Owning one of the lengthiest product titles in history, the Aria.co.uk Gladiator Sparta i5 Nano Overclocked Bundle is the latest in a long line of pre-overclocked bundles. We've looked at a few of the Gladiator range before, and always found them to be a great balance of performance and features, without overcharging you too much for the pre-built nature. Certainly if you're the type of person who finds their palms sweating at the thought of overclocking their own system, but doesn't mind dipping their toe into the waters of building. Or perhaps you've already got the main components but need a refresh on your foundations, then this could be just the ticket.
Of the four major hardware items included in the Nano variant of the Sparta we've reviewed two. The Crucial Ballistix Elite is up to the usual high Crucial standards, and with low CAS9 timings should keep everything working smoothly. The Gigabyte Sniper M5 has loads of performance in a small package and for a very affordable price. We haven't tested the Scythe Ashura yet, but it promises to ape the regulation single-tower design made famous in the Tuniq Tower, but with a huge 140mm fan.
Finally the thing we're most looking forward to testing, the Intel Core i5-4670K. In the initial Sandy Bridge CPU range the one we loved most, and the one that outsold the rest by a huge margin, was the i5-2500K. A CPU that's already achieved the legendary status reserved for such behemoths as the AMD Thunderbird and Intel E8400. The i5-4670K is a similar quad-core, non-hyperthreading effort with a base clock of 3.4GHz, 3.8GHz Turbo, and overclocked by the Aria technicians to a very healthy 4.4GHz.
We know that the i7-4770K is both a powerhouse and a toasty chip. Will the i5-4670K provide enough heft for the average user, and is the Sparta Nano a continuation of the excellent Aria Gladiator range? Read on.
One of the major benefits to buying a pre-overclocked bundle from Aria is the knowledge that your CPU will hit the rated speed, and the inclusion of their outstanding warranty. It takes the pain of uncertainty away from the whole buying process.
• Overclocking: Intel i5 professionally Overclocked to 4.40GHz from 3.40GHz included in the price - Optimised GLADIATOR Overclock profile saved in the BIOS provides unsurpassed processing power
• CPU: 4th Generation Intel Core (Haswell) i5-4670K Quad-Core Unlocked Processor - 6MB Cache
• Graphics: Intel HD 4600 GDDR3 DirectX 11 Graphics
• RAM: 8GB Crucial Ballistix Elite PC3-15000C9 1866MHz DDR3 (2x4096MB) Dual-Channel Memory (32GB Supported) - Delivers unparalleled bandwidth
• Motherboard: GIGABYTE G1.Sniper M5 Intel Z87 Express Chipset Motherboard - AMD CrossFire & NVIDIA SLI Ready.
• Cooler: Scythe Ashura High Performance Quiet CPU Cooler - 140mm PWM Fan
• Audio: Creative Sound Core3D Audio
• FREE GC-3 3.5g Extreme Performance Thermal Compound - Best thermal interface material on the market
• FREE Five Piece Comfortable Magnetic Tipped Screwdriver Kit - Easy upgrade your current PC
• FREE 8GB ARIAnet JetFlash 530 USB 2.0 Flash Drive - Back up GLADIATOR Overclock profile saved on the flash pen including instructions on how to install
• INCLUDED Full 24 Month Collect & Returns Warranty
As with any prebuilt system, the biggest fear is it arriving in good condition. Aria have got the perfect solution with the anti-static bag wrapped around the components, which is then attached to the motherboard box (containing all the goodies) for stability, and all that is placed in a robust box and surrounded with all the airbags one could hope to fit into the box.
On an mATX motherboard such as the Sniper M5, the cooler utterly dominates proceedings. It means the Sparta Nano is almost as tall as it is square.
With such a simple set of ingredients it's hard for the solidity of Aria's work to shine shine though at a glance. However, the placement of the fan cable gives you a nice idea about what you can expect once you fire it up. It would be all too easy to just plonk the cooler on and plug it in.
The choice of the Crucial Ballistix matches the M5 heatsink beautifully. As we're so often saying here at OC3D, it's the little touches that make the difference.
The Scythe is a monster cooler. 140mm of air-pushing goodness. We like the Carbon look of the fan too. It lends a little bit of class to an otherwise plain item.
Because the Sniper M5 has the DIMM slots the other way around to the norm, the RAM ends up with a label pointing inwards, so we've removed one of the sticks so you can see it's the CAS9 Ballistix Elite. We're sure that soon manufacturers will be reversing their heat-spreaders and selling it as 'specifically designed for the LGA1150'.
We're sure that most people will be sticking a graphics card in their Sparta Nano, but there are plenty of display output options should you not wish to do so.
One of the things that used to be a problem when purchasing a pre-built system was that you didn't get the various bits and pieces that would be included if you'd have brought them separately. In the guitar trade it's known as 'case candy' and it's good to see the recent move to include everything. This is especially so because of the adjustable sound chips on the Gigabyte range of Z87 motherboards.
As well as the Sparta Nano we'll be running our tests with a heavily overclocked MSI HD7970. It doesn't quite reach the performance heights of the Club3D HD7970 Royal Ace we normally test with, but as the i5-2500K was about value-for-money and the i5-4670K is on similar grounds, then it should make for a nicely performing system that is still within the reach of the average user.
Aria Gladiator Sparta i5 Nano Overclocked Bundle :
i5-4670K @ 4.4GHz
Crucial Ballistix 1866MHz
Gigabyte Z87 Sniper M5
Scythe Ashura CPU Cooler
MSI HD7950 OC
Windows 7 x64
Aria carefully select their CPUs to ensure that you end up with a model which overclocks nicely. It takes away the silicon lottery aspect. It would be very easy to just add a ton of volts to ensure that the overclock remains stable, but the real demonstrator of the build quality of the Aria bundles comes from the 1.17v CPU vCore. This should hopefully help keep the temperatures in check if the i5-4670K takes after it's bigger brother.
With a single-fan air cooler we'd have imagined the temperatures to be fairly huge, but the combination of a gently volted overclock and the i5-4670K proving a far cooler CPU than it's bigger brother has meant that, even under heavy load testing, the temperature barely got towards 60°C.
It would be extremely easy to glance at the CPU Queen bar and dismiss the Sparta Nano as slow. Stop a moment though and look at the others. Yes the CPU Queen result is about 30% lower than the HT i7-4770K, but we'd expect that. Perhaps the better thing is to look at the zLib and AES results, where the i5-4670K fits nicely between a stock Core i7-4770K and our overclocks. Remember we're running at least 200MHz slower, and without the benefits of hyper-threading.
This underlying performance is backed up by the memory benchmarks. On our standard bench rig we run 2400MHz Corsair memory, and yet the little 1866MHz Crucial kit is up there with the best of them at around 30000 MB/s and, in the write test, the best of them all!
We wouldn't expect the Sparta Nano to come close to a 4.8GHz i7-4770K and of course it doesn't. If there is one area the Aria bundle is going to fall down it's in synthetic calculation tests. So perhaps it's worth looking at their old i5-2500K bundle for comparison. Sure enough where the Whet/Dhry/Agg results of the i5-2500K were 63/134/92, the Sparta i5 Nano rocks in at a decent 66/150/99. A nice little boost in performance purely from the architecture shift between Haswell and Sandy Bridge. The Dhrystone results in general are excellent actually, outperforming any stock i7-4770K we've run.
PC Mark Vantage
When you consider that even the best i5-2500K results we're bringing in around 13000 PC Marks in Vantage, the 23669 of the Sparta Nano shows how far your money can stretch these days. With cheap SSDs and phenomenal graphic performance available even at budget pricing, the average system is a leap ahead. The memory bandwidth results, 7055 on the 2500K and 16598 here, are so much better as to be unrecognisable. Heck even compared to some of our i7-4770K results the little Sparta Nano is putting up a great showing.
PC Mark 7
If PC Mark Vantage surprised us, then PC Mark 7 makes you wonder why anyone would buy the more expensive CPU. The i5-4670K is a pocket rocket.
PC Mark 8
PC Mark 8 is still the new kit on the block and so we've had very little testing with it. So far only the Aria overclocked bundle we're reviewing today and the Cyberpower Infinity Achilles GT have been run through it. Given the Cyberpower came with a heavily overclocked i7-4770K and a nVidia GTX780, then the Sparta Nano bundle is happily giving it a run for it's money. Certainly in your every day tasks it's up to the job.
The last of our system based tests, CineBench is naturally lessened by the loss of the hyperthreading. For CPU intensive tasks the benefits of hyperthreading can't really be overstated, but the Sparta Nano makes a good fist of things, being only half a point behind a stock i7-4770K. On the plus side it attained 126FPS in the OpenGL test, which is one of the highest results we've seen.
Just looking at the 1920x1080 resolution that nearly everyone has, the Aria Sparta Nano springs a surprise. Even with the 8xAA it's comfortably ahead of our i7-4770K/HD7970 setup. Even the maximum frame rates at 191.1 and 115.8 respectively are really good.
We will race through our other 3D tests as we know it's far more reliant upon the GPU than the CPU and obviously the graphics aren't something we're reviewing today, plus you might want to buy a different GPU. So we're looking more for weaknesses that actual performance as such.
The excellent Unigine performance continues with Valley. 44FPS with everything cranked up to the stops is damn fine.
Resident Evil 6
The performance in Resident Evil 6 shows the slight drop-off from the HD7970 to the HD7950. Either way the Sparta i5 Nano is more than capable of pushing the graphics along.
3D Mark Vantage
The combination of a lack of hyper-threading and the lesser GPU just drops the 3D Mark Vantage scores a little, but you're still well in the range of good gaming performance.
3D Mark 11
On page 11, 3D Mark 11. It's almost as if we planned it that way. The same situation as we saw with Vantage, the lack of hyper-threading affects the P-score mostly, and the little drop between a HD7950 to the monster HD7970 accounts for the 400 point drop in the eXtreme test.
And finally the latest version of 3D Mark. It's nice to imagine that one day we'll look back on the Fire Strike Extreme test with the same 'was this once really stressful?' nostalgia to which we look at the 3D Mark 01 Lobby benchmark now.
So is the i5-4670K based Aria Gladiator Sparta i5 Nano Overclocked Bundle a match for their excellent previous bundles, and is the Intel Core i5-4670K itself a worthy successor to the brilliant i5-2500K?
Yes on both counts.
Although it's nice to see the kind of results that can be obtained in the 3D benchmarks, that's not really why we're here today. The primary reason to do some basic 3D tests with an average card is to see how much performance is lost between the all-singing hyper-threaded daddy that is the Core i7-4770K and the quad-core but no HT Core i5-4670K.
At the very extreme end there is obviously a performance drop off. Firstly because we overclock to around 4.7GHz whereas the i5 in the Sparta Nano is at 4.4GHz, and secondly the hyper-threading which really improves the CPU performance. However, as the image quality increases and the graphics card makes a bigger difference, the i5-4670K at the heart of the Sparta Nano keeps pace, helped by the excellent Gigabyte Sniper M5 motherboard and speedy Crucial Ballistix RAM. If you merely glanced at the calculation heavy results, SiSoft Sandra and Cinebench in particular, you could come away thinking the i5-4670K hasn't got the guts to keep up with the premium models in the Haswell range. You're wrong though.
One of the things we find hardest to get across is the real-world performance of something. Benchmarks are excellent for comparisons and getting a general idea of how good something is. Hardware lives and dies by them after all. But they're all tailored to push your system far further and harder than almost anything you'll ever actually do. You only have to look at the excellent PC Mark results to understand this.
In PC Mark Vantage the Aria Gladiator Sparta i5 Nano was easily a match for a stock i7-4770K despite the handicap of a lesser GPU. Once you move to PC Mark 7 it wasn't disgraced by any other result in our graph, even the overclocked i7-4770K, and by the time we reached the newer PC Mark 8 it was only let down by the (enormous) difference between a HD7950 and a GTX780. Our bench rig with its high-end HD7970, 2400MHz RAM and Neutron GTX SSD is a lot more expensive than the Aria Sparta Nano and our additional HD7950 and little Corsair F80 SSD, but performance wise you'd struggle to tell them apart.
We spoke back on page 2 about the quality of the Aria build process. We know well from their full systems how much attention to detail there is in their work. With an overclocked bundle such as the Sparta there is less to notice externally, but the quality of the component choices and overclock itself speak volumes. We know that many users are finding the current CPUs to be extremely variable, even taking into account the silicon lottery. Aria are carefully selecting their CPUs and only giving you ones that definitely achieve the required overclock and at a sensible voltage too. We've almost returned to the days in which it's worth paying the little bit extra for a particular CPU from a known good batch because you know it will overclock as it should. This cherry picking of CPUs allows for low-voltage which equals low temperatures. This is good not only for longevity and the general temperature inside your case, but because the Scythe isn't being worked within an inch of its life it remains extremely quiet.
In fact the only thing we'd change is the name, which is getting rather lengthy. This will hardly spread via word of mouth because people will have fallen asleep by the time you get to the end of its multi-syllabic name.
In total we can highly recommend the Aria.co.uk Gladiator Sparta i5 Nano Overclocked Bundle. It's got far more performance than you expect it to have, is built well, comes with all the relevant bits and bobs as well as the excellent service and warranty from Aria. At a smidge over £500 it's good value for money too. A fire and forget solution to the minefield of finding the right CPU. We're happy to award it our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to Aria for supplying the Sparta i5 Nano for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.