At the beginning of the month we took at look at the first of the Haswell bundles from Aria.co.uk, the Sparta i5 Nano. With an overclocked Core i5, some quick Crucial RAM and the excellent Gigabyte Sniper M5, it was a hugely impressive collection of components at a very reasonable price.
However, we know that £530 can be too much for some people in these austere times. What if you wanted the Core i5-4670K but without spending so much?
That's where the Aria Gladiator Sparta i5 Overclocked bundle comes in. It's based upon the same principles as the Nano version, but with a few reductions in the specification of parts to bring it in under the £400 mark. Considering that we thought the Nano was great value for money and had good performance, and that the difference between motherboards is usually fairly slight, this has all the potential to be one of the best value for money packages around.
So without further ado, let's see what you're getting for your money.
With the Nano still fresh in the mind, there are only two changes between the Sparta and the Sparta Nano. With the Sparta we're reviewing today you get 1600MHz Corsair Vengeance memory rather than the 1866MHz Crucial, and the motherboard is the Gigabyte Z87-HD3. Otherwise you're getting the same overclock, the same CPU, same cooler and same excellent service and warranty as you do on the Nano.
• 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 Corsair Vengeance Arctic White LV PC3-12800C9 1600MHz DDR3 (2x4096MB) Dual-Channel Memory
• Motherboard: GIGABYTE GA-Z87-HD3 Intel Z87 Express Chipset Motherboard - AMD CrossFire Ready.
• Cooler: Scythe Ashura High Performance Quiet CPU Cooler - 140mm PWM Fan
• Audio: Onboard 2/4/5.1/7.1 Channel High Definition 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
Time to take a look.
Although we could show you the box that it arrived it, we thought you might like to know how much care is taken by Aria to ensure your pre-built bundle arrives in mind condition. It's so well packed that the cooler wont move, and with the motherboard box providing some extra stability there is far less stress upon the motherboard even if you live at the end of a ploughed field.
Within the box you get all the manuals, disks and add-ons that you would receive if you purchased the items separately. It's worth noting that the reduced price of the HD3 is demonstrated in the quality of the IO shield. We don't know how much they cost, although we'd assume pence, but you can nearly always tell the price of the motherboard by the IO shield. Here we're not only devoid of paint, but of any markings at all. You also get a serious set of magnetic screwdrivers included to make installation easy. You haven't known frustration until you've screwed a motherboard in with non-magnetic screwdriver tips and lost the screw in the inky blackness of your case.
For such a frugal motherboard you'd expect some cutbacks, and as usual the vertical SATA ports are an indicator of the price point. Again we can't imagine that the price between six separate ports and one six-pack is that much, but somehow it's always the case. Otherwise the board looks pretty good. All black, with functional heatsinks and every feature you'd expect to find on a regulation Z87 motherboard.
The Nano had RAM that perfectly matched the rest of the ensemble, and we can't help feeling that some black Vengeance RAM would be better suited here. The white is nice, but nothing else here is white, so it stands out.
At least the six SATA ports are all SATA 6Gbp/s, even if they are standing priapically rather than horizontally. Round the back we have all the ports you could require. There aren't any cut-down features here. Although it is lacking the DisplayPort we've seen on some of the more expensive models, nobody will have a DisplayPort only monitor and no graphics card combination, so it's hardly worth knocking points off for.
Aria Gladiator Sparta i5 Overclocked Bundle :
i5-4670K @ 4.4GHz
Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz
Scythe Ashura CPU Cooler
MSI HD7950 OC
Windows 7 x64
Aria have applied their usual care in overclocking the i5-4670K. With the Haswell CPUs generally being radiators in terms of the heat they output, every microvolt counts. Compared to the Nano which had 1866MHz RAM installed the regulation Sparta has 1600MHz. This is certainly as low as we'd like to go, and although we know that RAM speed is more like the lacquer on a good paint job rather than the paint itself, it will be interesting to see how much difference this makes in the PC Mark benchmarks.
As both the Aria bundles have the same CPU at the same clock speed and cooled by the same cooler, it's no surprise to see that the temperatures are very similar.
Compared to the Nano we lose 1000 points in the PhotoWorxx test, because of the slower RAM, but otherwise the scores are identical. The Memory tests have a more pronounced difference. The Crucial Ballistix 1866MHz in the Nano gave us 29/29/26 whereas the 1600MHz Vengeance is only good for 29/23/22 read/write/copy.
Sandra will always be the test in which the difference between an i5-4670K and an i7-4770K will be the most obvious, and so it proves. Although in the early days of Hyper-Threading it was seen as something which couldn't make up for pure core numbers, it's so refined on the latest Intel CPUs, especially the 4th Generation models, that it's almost like having extra cores in place. Still, you wouldn't buy an i5 solely to number crunch would you.
Considering how relatively cheap this is, and we're not using a monster graphics card either, the PC Mark results are exceptionally good. Although not on a par with an overclocked i7-4770K, we wouldn't for a moment expect it to be. In PC Mark 7 the extra speed of the RAM and the potentially better Sniper M5 motherboard make a negligible difference. Certainly it's a tiny bit better, but it's also 25% more expensive.
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark 7
PC Mark 8
Those tiny difference appear again with the latest version of PC Mark, PC Mark 8. Although the differences are less than 1%, it is worth noting that the more expensive offering does consistently perform better, even if it isn't by enough to be worthy of a song and dance.
Any calculation-heavy benchmark will appear slow on the i5 when compared to its bigger i7 brother. The Sparta matches the Nano though, and isn't far behind a stock i7-4770K.
Obviously our 3D tests depart from the main purpose of benchmarking the Aria Gladiator Sparta, because they are so heavily reliant upon which GPU you choose to use. With that said the HD7950 performs well, even in this value motherboard.
3D Mark Vantage
The differences between an i7-4770K and a HD7970, and our i5-4670K and a HD7950 are plain for all to see. However, considering the price differential between the relative hardware we're not disheartened at all.
3D Mark 11
In 3D Mark 11 the performance preset is the one that notices the difference the most, but as the resolution and detail settings move closer to what you'd actually use, the gap lessens dramatically.
Finally the latest version of 3D Mark, and the i5-4670K has enough performance to push our HD7950 along at a handy clip. Yes it's not quite up there with a HD7970, but it's also a lot better value for money. But let's not spoil our conclusion here.
To a large degree our thoughts about the Aria Gladiator Sparta i5 Nano that we wrote at the beginning of the month here, are applicable to the regular Sparta i5.
It's a wise selection of components, put together with the care and attention you'd expect from such a long-standing company such as Aria. There always comes a point in the size of any company that as it increases the personal touch becomes harder to find because of the sheer scale of the operation. Aria perfectly blend the 'large stock at affordable prices' boon of a big company with the attention to detail, knowledge and personal touch you'd expect from a boutique operation.
We were concerned at first that the Gigabyte Z87-HD3 that underpins the Sparta might be a price cut too far, but it performs perfectly well, giving the same overclock that the Sniper M5 attained, at the same voltage, and the benchmark results bore this out. This will be down to temperatures as both the bundles have the same CPU cooler and we are all fully aware now that Haswell CPU are very temperature limited. It's certainly not an aesthetically pleasing motherboard though. It's strange that something as simple as vertical SATA ports can affect your initial impressions so heavily, but they do. Thankfully though it's an all-black affair so at the very least with some careful lighting, or no case window at all, nobody will be any the wiser. Speaking of colours we'd prefer to see black RAM chosen. The white Vengeance, whilst it has its place, is just jarring here against the swathe of black that is the Z87-HD3.
If you're after a gaming system on a budget this could be just the ticket. The money that you save between the Sparta i5 Nano system, and the Sparta i5 up for review today is enough to easily allow you to bridge the gap between a HD7950 and a HD7970. One of the great truisms about the value of each component and distribution therein is that a graphics card will reward you far more for each pound spent than any other hardware choice. You could buy the Sparta and spend the money you save going from, for example, our test HD7950 to a GTX770. Given the choice between a Sniper M5 and a HD7950 or a HD3 and a GTX770, we think it's a no brainer.
If you don't mind the functional appearance, the Aria Gladiator Sparta i5 Overclocked Bundle is exceptional value for money, giving nearly identical real-world performance to their Nano bundle, for a fraction of the cost. As the basis for any system that gets the standard type of usage it's nearly perfect. You're freed from the worries of the silicon lottery and finding the sweet spot for your overclock. It's guaranteed to arrive in mint condition and is only some basic sundry cable insertion away from being up and running. Stupendous value for money and that is why it not only wins our OC3D Gold Award, but our Value for Money too. Shame about the white RAM sticks though.
Thanks to Aria for supplying the Gladiator Sparta i5 Overlocked Bundle for review. Discuss it in the OC3D Forums.