The Computer Council - Clocked Gamer Quad Page: 1
IntroductionAntec Nine Hundred
 
When purchasing a new pre-built PC, it can sometimes be hard to find a company that is small enough to give you that "personal touch" while also having the knowledge and experience to build a system based around the very latest technology. Larger companies such as Dell and Voodoo often have the latter down to a "T", managing to push out base units with the latest graphics cards and processors on a production line scale. However, while these companies are more than capable of getting your new purchase out the door in a record time, there is one thing they all distinctly lack: a personal level of service.
 
A personal level of service is one of those things you don't really realise you need until you find yourself on the phone to tech support, being thrown between "departments" and generally being forced to explain your problem over and over again. We've all been there, and this is exactly why many people make the choice of getting a friend or local company to build their new PC for them. The Computer Council (or TCC for my lazy fingers) IS one of these local companies, and based out of Staffordshire in the UK, their small team of dedicated engineers have almost a decade of experience in selecting components and building PC's. Here's what TCC list as their core competencies on their website:
 
 
- Effective communication with our customers.
- Excellent customer service.
- Comprehensive after sales service.
- Superior build quality.
- Value for money.
- Financial success.
 
As we can see, A large portion of TCC's morals are built around customer service. This certainly isn't a shock either considering their staff have a combined total of 15 years support experience in the IT industry. TCC also showcase their systems on a monthly basis over at the Bristol Computer Fair. This allows potential buyers to take a good look at the systems, play the latest computer games on them and chat to the TCC staff before making any decisions. Interestingly, TCC only sell their systems online, meaning that there are no salesperson pushes to 'sign on the dotted line'  when viewing the systems.
 
 
Ordering & Delivery
 
Order PageBeing a "web only" style company, you would certainly expect TCC to have a top notch website. Many other manufacturers and PC builders have interactive websites that allow you to custom-build your dream machine while keeping a running total of how much the machine will cost along with an updated image of what it will look like once completed. Unfortunately the TCC website still seems to be somewhat in its infancy, with only the most basic of options being available via drop-down boxes on the order page. Professional looking and user friendly websites do tend to give buyers a reassured feeling that their money is going to a more established company and for this reason we'd really like to see TCC investing some time/money in bringing their site up-to-date. * Following on from the feedback above, TCC have revamped their website. Please read our addendum on page 10 which reflects the new website design.
 
However, having gone through the whole order process as a customer would, things certainly pick up after placing your order. TCC are extremely verbose during the build process, keeping you up-to-date every step of the way via either e-mail or telephone. There is also an online order tracking facility available via their website, but in all honesty we found the regular exchanging of emails between the team at TCC and our reviews mailbox to be more than adequate at keeping us informed.
 
TCC also provide free UK Mainland delivery on all of their base units as standard - with DHL being the courier of choice. All PC's are double boxed to ensure that they are well protected against shipping damage, and we're pleased to say that our system arrived in pristine condition.



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Specifications
 
Today we're going to be taking a look at TCC's current top of the range "Clocked Gamer Quad" model. Based around an Antec 900 chassis and fitted with a pre-overclocked Q6600 CPU, the system certainly sounds well spec'd. However, as many of us will already know, a lot of system builders tend to cut corners in other areas. So let's check out the full system spec of the unit sent over to us today and find out just what makes it tick...
 
System Specification

• Antec Nine Hundred Gaming Case
• Intel Q6600 Clocked to 3.3Ghz - 3.4Ghz
• Arctic Freezer 7 Pro CPU Cooler (MX 2 Thermal Compound)
• Abit IP35 Pro Motherboard
• Crucial Ballistix Tracer 2GB PC8500 DDR2 RAM
• ATI 3870 X2 1GB Graphics Card
• OCZ StealthXStream 600w Power Supply
• 500GB Western Digital SATA Hard Drive
• DVD Writer
• Floppy Drive
• Stability Tested under Prime95 & 3DMark06 for 8 hours
• 12 Months Warranty
• Technical Support
• Built by time served PC Technicians
 
Clocked Gamer Quad - Insides
Clocked Gamer Quad - Inside
Obviously the first thing to catch our eye in the specs is the rather nice 1Ghz overclock that TCC have given the Quad-Core Intel Q6600 chip. This is much better than the conservative 200-400mhz overclock that most manufacturers give on their pre-oc'd machines; and is most undoubtedly thanks to the extensive 8hrs of stability testing that TCC give every machine before it's shipped out to the customer. TCC have also done away with the Intel stock cooler in favour of the well respected Arctic Freezer 7 Pro coupled with high quality Arctic Cooling MX2 compound.
 
On the memory front, TCC give customers the opportunity to choose between either Crucial Ballistix or Corsair Dominator modules. We went for the former, and our system arrived fitted with the rather sexy and extremely overclockable 2GB Ballistix Tracer PC2-8500 kit. Disappointingly, if you opt for a memory upgrade to 4GB; TCC will simply slap in an additional 2GB memory kit (occupying all four slots) rather than switching to a 2x2GB. This has the disadvantage of costing a fairly steep £54.99 while also requiring the PC's overclock to be lowered slighly to maintain stability.
 
Both the graphics card and motherboard are components that we rate highly here at Overclock3D, and although TCC haven't made any attempts to overclock the Powercolor branded ATI 3870 X2, there really isn't any need to take the card above its stock speed due to it already being an insanely fast graphics card right out of the box.
 
The power supply used inside the Clocked Gamer Quad is also worthy of a mention, with TCC opting for the OCZ StealthXStream 600w. While most PC builders see the PSU as an opportunity to save money, TCC have recognized the importance of high quality PSU and have chosen a unit that is both quiet and well featured.
 
Finally, should anything go wrong with this nice little bundle of hardware within the one year warranty period, TCC will arrange to have the base unit (or faulty components) collected and replaced at no charge to the customer.
 
 
Appearance
 
While some system builders go for outlandish modification techniques to help distinguish their PC systems from the stock PC cases, TCC have chosen what could quite possibly be described as a pre-modified case. Featuring a clear plexiglass side window along with a 200mm fan mounted in the top and two blue LED fans at the front, the Antec Nine Hundred chassis is well ventilated and inoffensively stylish.
 
TCC - Clocked Game Quad Front    TCC - Clocked Gamer Quad Rear
 
The top two 5.25" bays at the top of the case are fitted with an unbranded DVD-RW drive and a floppy disk drive respectively.  This leaves a further single 5.25" bay free for installation of an additional drive without having to sacrifice one of the 120mm fans stealthily mounted behind the meshed drive bay covers. Of course, should you really need it - up to nine devices can be installed in the drive bays.
 
 
TCC - Clocked Gamer Quad Side
 
Through the cases side window we can see that TCC have paid a great deal of attention to the systems internal appearance. All cables from the PSU and drives have either been neatly tucked into hidden areas of the case, or have been bundled together using cable ties. Aside from the aesthetic advantages that this level of cable tidying has, the airflow inside the case should also be significantly improved with no wires obstructing the fans.
 
 
The Bundle
 
TCC - Clocked Gamer Quad BundleWhile some manufacturers bundle in Printers, Scanners and Digital Camera's in with their systems, TCC has kept thing extremely simple, only providing us with the things we need to get the system up and running. Over on the right we can see the Motherboard manual, Mains power cord, three spare SATA cables and a rubberised mat for the Antec case.
 
Normally we'd skip straight past things such as the boring manual, but the A4 printed leaflet included with the Clocked Gamer Quad is most definitely worth a read as it provides details on how to restore the TCC overclocked settings should the motherboard ever get reset to default factory settings.
 
Our system came pre-loaded with Windows Vista Home Premium (which adds an extra £65 to the price tag) and providing that you opt for an OS to be installed at the time of purchase, the Clocked Gamer Quad also comes with a small selection of software including: Open Office, Nero Essentials 7 and a 30 day subscription to NOD32 Antivirus. While this may seem a bit tight, it's a breath of fresh air when compared to the whole host of junk you often find installed on PC's from Dell and Sony.
 
Those of us wanting a complete PC system will also need to choose a TFT screen and mouse/keyboard combo at the order stage. Most of the options are actually very well priced  with a 22" TFT coming in at  £149 and a cordless Logitech mouse and keyboard at just under £20. TCC have also informed us that their "Clocked" range also includes a free 2GB Kingston USB flash drive.


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System Setup
 
Being the first PC system review conducted here at Overclock3D, we unfortunately do not have any results from previous systems to compare the Clocked Gamer Quad against. However, for the benefit of comparison we have constructed a similar spec'd non-overclocked machine to give an idea of just how much faster the Clocked Gamer Quad is to an "off-the-shelf" PC.
 
System Setup Table
 
The following benchmarks are part of Overclock3D's standard suite of applications and should give us a good overall idea of how the Clocked Gamer Quad performs in both synthetic and real world situations.
 
Synthetic CPU & Memory
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• Lavalys Everest 4.0
• SuperPI Mod 1.4 (8m)

File Compression & Encoding
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark

Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 3.0.4.0
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark05
• 3DMark06
• POV-Ray 3.6

3D Games
• Quake 4
• Bioshock
• F.E.A.R
 
 
Stability & Overclocking
 
Being a pre-overclocked system great attention needs to be paid to the stability of the machine under high loads for extensive periods (Gaming etc..). TCC state that every one of the machines in their Clocked range is tested for full stability with 8 hours of Prime95 and 3DMark tests. While this is probably more than enough to guarantee full stability, we decided to push the Clocked Gamer Quad a little harder subjecting it to an entire day's (12hrs) worth of OCCT and ATITool Artifact Scanning. At the end of the day, the Clocked Gamer Quad had pretty much heated the entire office, but impressively it hadn't faltered once.
 
Overclock3D Stability PASSED
 
Of course, knowing that the Clocked Gamer Quad was 100% stable we couldnt help but wonder just how much further we could push that 3.3ghz overclock before things started to get a little wobbly. By using the BIOS to simply raise the FSB a few notches, this is what we managed:
 
TCC - CPUZ TCC - CPUZ
 
While we could have probably taken things further with extra voltage and additional tweaking, we felt that the original 3.3ghz overclock performed by TCC offered the best balance of performance and stability. Re-testing the unit with a further 8-12hours of OCCT just simply wasn't worth the additional effort for an extra 100-200mhz.


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Sisoft
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
TCC - Sisoft Sandra
 
TCC - Sisoft Sandra
 
TCC - Sisoft Sandra
 
TCC - Sisoft Sandra
 
TCC - SIsoft Sandra
 
TCC - Sisoft Sandra
 
TCC - Sisoft Sandra
 
 
Everest
 
Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on Software and Hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining 3.
 
TCC - Everest
 
TCC - Everest
 
TCC - Everest
 
 
SuperPI
 
SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers as it's lightweight to download and can give a quick indication on how good a system is at number crunching. A test of 8 million itterations was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest times removed from the results and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 
TCC - SuperPI


The Computer Council - Clocked Gamer Quad Page: 5
ViMark
 
ViMark is designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files and produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding raw video into Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif formats. As always, a total of 5 benchmark runs were performed with the highest and lowest scores removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 scores.
 
TCC - ViMark
 
TCC - ViMark
 
TCC - ViMark
 
TCC - ViMark
 
 
7-Zip
 
7-Zip is an open source winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including its own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.
 
TCC - 7ZIP
 
TCC - &ZIP


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HDTach
 
HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access. The "Long bench" was run a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
TCC - HDTach
 
TCC - HDTach
 
TCC - HDTach
 
 
Sisoft
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
TCC - Sisoft Sandra
 
TCC - Sisoft Sandra


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Cinebench 10
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
TCC - Cinebench
 
TCC - Cinebench
 
TCC - Cinebench
 
 
3DMark053DMark06
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
TCC - 3DMark05
 
TCC - 3DMark06
 
 
POV-Ray
 
POV-Ray is short for the Persistence of Vision Raytracer, a tool for producing high-quality computer graphics. The freely available software suite is bundled with a benchmarking scene that uses many of POV-Ray's internal features to heavily test the abilities of the CPU.
 
TCC - POV-Ray


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Quake4
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 0xAA, 0xAF settings at a resolution of 1024x768 for maximum stress on the CPU. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
 
TCC - Quake4
 
 
F.E.A.R
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being excluded and an average being calculated on the remaining 3 results.
 
TCC - F.E.A.R
 
 
BIOSHOCK
 
Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
TCC - BIOSHOCK


The Computer Council - Clocked Gamer Quad Page: 9
Conclusion
 
Being the first PC base unit ever reviewed here at Overclock3D, it's quite hard to talk about the Clocked Gamer Quad in comparison to the rest of the market. However, after checking out some of the direct competition in the sub £1000 price bracket, the Clocked Gamer Quad is actually a very well spec'd PC for the price. Featuring components such as the Abit IP35 Pro motherboard, Crucial Ballistix Tracer (or Corsair Dominator) RAM an OCZ StealthXStream PSU and a beefy Powercolor 3870X2 graphics card it's clear to see that TCC don't believe in cutting corners. This is further reinforced when you peer through the plexiglass window of the sexy Antec Nine Hundred case, to see an extremely neat interior with well routed cabling.
 
Of course, probably the biggest bonus of the Clocked Gamer Quad is that it comes overclocked 'out of the box'. This leaves the buyer free to enjoy the performance benefits of an overclocked PC without requiring any overclocking knowledge - and more importantly - without having to sit around for 8 hours running stability tests!
 
To wrap things up, the Clocked Gamer Quad is well priced, good looking, nippy little PC that is backed with that all important 'personal level of service' often missing from some of the larger system integrators. While TCC do need to do a little bit of work on their website to bring it into line with the competition, we have no reservations in recommending them for any future PC purchases.
 
 
The Good
• Decent overclock straight out of the box.
• Stability tested for 8hours.
• High quality components with no corner cutting.
• Attention to internal tidiness.
• Top quality service both during and after sale.
• Silent operation during everyday use.
 
The Mediocre
• No 4GB as standard - and upgrading to 4GB gives you 4x1GB modules.
• TCC website fairly unintuitive and lacks the "professional" look.
 
The Bad
• Nothing
 
Overclock3D Recommended Award
 
 
Right to reply
 
As with all reviews on Overclock3D, manufacturers are given the opportunity to peruse and make comments on its content before being published. The Computer Council has chosen to excersise this right, and have responsed with following comments:
 
We're thrilled to be able to bring the Clocked Gamer Quad to OC3D for review. It gives us a chance to introduce our products to the computer world and receive feedback from people about our products and services, which in turn gives us the chance to review things and make improvements to the business, which is something we're always happy to do.

4GB System Options
We are now looking at our 4GB option for this system and we are currently testing a 2x 2GB setup which will allow us to maintain the same overclock level as the 2GB system, without compromising system stability. We hope to be able to roll this out to the Clocked Gamer range within the next couple of weeks, and with additional savings for our customers!

TCC Website
Our website is simple to use and easy to navigate around and make a purchase, though as highlighted, we do appreciate it currently lacks some of the features seen on our competitor's sites. The site is an ongoing project which is moving towards an interactive "online configurator" environment that will allow customers to choose a much wider variety of system components, with an integrated theme in line with the rest of the site. It's something we are constantly developing; the site has come on a long way so far but there is still a lot to do, and we will continue to work hard to achieve this.

We'd like to thank OC3D for hosting the review of our system, and look forward to presenting our next project here.

Matthew South
The Computer Council
 
Thanks to The Computer Council for providing the unit for review. Discuss this review in our forums.
 
* Addendum 3/07/2008
The Computer Council have revamped their website recently and have asked us to revisit and comment. Please follow over the page to see how the site has improved.


The Computer Council - Clocked Gamer Quad Page: 10
The Computer Council Website Revisited The Computer Council header
 
After the conclusion of our review of The Computer Council's (TCC) - Clocked Gamer Quad system, TCC took our constructive criticism of their website onboard and subsequently have revamped many aspects and features of the original site. TCC were so happy with the revamp that they asked us to revisit the site to have a look at the changes. The more notable changes we have listed below with some comments:
 
A Complete redesign of the site
 
TCC have made a lot of changes to the overall feel of the site as well as the inclusion of a more refined and professional look. The site is uncluttered and looks really sleek. I found my way around the website very easily and the inclusion of images for their popular 'base' models makes shopping considerably less painful, especially if you're in two minds as to what you want.
 
 
TCC website outlay header TCC webite outlay footer
 
Sytem configuration has also received a welcome revamp with a plethora of new configuration options.
 
Online System Builder
 
The Computer Council has added a bespoke "online configurator" for ordering, scrapping the low-tech drop down menu system in favour of a much improved online system builder. Nice touch TCC! Using the Clocked Gamer Quad system that we reviewed, if you click on the 'Configure/Buy' link on the right hand side of the image you will be taken to the revised configurator.
 
Configurator top Configurator middle
Configurator bottom
 
It is certainly obvious that The Computer Council has made some considerable efforts to allow better user configuration of their base model. However, there are still some restrictions that I would like to see addressed. As the configurator stands, it doesn't allow for movement over the: Intel Q6600; Abit IP35 Pro XE motherboard, nor the Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro CPU cooler. To facilitate a better shopping experience, The Computer Council could look at including some alternatives to the abit motherboard and Arctic Freezer 7 Pro given the volume of better performing alternatives out there.
 
At the time of going to press, The Computer Council had made a serious effort in addressing the issues I alluded to above by stating that:
 
"If customers want something different i.e. a system configuration that we don't have on the site, we'll spec and price a custom build for them."
 
Now that's what we want to hear - increased configuration of the system you want to purchase. Well done TCC for going that extra mile for the customer.
 
Increased Product Range
 
Previously product choices were fairly limited and this was an issue that TCC wholeheartedly agreed upon. The site now has an extended system and product add-on selection, with the latest hardware being added all the time. The new Nvidia 260/280 GTX range are the most recent additions with 4870 X2s on the way soon.
 
increased Graphics card configuration
 
An increased product range and the ability to have hardware spec'd and quoted for is a total winner as far as we're concerned.
 
Streamlined payment processing
 
Streamlined payment processing is now available courtesy of TCC's SSL enabled secure server. Previously Paypal & Google Checkout were relied upon for customers to make a purchase. This meant customers having to sign up for the relevant account at the end of the order process. This has been replaced with direct & integrated secure credit/debit card payment at checkout, resulting in a much quicker and easier payment process.
 
Shopping cart
 
There's no denying the effort that The Computer Council has made to making the configuration and purchase process so much better. The sleek and professional look of their website is further testament  to TCC's effort in making the whole experience of purchasing a quality PC an enjoyable one. Quite often it is hard to swallow criticism even when it's intentions are constructive, but The Computer Council has taken it on the chin and made some impressive additions and changes to their site as a result. Kudos to The Computer Council, and thanks for allowing us the opportunity to visit your revamped website.