Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

1 Flares 1 Flares ×

KitGuru is all about providing rock solid buying advice. Sure, we like to have a laugh (and the +50,000 folks who love our content over on Facebook are treated to as many jokes and cartoons as they are serious articles), but – at our core – we are all about helping you make more intelligent choices.

So here’s a question that we’ve all tried to answer at some stage: Which processor should I buy and what system should I build around it?

There are many components that you can upgrade in your PC later, but the boot drive, mainboard and CPU are worth ‘getting right’ from the start.

In our most recent survey, almost 2,000 loyal KitGuru readers told us that if price was no object, then their next CPU would be from Intel [80% to be precise - Ed], which got us wondering about ‘complete specifications’. What would the ‘whole PC’ look like?

Given that you’re an enthusiastic bunch, it’s fair to assume most of you would be heading toward the ‘K’ options from Intel. Sure, you might consider an X79 based 3820 which can also be overclocked (but not in quite the same way), but most of you will stick with the regular Core i5 and Core i7 variants.

So here’s a question for you?  When you move from one processor to another – upgrading from one PC specification to another – what are you actually buying?  Do you get more ‘bang for your buck’ by going for the cheapest possible CPU, buying the most expensive in the range or is there, in fact, a ‘sweet spot’ in the middle.

To answer this question properly takes a lot of time, effort and money.

Specifically, you will need to build around half a dozen systems – each with some subtle differences – so the entire range represents the spread of ‘sensible choices’.

It could be difficult, unless you have access to the R&D facilities of one of the UK’s largest system builders like PC Specialist.

Fortunately, we do.

Incidental PCS Bench Loaded with PCs1 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Throughout the PC Specialist production facility, you will find an array of custom build PCs

PC Specialist

It’s a fair schlep all the way to Huddersfield to meet up with PC Specialist’s marketing uber-guru, John Medley, but well worth while.

John is used to specifying award winning sytems and the recent effort we analysed in the KitGuru Labs was very impressive. Certainly one of the best ‘manufacturer builds’ we have ever seen and cost effective to boot.

Established 10 years ago, PC Specialist has grown into the largest system builder of its kind and it has now shipped tens of thousands of systems to all parts of the UK.

If you put www.pc.co.uk into a browser, you will get PC Specialist. That is a pretty cool URL to own.

The company itself is based around 5 miles south of central Huddersfield, along a river valley that has clearly been the centre for generations of thriving businesses dating back well over 100 years.

Huddersfield Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Huddersfield is a gorgeous town with affordable housing – from terraced houses around £60,000 to detached mansions with swimming pools at £450,000. i.e. The price of a shoe box in London.

John gave us a tour around a large warehouse, with goods-in, storage, R&D, sales, support and production. Then he explained that they also have the 2 warehouses opposite. No messing around, this is a substantial operation.

PC Specialist Production HQ Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Three of these units house PC Specialist – but they are already in the process of finding bigger accommodation.

Its partnership with Intel is classified as ‘Platinum’, which means they are buying a huge volume of processors and providing great advice for their customers. Also good news.

After a lengthy discussion at KitGuru HQ, we went through the specifications with John and then asked his R&D guys to build them ‘as if they were for regular customers – ordering over the phone’.

Incidental Sleeping Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Brand new systems are kept warm and quiet during intensive burn testing – which helps screen out weak components before shipping. PC Specialist has a HUGE nursery for these baby systems.

Sure, the specs change for each CPU set-up, but the changes were staggered – so you won’t find a massive leap in price going from one to the next.

The idea is that each system represents a definite ‘Next rung on the ladder’ option for someone buying a brand new PC from a major system house.

Our job is to take this range, subject it to a series of standardised benchmark tests, and then present to the results to you – dear reader – complete with the superb, high quality KitGuru photography that you’re used to.

After going through each system in detail, we then analyse the results together and apply some ‘retail logic’ to decide which Intel-based system represents the best value for money at the start of 2013.

Incidental Cinebench Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

For Cinebench, all the systems ran side by side. We switched to Iiyama HD screens for 3D Mark

.System Specifications

We have a spread of 6 machines from £499 at the low end, through to a top spec system at £1,499 at the high end.

The processors involved are:-

  • Core i3 3220 paired with a GT620
  • Core i5 3570k using Intel’s integrated HD 4000 graphics
  • The same kind of specification, but with a GTX650 Ti
  • Then we move the 3570k to a more popular set up, with a GTX660 Ti booting off an SSD
  • The last of the 3570k systems comes with an SSD, 16GB of memory and a GTX670 at just over £1,000
  • Finally, we have a water-cooled, overclocked 3770k with a GTX680 – representing the pinnacle of what’s possible with Intel Core i7 processors – without breaking the bank at £1,499


Here’s a run down of each system – complete with a series of photos.  You can see them online at PC Specialist here.
.

Guru 500 System (Intel Core i3 3220/ nVidia GT620)

Built around what is arguably Intel’s best processor under £100 (street price, incuding VAT to regular consumers), this system represents the most popular kind of specification you would find in a department store etc. Simple, no fuss, clean build and it will do a job for you – if all you need is a basic system.

At this level, customers will be thinking about whether or not to add in a graphics card. To give us something to compare with the Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics processor later, PCSPECIALIST included nVidia’s GT 620 – which is one of the best selling low end cards on the market.

cpuz GURU 500 PC 300x297 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

  • Intel Core i3 3220
  • Asus P8H61-MX
  • 8GB Samsung 1333Mhz
  • 1GB nVidia GeForce GT 620
  • 1TB SATA III
  • FSP 450W
  • Intel Stock Cooler
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Standard (64-bit)

£499 inc VAT, delivery and standard warranty (1 year collect and return – and 3 years labour only)

Guru 500 Side 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 500 Inside Detail 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 650 System (Intel Core i5 3570k / Intel HD4000)

Moving up £150 at this level gets you a serious improvement in specification. As discussed earlier, it’s more important to get your CPU right than your graphics card. On that basis, PCSPECIALIST have left the nVidia GeForce GT620 off this system and increased the CPU to a 3570k – relying on the HD4000 engine for in game performance.

This is the kind of choice you might make if you need to get a system ‘now’ for £650 – but want to add in a decent card later – maybe a GTX660 or Radeon HD 7850. Although the jump is (financially) small, you now have one of the most popular processors available. The stock cooler has been exchanged for a decent heatpipe model, the H61 chipset has given way to a Z77 and the memory is faster.

cpuz GURU 650 PC 300x297 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

  • Intel Core i5 3570K
  • Asus P8Z77-V LK
  • 8GB Kingston HyperX 1600MHz
  • Integrated Intel HD 4000
  • 1TB SATA III
  • FSP 450W
  • Spire Triple Copper Cooler
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Standard (64-bit)

£649 inc VAT, delivery and standard warranty (1 year collect and return – and 3 years labour only)

Guru 650 Front 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 650 Side Closed1 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 650 Side Open 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 650 Inside 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 800 PC (Intel Core i5 3570k / nVidia GTX650Ti)

If you didn’t have to hold back on the graphics card on system 2, then the GTX650Ti is a good choice for casual gamers. If you get into gaming and want to belt away on more demanding games later, then you can always add in a second card and enable SLi. PCSPECIALIST has also improved the chassis on this build – perfect for those that like Corsair’s ‘less is more’ approach to case design.

cpuz GURU 800 PC 300x297 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

  • Intel Core i5 3570k
  • Asus P8Z77-V LK
  • 8GB Kingston HyperX 1600MHz
  • 2GB nVidia GeForce GTX 650Ti
  • 1TB SATA III
  • FSP 450W
  • Spire Triple Copper Cooler
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Standard (64-bit)

£799 inc VAT, delivery and standard warranty (1 year collect and return – and 3 years labour only)

Guru 800 front 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 800 Side Closed 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Gurur 800 Side Open 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 800 Inside Detail 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 1000 PC (Intel Core i5 3570k / nVidia GTX660Ti)

With a budget of £999, you can start to afford the better things in life. The addition of water-cooling, courtesy of the Corsair H40, means that you can now throw extra clocks/voltage at your 3570k without being too concerned about overheating. Graphics have also taken a serious boost as we move to the one of the gaming community’s favourite sons, nVidia’s awesome GTX660 Ti.

But the benefits of spending close to a grand don’t stop there – you will also be booting and running your primary applications off a 120GB Kingston SSD, which will speed everything up and there’s still plenty of room for future upgrades with this chassis. Love or hate the chassis overall, your mates will certainly believe you have stolen Batman’s PC.

cpuz GURU 1000 PC 300x297 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

  • Intel Core i5 3570K
  • Asus P8Z77-V LK
  • 8GB Kingston HyperX 1600MHz
  • 2GB nVidia GeForce GTX 660Ti
  • 120GB Kingston HyperX
  • 1TB SATA III
  • Corsair TX650
  • Corsair H40
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Standard (64-bit)

£999 inc VAT, delivery and standard warranty (1 year collect and return – and 3 years labour only)

Guru 1000 Front 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 1000 Side Closed 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 1000 Side Open 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 1000 Inside Detail 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 1250 PC (Core i5 3570k / Nvidia GTX670)

In KitGuru’s recent round up of top graphic cards, the only thing standing against the GTX670 was price. It’s an awesome gaming card, blazing through most games with ease, but regular folks can end up paying anything from £300 to £400 for this kind of card.

Alongside the 2GB GTX670 installed as standard, this system also comes with 16GB of DDR3 memory, which will make light of rendering with heavy duty applications like Adobe After Effects. The mainboard has been upgraded, the water cooler is the more powerful Corsair H60 and PC Specialist engineers have applied their own overclocking knowledge to take the box to 4.4GHz when it ships – but there’s likely to be most headroom in there for you to explore yourself, if you know your clocks and voltages.

cpuz GURU 1250 PC 300x297 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

  • Intel Core i5 3570k @ 4.4GHz
  • Asus P8Z77-V
  • 16GB Kingston HyperX 1600MHz
  • 2GB nVidia GeForce GTX 670
  • 120GB Kingston HyperX
  • 1TB SATA III
  • Corsair TX650
  • Corsair H60
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Standard (64-bit)

£1249 inc VAT, delivery and standard warranty (1 year collect and return – and 3 years labour only)

Guru 1250 Front 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 1250 Side 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 1250 Side Open 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 1250 Inside 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 1500 PC (Core i7 3770k / nVidia GTX680)

While the X79 series of 39xx processors may well ‘El Presidente’ as far as Intel chips go, the Core i7 3770k is definitely a Don. A Godfather. The chip to which all Z77 ‘Capos’ report in to.

By now, in our testing, we have moved up to £1,499 and the kit is getting serious. Games will bow down before the GTX680, whose job it is to render everything the 4 core, 8 thread, turbo charged, water-cooled Intel Core i7 3770k can through at it. For most people, this kind of specification would represent ‘as good as it gets’.

For someone buying a family PC, it is the equivalent of using a Bentley Mulsanne Turbo to run a taxi service. But PCSPECIALIST have included it for one reason only, price. While in the real world a Fiat might cost £11k, a Jaguar £22k and the Mulsanne around £300,000, this ‘Bentley’ of a processor works out to be only 3x the price of a Fiat and 2x the price of a Jaguar. Like getting a Mulsanne for £44k. Bargain. Sort of.

cpuz GURU 1500 PC 300x297 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

  • Intel Core i7 3770K @ 4.4GHz
  • Asus P8Z77-V
  • 16GB Kingston HyperX 1600MHz
  • 2GB nVidia GeForce GTX 680
  • 120GB Kingston HyperX
  • 1TB SATA III
  • Corsair TX750
  • Corsair H60
  • Microsoft Windows 8 Standard (64-bit)

£1,499 inc VAT, delivery and standard warranty (1 year collect and return – and 3 years labour only)

Guru 1500 Front 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 1500 Side Closed 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Guru 1500 Side Open 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC SpecialistGuru 1500 Inside Detail 300x221 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

So there you have it: Six systems, selling as standard units from PC Specialist, representing the difference you will get if you move from £499 up to £1,499. We know what our preferences are, but what will the tests reveal?

Benchmarks

Standard applications like Office and your favourite browser are not likely to tax the processing capabilities of a mobile phone, let alone a desktop PC.

If you go as far as spending more than a few hundred pounds on a desktop, then you will be running games, professional applications or both. On that basis, we are using 3D Mark 2011, 3D Mark Fire Strike and Cinebench 11.5 to create an overall picture of what you’re getting for your money.

The first test we ran on all systems, is the ever popular 3DMARK 11, a well respected benchmark from Futuremark. One that most enthusiasts have used at one time or another. There are several tests used which stress the processing power as well, so a decent CPU will help boost the final score.

3dmark1117 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

3dmark11 GURU 500 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist3dmark11 GURU 650 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist3dmark11 GURU 800 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist3dmark11 GURU 1000 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

3dmark11 GURU 1250 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist3dmark11 GURU 1500 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

Interesting to see the Intel HD4000 beat the Nvidia GTX620 in this particular test. All other results scale as we would expect, right up to the GURU 1500 featuring the GTX680, which scores almost 10,000 points.

Next, we decided to run the latest benchmark from Futuremark, 3DMARK. This benchmark makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Scores in this test will be lower than in 3DMARK 11, as the graphical intensity is more demanding.

3dmark23 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

3dmark13 GURU 500 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist3dmark13 GURU 650 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist3dmark13 GURU 800 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist3dmark13 GURU 1000 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

3dmark13 GURU 1250 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist3dmark13 GURU 1500 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

The GURU 500 and GURU 650 systems struggle a little to score well in this intensive Fire Strike section of the 3DMARK benchmark. The GURU 1000, 1250 and 1500 score well, as we would expect with the higher end discrete graphics cards.

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more. This is a great indication of real world graphics performance, especially for more intensive tasks such as video editing or 3D rendering.

cinebench1 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

cinebench GURRU 500 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialistcinebench GURU 650 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialistcinebench GURU 800 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialistcinebench GURU 1000 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

cinebench GURU 1250 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialistcinebench GURU 1500 PC 150x150 Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist

The results indicate clear scaling advantages as we move up the range of Intel processor. When we get to the GURU 650 system, rendering performance has basically doubled (3220 to 3570k). The final result from the GURU 1500 is much higher, as the system adopts the high end Core i7 3770k processor with 4 physical cores and hypertreading for a total of 8 logical processors. This is the system you would want if you are demanding ultimate performance for 3D rendering and video encoding tasks.

Gamers would be very satisfied with the higher specification GTX650ti and GTX660ti systems, with the GTX670 rig priced at a slight premium. There is no doubt the GTX670 is a very powerful video card however, and if you need more CUDA power it makes for a wise investment.

The lower cost systems (Guru 500 and Guru 650) we looked at are ideal for all round work station systems at home, just be aware that Intel HD4000 and nVidia GT620 graphics are not going to power the latest Direct X 11 games at 1080p with high image quality settings. This is one of the reasons you pay extra.

If you are looking for a new system are are in the United Kingdom, then head over and check out the PC SPECIALIST website – they have a variety of builds to suit every demand and budget. visit at this link.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
Picking the perfect system with PC Specialist, 5.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating
1 Flares Google+ 0 Twitter 1 Reddit 0 StumbleUpon 0 Email -- Facebook 0 1 Flares ×

  • Peter

    Nice systems our local dealers are crap and you get no after sales support. Wish they were in our country.

    VA:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Antony Oldham

    I bought a custom laptop from these guys…its the business!

    VA:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • http://channels.dal.net/webdev/redirect.html WulfTheSaxon

    No i5-3470?

    VA:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Polls

Best printer option for 2015?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...
KitGuru Facebook
Latest News Latest Previews
Related Posts
Archives