YoYoTech Intel Spartan 300 Gaming System Page: 1
are words that have rarely found themselves bundled together in the same sentence in recent years. After all, the cost of high-end graphics cards, CPUs and Memory can easily enter the thousands when pricing up "the ultimate gaming rig". But is there really any need for us to go spending several months wages on a pre-built system that gives no real-word visible advantage to one that's 1/2 the price? Would we honestly see the difference between 100FPS or 200FPS outside the realms of benchmarking?
This is something that UK based component retailer YoYoTech
have clearly given a lot of thought before putting together their latest range of Gaming PC's. With prices starting at £500 for the most basic model and going up to around £700 for their top-end, it's clear to see that YoYoTech have avoided the usual slap-the-most-expensive-components-in
mentality adopted by a lot of system integrators. But, are these systems actually any good for gaming? Can you spend £500 on a PC and not experience a slide-show when playing the latest games? Today we're going to be looking at YoYoTech's entry level Spartan 300 system complete with an Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 (and a lot of overclocking) to see if gaming on a budget is really possible.
So, who are YoYoTech and why do they have a name reminiscent of a 1920's childrens toy? Well, while we can't answer the latter, YoYoTech have been in business for over 8 years and have run all operations from their Tottenham Court Road store in Central London. With a team of 10 staff, YoYoTech are one of the larger UK retailers and have the added advantage of an open store-front where shoppers can pop in and get a good look at the products before making a purchase. More information on YoYoTech can be found on their website
- some of which is quoted below:
ServiceWe pride ourselves in being the Personal Touch computer and Accessories business for the enthusiast and beginners. With a friendly and knowledgeable staff we endeavour to offer complete satisfaction to all our customers. We are continually sourcing the latest and hottest products at competitive prices. With dedicated web developers and utilising the latest technology we continually update our website to bring you a secure and friendly environment to browse and purchase at your own convenience.
We stock all major brands and leading components for gamers and overclockers. Our reputation and experience allows us to negotiate hard with manufacturers and bring you, our customers, the most competitive prices. Our customers are our bloodline and we listen to them to give them the products they need at prices they want.
The YoYoTech system configuration page shown below may not be the most pretty thing we've ever seen, but with the entire configuration process split up into 5 separate sections, the number of configuration options and additional services is arranged in such a way that it you're not overwhelmed with hundreds of checkboxes all on one page. A running total of your system build along with a detailed breakdown of your chosen options is displayed in a black box at the right-side of the screen and follows you up and down the page as you scroll through the various options (slightly annoying).
A good selection of alternate components is available, some of which are even cheaper than the default ones chosen by YoYoTech. If any component used in the system happens to be out of stock during the configuration of your order, the website will request that you choose an alternate product in order to avoid any delays to your order.
Unlike some of our previous system reviews, we didn't actually have any correspondance with YoYoTech during the system build (the machine simply arrived on our doorstep one day!). Therefore it is impossible for us to comment on subjects such as pre-sales service, the order process and whether or not we were kept in the loop during the system build. However, YoYoTech do assure us that customers are kept informed via email at all stages of the build from begining to end.
On delivery of the system we were quite surprised to see that YoYoTech had shipped the unit in nothing more than the stock Antec Three Hundred box. While this is more than acceptable for an empty enclosure, the installation of components adds additional weight to the case, resulting in nastier knocks if the box is dropped by a courier during shipping. For this reason it would be quite good to see YoYoTech double boxing their systems, or at the very least protecting the vulnerable edges of the box with an additional layer of card.
Now let's move on to the system appearance and specifications...
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Based around the Antec Three Hundred case, the Spartan 300 immediately earns points for avoiding the usual flimsy generic "gaming" cases that often look like they've been beaten with an ugly stick. Although no mofidications have been made to the case, we need to remember that this is all about gaming on a budget, and as such the glitz and glamour of windowed side panels, UV lighting and LED fans has all been omitted.
For those who haven't come across the Antec Three Hundred before, the case can accept a total of four 120mm fans (two front, one side, one back) and a single 140mm fan in the roof. Out of these five positions, only two fans have been installed (rear 120mm / top 140mm). The case is very much similar in appearance to its bigger brother - the "Nine Hundred", but whereas the Nine Hundred can accept a total of nine 5.25" optical drives, the "Three Hundred" can only accept three (surprisingly!).
Around the back of the case it was quite surprising to see both serial and parallel ports on the motherboard blanking plate. Considering that both of these connectivity methods haven't been used on any consumer equipment for more than 5 years now, it would have been more favourable for YoYoTech to pick a motherboard that features more modern connectivity options such as IEE1394 or eSATA.
When building a budget machine for a specific purpose such as gaming, it's often easy to put all of the money into one single area (for example a top-end graphics card) and neglect other important components of the system such as the CPU, Motherboard and Hard Disks. This creates a situation where one area of the system is bottlenecked and the performance of the PC as a whole suffers. With a limited budget of £500 it could be very easy for YoYoTech to fall into this trap, so let's check out the specs:
• Antec Three Hundred PC Case
• Antec Basiq 550w Power Supply
• MSI P43 Neo-F Motherboard
• Sapphire 4850 512Mb DDR3 Graphics Card
• Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 2.53Ghz @ ~3.5Ghz
• Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro
• OCZ Reaper 2GB Kit (2x1GB) - DDR2 1066Mhz - PC8500 - 5-5-5-15
• Samsung Spinpoint 320GB SATAII Hard Drive
• Samsung 20x DVD Rewriter
• Onboard Sound
In all honesty, the configuration of the Spartan 300 is pretty much spot-on. An MSI motherboard featuring Intel's latest P43 chipset along with a highly overclockable Core2Duo E7200 has been used as the base of the system, with a Radeon 4850 512mb serving up ample graphics power. OCZ's high performance "Reaper" PC2-8500 memory kit also makes an appearance in place of the generic branded memory used by most system integrators, which will undoubtedly help when overclocking.
The overall system build is clean and professional with a fair amount of attention being paid to cable routing and bundling. The PSU has also received a fair share of the system funds with a modular Antec Basiq 550w unit providing stable power to the components while also having plenty left over for future system upgrades. Also pictured above-right is the Samsung HD320KJ 320gb hard disk used in the build, which should be more than enough capacity for the average gamer.
As a side note, our system didn't come with any spares or accessories. While this doesn't bother us too much, those who may want to add additional hard disks or other components in the future will most certainly be needing the other modular cables provided with the PSU and any accessories included with the Motherboard.
One final observation was that all fans inside the Spartan 300 had been set to low speed. This certainly helped keep the noise of the system down to acceptable levels when using the system for both gaming and typing up parts of this review, but we'd be lying if we said the system was suitable for those seeking near-total silence from their next PC.
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With the only other pre-built system tested recently at Overclock3D coming in at nearly double the price of the YoYoTech Spartan 300, it would be somewhat unfair to place the two systems head-to-head. Therefore, in the testing over the next few pages we will be assessing the Spartan on its ability to run the latest games while also performing some traditional benchmark tests for good measure. The test suite used can be seen below:
Synthetic CPU & Memory
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• Lavalys Everest 4.0
• SuperPI Mod 1.4 (8m)
File Compression & Encoding
• Peazip File Compression
• x264 Video Encoding
Disk I/O Performance
• HD Tune Pro 3.10
3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark Vantage
• POV-Ray 3.6
• Unreal Tournament III
• Call of Duty 4
• Quake 4
As mentioned earlier in the review, the Spartan 300 comes with the option of being pre-overclocked by YoYoTech. As you can see from the CPU-Z screenshots below, our system was overclocked to just under 3.5GHz from a stock speed of 2.53GHz using an FSB of 368MHz and with a reasonable vcore of 1.445v set in the BIOS.
What the untrained eye may not see however is that the CPU used inside our test system is in fact an Intel Engineering Sample (denoted in CPU-Z as (ES)). This, we're sure is certainly not something YoYoTech will be providing in all of their customers machines (as Intel would most certainly have something to say about that), so it will be interesting to hear how it found its way into ours.
Official reply from YoYoTech:
The Intel Engineering sample CPU is 100% identical to the production models, but was part of an early batch from Intel that were made available to publications and system integrators for review. Many sites, including Overclock3d, have shown the E7200 overclocking nicely - and we would expect the performance of Spartan 300 machines shipped to all leave us pre-overclocked to the same levels
Stability & Further 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..). For this reason we subjected the Spartan 300 to 12hrs worth of OCCT and ATITool artifact scanning. At the end of the test, the system had pretty much heated the entire OC3D office, but impressively hadn't shown any signs of instability or artifacting.
However, the Spartan wasn't completely without fault. Whenever booting the system from cold we would be presented with spinning fans and a blank monitor. Powering the system off and back on again then booted into the BIOS where we was told that the motherboard had recovered from "failed overclock settings". Shutting down and restarting for a 3rd time finally allowed the system to boot into Windows while still using the overclock settings configured by YoYoTech.
To us this seemed more of an issue with the MSI motherboard than anything else. While the system was perfectly stable once it had booted into Windows, the P43 Neo-F just seemed unhappy about powering on at anything other than stock settings. Hopefully this is something that YoYoTech will be able to easily address and prevent from happening on customer machines.
Of course, we couldn't let the chance to overclock an Engineering Sample E7200 pass us by, so with a quick delve into the BIOS we managed to push the chip up to 3.66GHZ before OCCT started failing on us.
Now let's move on to some benchmarks and see if the Spartan is worthy of its title as a gaming system...
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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.
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.
An indirect comparison of the Spartan 300 against one of our recent
Quad-Core system reviews actually shows the Spartan to be more than 20 seconds faster at a SuperP1 8m run and 600MB/s faster in Sandra Memory Badwidth tests. This is extremely good considering the Spartan is almost £500 cheaper.
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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.
Peazip is an open-source file compression front-end application that makes use of 7-Zip's command line utility for performing the actual compression and de-compression of files. However, Peazip is different from most other archiving utilities in that it is able to accurately record the time taken to perform these tasks, which gives us a reliable method of recording overall system performance. During this test we placed a folder containing a collection of 200 text documents (sizes varying from 1KB to 100MB) on the Spartan's hard disk and performed both compression and decompression.
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.
Both the Cinebench and Peazip results were pretty much as expected from a dual-core system with an average performance hard disk. However, the results obtained from POV-Ray took us by surprise, with the Spartan actually managing to beat out a Quad-Core system overclocked to 3.6GHz in a previous review.
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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.
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast gameplay. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long gameplay demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
In both 3DMark05 and 06 the Spartan 300 produces some extremely respectable results for a mid-range dual core system. Even on 3DMark Vantage at high resolutions, the Spartan 300 came within a whisker of the results we obtained
from our 3.6GHZ Q6600 test PC while benchmarking a stock HD4850.
Moving on to the real game benches, the Spartan easily handles Call of Duty 4 at 1900x1200 with 4xAA and all settings set to their highest. Producing an average of 56.6FPS we didn't experience any noticable slowdowns during online gaming, even when playing on a server with over 40 other opponents.
Crysis also faired quite well on the Spartan 300 with the graphics detail set to Medium in DX10 mode. While not exactly lag-free at 1900x1200, it was still fairly playable and even more so with the resolution reduced to 1280x1024.
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Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that perhaps represents a challenge to any graphics system. The benchmark was run a total of 5 times using Fraps with the highest and lowest scores removed leaving the remaining 3 runs to calculate the average fps.
Unreal Tournament 3 is the highly anticipated game from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest Unreal engine, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
The Spartan 300 made light work of Unreal Tournament III at both 1900x1200 and 1280x1024 resolutions in DX10 mode with all detail turned up High, and even managed to produce a smooth framerate on GRID with medium settings and 2xAA. Just for a laugh we did try increasing the settings to High/4xAA on GRID which is extremely taxing for any system, and as expected the framerate dipped into the single figures with a rather nasty slideshow.
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By taking a budget Intel Core 2 Duo Chip, applying some heavy overclocking and mixing it all together with a Sapphire HD4850 graphics card, YoYoTech have produced a Gaming system that can undoubtedly give systems of more than double its £500 price tag a run for their money. Managing to hold its own in the most taxing of games such as Crysis and GRID with medium graphical settings and resolutions up to 1900x1200, the Spartan produced steady frame rates and lag-free gameplay.
Of course, for £500 you can't expect miracles, and while gaming with high settings in games such as Unreal Tournament and Call of Duty 4 is a proverbial walk in the park for the Spartan, slapping on extra texture filtering and increased levels of detail in some games is enough to bring the system to its knees.
In terms of the components used within the Spartan 300, YoYoTech certainly haven't cut any corners. In areas such as the PSU and Memory where most system integrators usual shave off a few pounds, YoYoTech have gone for well known and widely respected brands such as OCZ an Antec. However, as mentioned earlier in the review we did experience intermittent problems powering the machine on which was extremely disappointing, but most likely down to an issue with the MSI mainboard rather than anything YoYoTech had done. Never less, from the point of view of a consumer there is only one person to blame if their brand new system doesn't switch on, and for this reason YoYoTech need to get to the bottom of this issue promptly.
One final area we'd like to make a point of mentioning is the YoYoTech website. While following through the build process is a fairly simple affair, we found certain area's of the website to contradicted others as we referred to it during the review. Also information such as the warranty provided with the Spartan is non-existent, but YoYoTech have informed us that all of their systems come with a 12 month RTB warranty.
With everything considered, and on the provision that YoYoTech take steps to ensure than their systems power on first time, we have awarded the Spartan 300 both our Recommended and Value for Money awards.
- Great Performance thanks to a hefty overclock.
- Handles most recent games with ease.
- Challenging games such Crysis & GRID play well at medium detail levels.
- System budget evenly spread across all components.
- Motherboard comes with legacy ports such as Serial & Parallel.
- Packaging could be improved to protect the system during shipping.
- No accessories or welcome pack with our test system.
- Website has missing and contradicting information.
- Had to jump through hoops in order to get the system to boot.
Thanks to YoYoTech for providing the Spartan 300 for review. Discuss this review in our forums.