
Storage #2 Corsair Force LE 240GB 68.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/corsair-force-le-240gb-2.5-sata-6gbps-solid-state-drive-cssd-f240gbleb-hd-059-cs.html
Power Supply Corsair CX550M 63.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/corsair-cx-m-series-550w-80-plus-bronze-semi-modular-power-supply-cp-9020102-uk-ca-220-cs.html
CPU Cooler OCUK Tech Labs 240mm 59.90 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/ocuk-tech-labs-240mm-extreme-cpu-liquid-cooling-upgrade-bundle-bu-096-tl.html
Case In-Win 703 54.95 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/in-win-703-midi-tower-black-red-ca-050-iw.html
Graphics Card VGA GTX 980Ti SC ACX 349.99 https://www.overclockers.co.uk/evga-geforce-gtx-980ti-superclocked-acx-2.0-6144mb-gddr5-pci-express-graphics-card-06g-p4-4993-kr-gx-288-ea.html

Total: £1034.69

This is more like it (and how the rest will follow), a current generation processor, DDR4 RAM and a just general better all rounder.

The i5-6600K is probably the current best gaming processor available right now; only being pipped by the i7-6700k in games that utilise hyperthreading.

Yes, there has been a step back by using a GTX 980Ti, but a small sacrifice in raw gaming power to have a much better all round computer was a no brainer in my books.

Some may be looking at the questionable OcUK Tech Labs CPU cooler, I have had experience with these in the past and they are very good; maybe I can get one in soon to compare to my current H100i.

Remember: If you are a member of the OcUK forums and have been for a while, you may be eligible for free next-day shipping to any of the listed countries; check out the forum post here!


Novatech component list:

Processor Intel i5-6600K 219.98 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-processors/intelskylake1151/bx80662i56600k.html
Motherboard MSI Z170A Tomahawk 109.99 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-motherboards/intelsocket1151/z170chipset-z170atomahawk.html
RAM Kingston HyperX fury 16GB 2400MHz 69.98 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-memory-pc/ddr4memory/ddr4pc4-192002400mhz/hx424c15fb2k216.html
Storage #1 Toshiba 2TB 59.99 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-harddrives-internal/sata2tbto2.5tb/dt01aca200.html
Storage #2 SanDisk Z410 240GB 57.98 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-harddrives-internal/ssdsolidstate/240gbto400gb/sd8sbbu-240g-1122.html
Power Supply EVGA 600W 45.98 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-powersupplies/451wto650w/100-w1-0600-k3.html
CPU Cooler Antec Kuhler H1200 Pro 64.99 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-cooling/watercooling/240mm/0-761345-10900-0.html
Case Phanteks Enthoo Pro M 64.99 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-cases/midtowercases/ph-es515p_bk.html
Graphics Card Palit GeForce GTX 1070 379.99 http://www.novatech.co.uk/products-components-nvidiageforcegraphicscards-nvidiagtx1070series/ne51070015p2-1041j.html

Total: £1073.90

Now this is probably the best build today, a brand new GTX 1070 and an Intel i5-6600k. The power supply isn’t modular, but the case has more than enough cable management to sort that out.

The rest of the computer is pretty standard enthusiast grade parts, a 2TB hard drive for adequate game storage and a 240GB SSD to keep more of your key programs ready to load.

Novatech offer free shipping on orders over £50 (the option needs to be chosen at checkout), but it is 3-4 day standard.


Scan component list:

Processor Intel i5-6600K 317.48 https://www.scan.co.uk/products/asrock-z170-extreme4-intel-z170-s-1151-ddr4-satae-m2-atx-motherboard-with-intel-core-i5-6600k-35ghz-
Motherboard ASRock Extreme 4+ 0 Bundle
RAM Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB 2400MHz 73.40 https://www.scan.co.uk/products/16gb-(2x8gb)-corsair-ddr4-vengeance-lpx-red-pc4-19200-(2400)-non-ecc-unbuffered-cas-16-16-16-39-xmp-
Storage #1 Toshiba 2TB 59.99 https://www.scan.co.uk/products/2tb-toshiba-dt01aca200-35-hdd-sata-iii-6gb-s-7200rpm-64mb-cache-8ms-ncq-oem
Storage #2 SanDisk Z410 240GB 59.89 https://www.scan.co.uk/products/240gb-sandisk-z410-business-class-ssd-25-sata-iii-6gb-s-read-535mb-s-write-440mb-s-36k-iops-66k-iops
Power Supply Cooler Master GM 550W 55.99 https://www.scan.co.uk/products/550w-cooler-master-gm-series-hybrid-modular-80plus-bronze-1x120mm-atx-v231-psu
CPU Cooler Silverstone SST-TD02 69.98 https://www.scan.co.uk/products/silverstone-sst-td02-slim-tundra-hydro-cooler-for-intel-and-amd-cpus-lga-775-115x-1366-2011-2011-3-a
Case Corsair Obsidian 350D 74.99 https://www.scan.co.uk/products/corsair-obsidian-series-350d-performance-micro-atx-case-with-windowed-side-panel
Graphics Card ASUS GTX 980Ti Matrix 359.00 https://www.scan.co.uk/products/6gb-asus-geforce-gtx-980-ti-matrix-pcie-30-7010mhz-gddr5-gpu-1000mhz-boost-1075mhz-cores-2816-3x-dp-

Total: £1070.70

Can you imagine how bummed I was when I saw that price without the graphics card? Yeah, not so much.

On par with the OcUK computer, it features one of the best GTX 980Ti graphics cards on the market and an amazing case. This is a very good computer for the price,  and will see many hours of happy gaming at most resolutions.

Scan doesn’t offer a free postage option at this price point and at around £11.50 for standard delivery, it does seem steep compared to the competition but there are options such as Drop Off to a local collection point which could ease the sting.


Summary

The computers on offer this week are very similar apart from the offering from Maplin. The i5-4690 isn’t a bottleneck, but it does hold back to DDR3 memory and isn’t overclockable to gain that little extra performance; however, it does offer a great graphics card.

The two computers from Scan and OcUK are near enough identical in terms of internal components with the biggest difference being the case. They both will perform on par with each other and the parts can be changed for others if that’s what you want, remember that this is just a rough guide.

The best computer this week has to go to Novatech. Packing a GTX 1070 and i5-6600k, it will perform very well in almost every scenario and be quiet and cool while doing so.

You may have noticed an almost bias choice of NVIDIA and Intel components here, and there’s a reason for that. While AMD offers some brilliant bang for buck components, once you go over a certain monetary threshold, it becomes pointless. The raw performance per core is much lower than anything Intel offer and NVIDIA offer much cooler and more powerful components. Maybe if the rest of the RX 400 range stack up well, the Winter edition may look completely different.

Next week is just an all out, best of the best enthusiast gaming computer money can buy. I will be ignoring extreme grade components as they’re targeted at productivity rather than gaming.

Next week, Week 4: Feelin’ Flush?

NB: Prices were correct as of 9pm 16/08/2016


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