Most of us 'enthusiasts' learnt to build our own computers for two main reasons.
The first is one simply of cost. PCs come in two flavours, the cheap Internet ready variety which are fine for the most basic tasks but useless for anything more strenuous than Freecell, and the Gaming PC, which can play pretty much anything but comes with a price-tag to match.
The second, and often overlooked, reason is the parts list. How often have you seen a specification and thought "if only it had a better cooler/more RAM/whatever"? So rather than paying through the nose to get a collection of bits you'll need to upgrade anyway it is easier to build it yourself.
Of course we're well aware that not everyone has the confidence or capabilities to build an entire system. There is quite a gulf between switching out a graphics card and installing a CPU and the relevant cabling.
What would be really fabulous was if a company came up with a system that had all the choicest bits of hardware, at an affordable price, without any of the hassle of building a system yourself. Aria have just the thing in the Dominator 560Ti so we just had to take a look.
What Do You Get?
If you're the type of person who keeps up with the hardware market, and thanks to OC3D that should be easy to do, then a quick run down of the specifications list here should get you nodding your head in approval.
The i5-2500K is our own weapon of choice here on the OC3D P67 bench table, we recently praised the GTX560 Ti very highly, Mushkin we love, Kingston make probably the best series of SSDs on the market, the Spinpoint F3 is probably the most popular hard-drive on the planet, MSI motherboards are bulletproof and the Corsair PSUs have been a mainstay of high-end rigs for a long time.
Wrap that all up in the fabulous CM690 II Coolermaster case and a years warranty, there really isn't anything to complain about at all. Even the DVD drive is Sony rather than some no-brand cheapo example. £1099.99 gets you an extraordinary amount of power these days.
• FREE CPU Overclocking to 4.70GHz
• Intel® 2nd Generation Core™ i5-2500K Processor
• GeForce GTX 560Ti OC 1024MB GDDR5 Graphics Card
• 8GB Mushkin (2x4GB) DDR3 1600MHz 9-9-9-24 Blackline - 996776
• Kingston 64GB SSDNow V100 2.5" SATA-II Solid State Hard Drive
• 1TB Samsung HD103SJ Spinpoint F3 SATA-II 3.5" Hard Drive
• MSI P67A-GD55 Intel P67 (Socket 1155) DDR3 PCI-Express Motherboard
• Corsair TX Series 850W ATX2.2 SLI Compliant Power Supply
• Coolermaster CM 690 II Advanced NVIDIA Edition Midi Tower
• Gelid Tranquillo CPU Cooler
• Sony 24x DVD/RW
• Arctic Silver 5 Thermal Compound
• 1 Years RTB Warranty
• Pre-Installed Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit
As you can see the Dominator Ti comes in a special nVidia branded version of the CM690 II case. Unlike some of the more outlandish branded items we've seen this is reasonably tasteful with only the green piping giving much of a clue. Of course the large nVidia logo window will give the game away to the more knowledgeable, but it's a nice change from the generic square windows.
The top panel has a large selection of inputs and outputs. If you're still crawling around under your desk the benefit of these can't be overstated.
Far and away the most wonderful thing to anyone who has purchased a full system before is the inclusion of everything that you'd get if you purchased the items separately. If you've ever brought a system from a high-street retailer, mentioning no names, you'd be lucky to get a recovery disk and a side of A4. This makes any upgrading or adjustments a royal pain in the arse. Not so with Aria.
There is such a wealth of included cables, manuals and the like that it is potentially overwhelming, but by keeping them in a separate box you can ignore them if you prefer a more plug and play experience, or dive straight in if you're a tinkerer.
The benefits and value for money this gives cannot be overstated. Instead of wondering exactly what companies do with all the extra gubbins they don't send you, or having to purchase an extra SATA cable just because they didn't include one, Aria make sure that if it came with one of the products in the system, then you've got it in the box.
Of course this is only half the battle if it's all been thrown together by a technophobic YTS kid, but thankfully the build quality of the Dominator Ti is outstanding.
If a cable can be routed out of sight, and therefore out of the way of the airflow, it has been. Everything inside has a very clean look to it and clearly a lot of care has been taken over the building of your system. It belies the price.
Anyone who has built their own knows that the main problem area is always the front panel corner as not only is there a wealth of cabling but it's also where the PSU cables are to be found. As you can see here Aria have solved the problem well, taking full advantage of the CM690 IIs cut-outs.
That isn't to say that once you pull back the wizards curtain you find it all crammed it haphazardly either as behind the motherboard tray is as tidy as one could hope with the modern plethora of cables.
In keeping with the allowance for user expandability there are some spare power connectors, rather than the "exactly as many as you need and no more" that you get from certain system builders.
It's always the little things that impress. Take care of the details and you know that care has been taken over the rest. Even the drive cables have been tied nicely and neatly. All in all it's highly impressive.
We have decided to put the Aria system up against our static GPU test system that we used when we tested the 560 Ti recently in a stand-alone review recently.
nVidia GTX560 Ti
Intel Core i7-950 @ 4GHz
ASUS Rampage III Extreme
Muskin Joule 1200w
6GB Mushkin Redline
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
3D Mark Vantage
As this is a Gaming PC it makes sense to start at the number everyone cares about, 3D Mark. Straight away you can see that the quality of the Aria Dominator 560Ti stands proud with the heavy overclock and quality components standing tall. Although very few people will actually run at the low resolution of the Performance test, even with Extreme the Aria Dominator 560Ti still spanks our Reference Bench rig.
3D Mark 11
Although the very shader intensive 3D Mark 11 doesn't give such a large variance in results for a given performance difference, nonetheless the Aria Dominator 560Ti stands proudly at the top of the results.
Alien vs Predator
Considering that we've got two very similar systems on test with identical GPU and CPUs, to see an extra 3FPS from the Aria Dominator 560Ti is hugely impressive. It wears its Gaming PC tag with pride.
If 3 frames average in AvP is impressive, we all know how much extra juice is needed to squeeze 3 frames out of Crysis Warhead. Already this is looking like a serious bargain. Not long ago you'd have needed a grands worth of GPU to reach 60FPS in Crysis, let alone an entire system costing that. How times change.
Far Cry 2
Far Cry 2 is clearly at the limits of the GPU here. Without being able to take advantage of the many optimisations from the latest code-paths and APIs it's stuck relying on brute polygon crunching so it's not a shock to see both GTX560 Ti's performing the same.
Once we move to the more upto-date and power-hungry Metro 2033 the Aria Dominator 560Ti once again, if you'll forgive the obvious adjective, dominates. 34 frames per second might not sound much to the uninitiated, but in Metro 2033 that's a stonking score.
So having proven unquestionably that the Aria Dominator 560Ti is a Gaming PC, how does it perform in the more mundane tasks of life?
As both our reference test bed and the Aria Dominator 560Ti use the same main components it's not surprising to see CineBench giving us similar scores. The Dominator just about edges ahead but it's as near as makes no difference.
The pure CPU test of SiSoft Sandras Processor Arithmetic test just gives the edge to the Dominator, highlighting the quality of the Aria overclock.
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark allows us to test everything you're likely to use your PC for, without needing to sit in front of it for months on end.
If anyone ever doubted the benefits that even a small SSD can have to your overall productivity need look no further than this graph. For capacity reasons our bench rig uses a standard mechanical hard-drive, but the Aria Dominator 560Ti utilises a Kingston SSD Now as the main OS drive and boy does it make a difference.
The Aria Dominator 560Ti annihilates our bench rig. If this was a boxing match then our HDD equipped bench rig is Audley Harrison and the SSD equipped Aria Dominator 560Ti is any boxer of your choosing.
Finally, as if to gild the lilly, the Aria Dominator 560Ti even gains a couple of frames in the seriously strenuous Unigine benchmark.
If it was possible to bet on such things, I think it's safe to say you could put your house on what the conclusion will be.
Go on take a guess. Yes you're right.
There is no denying it whatsoever, the Aria Dominator 560Ti is a Gold Award winner and with plenty of good reasons why it should be so.
The choice of components Aria have selected would be right at the top of almost anyones shopping list. Although there might be a few changes made to brands or such for personal preference reasons, if your remit is to get the maximum performance out of quality parts without breaking the bank then we really can't think of anything we'd switch out. If you've got certain specific requirements you might have a larger SSD, or a better graphics card, or maybe a Blu-Ray drive, but for 90% of gamers on the planet this does everything you could expect.
It's not just about the parts, but the build quality too. Everything has been installed with care, all the cables well routed and tidied away ensuring maximum airflow throughout the case and, as with any windowed system, looking the part to anyone who gets curious. With the nVidia branded Coolermaster case you can be sure that everyone will be interested too. Sure green might not be to everyones taste, but it's subtle enough to not be offensive and nicely different to the 99% blue modified rigs around.
Coming in a penny under £1100 you could be forgiven for thinking that Aria have sourced some "minimum supplied parts" OEM hardware, but the inclusion of absolutely everything you'd find if you brought the parts separately and built it yourself really is the thing that takes this already glittering system and polishes it that final bit. Want to install your old hard-drive? You have the cables and screws to do so. Feel like another GPU? SLI bridges and cables provided. How about switching out to a different OS? All the manuals and driver disks are provided.
There is very little we can fault it on. Strictly on a personal level we think the upgrade to a GTX570 would definitely be worth it, but in terms of value for money, build quality, warranty, service, the whole package, the Aria Dominator 560Ti has got it covered.
Such an easy winner of the OC3D Gold Award that we'd be tempted ourselves into getting one just for the joy of taking a system out of a box and being up and running, at a mental performance level, in seconds.
Many thanks to Aria for providing the Dominator 560Ti for review. Discuss in our forums.