Aria Gladiator Punisher System Review
The age old adage goes something along the lines of "good things come in small packages". Usually said by those small packages. So does the Punisher exact vengeance in the manner of it's anti-hero namesake, or is it a case of bigger is better?
We think it's a case of good things in small packages. We're so used to seeing pre-built systems that are a series of compromises, or that have been built without a particular thread running through the hardware choices, that having one in which everything is clearly aimed at a goal is refreshing.
The choice to employ a BitFenix Prodigy case defines the whole of the Gladiator Punisher. If you've got a small case then you can't just stuff anything into it and hope it will work. Equally we've become so accustomed to big = best that seeing something barely a foot square instantly adjusts your expectations. However, even a cursory glance down the specifications shows that every part of the Punisher has been chosen wisely.
If you want a PSU you nearly always get a Corsair, and the CX600M is the perfect balance of price and ability. This is a theme that resounds through the Punisher. Best value for money CPU on the market? Intel Core i5-3570K. Highest performance GPU for around £150? Tahiti LE HD7870. Fast, stable SSD? Samsung 840. But it's not just the items themselves that speak to the depth of thought that Aria have put into the system. It's not just a regulation HD7870LE, but the XFX model. The i5 isn't overclocked to unstable, heat-pumping levels just to provide a headline grabbing bit of fluff, but to something that is fast enough without over-soaking the temperature dispersing capabilities of the H80i. Especially in such a small case.
Special mention must be made to the outstanding job that Aria have done in keeping the Punisher quiet. Between the XFX HD7870 and the H80i, even at full chat it's silent. Seriously silent. Yes if you strap it to your head you'll be aware of it, but even three feet away you wont notice it at all. Perfect for a media server underneath the TV or gaming in the family room without disturbing those watching the telly. We know how hard it is to get the Corsair H80i to do its cooling job whilst being this quiet, so kudos to Aria.
So although there aren't any compromises within the build and components of the Punisher, nonetheless there are a couple of things to be aware of. Firstly despite its excellent cost-relative performance, the HD7870LE has to be treated with a little caution when selecting detail levels. Some, such as Bioshock Infinite, can be maxed instantly without a second though whilst others, Crysis 3 for example, need to be balanced between performance and eye-candy. So if you accept that this isn't a max-and-forget gaming rig, then it is still capable of providing smooth gameplay in any environment. Secondly we understand that you have to supply the latest OS because that's the way the market works, but damn Windows 8 sucks on a non-touch interface. Really it's awful. The sooner the Blue update arrives to fix these many issues the better.
For £999, the Aria Gladiator Punisher makes light work of the Sisyphean task of finding a prebuilt system with an excellent set of components at a very affordable price. We all know that you can build your own for a few quid less, but in the case of the Punisher it really is only for a few quid less, and that would come without the serenity that comes from a 12 month warranty. For providing gaming possibilities and the endless joy that is silence, we're awarding the Aria Gladiator Punisher our OC3D Gamers Choice, and Silence awards.