It wasn't that long ago that there were definitely three main ways to get yourself a PC. The first was to pop to your local major retailer and purchase a system that had barely any power at all and cost a fair chunk of change for anything remotely capable. The second method was to put down an eye-watering amount of money to a small specialist retailer for a 'Gaming PC' which had all the hardware you wanted but was at least twice the price of building your own. The final and most popular option was to do exactly that, build your own. At a time when hardware compatibility and build complexity were genuine issues, it was still a popular option because of the financial savings.
Things have changed dramatically in recent times. As the building of your own system has become immeasurably easier thanks to USB, PCI Express, the simplicity of SATA connections and the eradication of jumpers. When you couple this to the wealth of options it's no surprise that the Alienware's of this world have almost become extinct. In their place has arisen a new breed of prebuilt system manufacturers who offer high levels of choice at low prices. One such company is PC Specialist who recently brought us a fantastically powerful laptop at a very affordable price.
Today we're looking at their Vanquish Arc Midi, a system that emphasises how much performance you can have for a very small outlay, and freed from the potential stress or time sink of doing it yourself.
£1200 clearly buys you a lot of performance these days. We start with the Quad Core i5-4670K, a CPU that has enough power for all but the most demanding number crunching users. Kept cool by a Corsair H100i you can be sure that you can have low temperatures at a barely audible volume. Backing this up is 16GB of speedy Kingston Beast memory in the ASUS Maximus VI Hero Z87 motherboard. Storage is handled by a good sized OS drive from Kingston, the HyperX 3K, and a SATA 6Gb/s storage drive.
Graphics are always the first place that anyone casts their eye, and PC Specialist give you a fantastic choice of the two big sellers, the nVidia GTX770 and the Radeon R9 290. You can have either of these without effecting the price of the system, and so to make sure we cover all the bases we'll be testing both options today.
Vanquish Arc Midi
Intel Core i5-4670K @ 4.2GHz
16GB Kingston HyperX BEAST @ 2400MHz
ASUS Maximus VI Hero Motherboard
120GB Kingston HyperX 3K SSD
1TB SATA III 6Gb/s HDD
4GB AMD Radeon 290 Graphics or nVidia GTX770
Corsair H100i CPU Cooler
Corsair TX650M Modular PSU
Fractal Design Arc Midi R2
Windows 8.1 64bit
3 Year Warranty
Price: £1199.00 inc VAT & Del
The Vanquish Arc is housed in the attractive Fractal Arc Midi R2 case, which is probably the best small case on the market. It's well designed and can be thought of as a blank sheet of paper onto which you can draw anything, rather than the more outlandish cases that force you to go down a certain route akin to join the dots.
PC Specialist build quality is fantastic, with all of the cables carefully routed out of sight and tied down neatly.
We like that the choice of parts isn't only designed to give you the best possible system for the money, but to look great in situ too. The internals are mainly black, with the red of the Maximus VI Hero accented with the white fans and drive cage.
As well as the system, PC Specialist also supply you with everything that you would have if you'd purchased the items separately. This is a fantastic idea as it allows you to add new hardware without having to buy cables and screws that would have otherwise been supplied.
The whole system is extremely well sorted, and there is absolutely nothing to complain about with the build quality and cable routing.
The other two systems are more powerful, as they have i7-4770K with hyper threading and the Achilles had a GTX780. However it is a good comparison as we can show how close this lower specification system could get to one that's far more expensive.
The decision to use an H100i is a very wise one, with the temperature never reaching above 70° even with the profile set to silent. Noise is the bane of enjoyment, and so with the Vanquish Arc Midi being silent and cool, we don't mind the little extra money spent on the cooler.
Without hyper-threading there is always a reduction in performance when compared to the top-end CPU, but the i5-4670K makes an excellent fist of the AIDA64 tests. The PhotoWorxx and AES ones are almost a match for the faster clocked 4770K!
Memory performance is equally good, with the Kingston Beast living up to its name, giving over 20GB/s.
Considering that hyper-threading is so refined these days the Vanquish Arc Midi makes outstanding use of it's 4.2GHz i5-4670K, with some very solid results in SiSoft Sandra.
Anything over 7Pts is always a good score in CineBench, and the Vanquish performs well here too. The i5-4670K is a proper little rocket when compared to the higher overclock and vastly more expensive 4770K.
There is plenty of headroom should you desire to push the CPU a little further, but even with the overclock that the Vanquish Arc Midi is supplied with the performance is very good.
Away from the pure CPU tests to where the majority of use will come, gaming performance, and the R9 290 equipped version has the head upon the GTX770 variant. Both of them perform well of course, with the i5-4670K more than capable of supplying the GPUs with all the data they require.
Demonstrating how well the little i5 can push data, you only have to compare the results to our HD7970 equipped 4770K test system, which has 400MHz and hyper-threading as an advantage and yet the PC Specialist Vanquish Arc Midi beats it handily in either configuration.
The R9 290 is unquestionably the choice of the two GPU offerings if you're planning on plenty of Unigine Heaven benchmarking. The GTX770 is just ahead of the HD7970 as we'd expect, but the R9 290 Vanquish splits the difference between the GTX770 and the vastly more expensive GTX780 equipped Achilles GT.
Given that you can pick either the R9 290 or the GTX770 for the same price, in gaming terms it's clear which is the better choice for performance. Only Resident Evil 6 prefers the GTX770, and every other game has higher performance on the R9 290. Very impressive results on both, especially when you consider this is only £1200.
Resident Evil 6
There are a couple of things to point out from the 3D Mark results. Firstly the Vanquish Arc Midi makes a mockery of its 'on paper' lower specifications when compared to the other two systems in our graphs. Secondly the R9 290 is again the better choice if you're after pure performance. The 3D Mark results, in all three versions of the benchmark, prefer the AMD card to the nVidia option.
Occasionally a product arrives that makes our job extremely simple. The PC Specialist Vanquish Arc Midi is one such item.
There is nothing at all to dislike about it. The choice of components is excellent. At the heart of the system is the i5-4670K which has replaced the i5-2500K as the perfect blend between performance and affordability. Throughout our testing it made a mockery of it's on-paper performance with good results in hardcore calculation tests and absolutely no deficit to the 4770K in our gaming benchmarks. PC Specialist provide two graphics card choices for the same price, the excellent nVidia GTX770 and the equally good AMD R9 290. Looking through our results it's clear that the R9 290 is the choice if you don't have a preference for a particular brand and just want the maximum performance for your money. Both are good choices, but we'd recommend the R9 290 if you want the best possible results.
One of the areas that usually is a corner cut when getting a system at this low price point, RAM and storage are well catered for here. 16GB of 2400MHz Kingston memory is the best you could possibly hope for without annihilating the budget, and the combination of the speedy 3K Kingston 128GB SSD and 1TB 6Gb/s storage drive ensure that all your options are covered. The Maximus VI Hero is a great little motherboard with plenty of features and an excellent BIOS. It looks great too, and these looks blend beautifully with the Fractal Arc Midi R2 case which supplies half the name of this particular configuration. The case has plenty of air-flow and lots of nice touches, including a stealthy all-black look and lots of places to hide cables out of the way.
Speaking of hiding cables, PC Specialist have gone above and beyond with their build quality. It would be all too easy to just cable everything up and forget about it. It would nearly be as easy to try and route the cables so the majority are out of the way. But the Wakefield based company have not only routed the cables well, but tied them up and ensured that, from the front, you'd be hard pressed to find one out of place. The overclock might not be at the leading edge of performance, but with the combination of a good tweak and some low voltage mean that it will remain both cool and quiet and, more importantly, reliable throughout the lifespan of the purchase. Backing up this confidence is the excellent after sales support and warranty.
Pre-built systems, and especially pre-overclocked ones, nearly always come with parts we'd change or things that aren't quite up to snuff, and the ones that are perfect have an enormous price-tag to balance out the lack of holes in the specification. With the PC Specialist Vanquish Arc Midi we can't think of anything we'd change about it, Windows 8.1 notwithstanding, and it is built like a tank and with an incredibly low price of £1200. Fantastic value for money and equally great performance mean that it has to be be awarded our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to PC Specialist for supplying the Vanquish Arc Midi for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.