PC Specialist Obsidian Zen Review
Published: 18th August 2017 | Source: PC Specialist | Price: £749 |
If you're one of those people who gets pointless airs and graces over systems and demand that at a bare minimum it's a custom waterloop in a Lian Li PC08 then keep your comments to yourself and go back to Reddit. If, however, you are in the market for a gaming PC but on a tight budget and care more about how a system performs than how it looks, then the PC Specialist Obsidian Zen might be just the system.
Any time you have a gaming PC that comes in under a thousand pounds you will have to make some compromises between what you dream of and what you can afford. When, as the Obsidian Zen does, it is a mere £749 then you would almost expect it to have little performance too. Oh ye of little faith. Thankfully PC Specialist have been exceptionally clever in their choices of components and it has led to a system which can very much get it done in the gaming world and isn't sacrificing everything on that altar of gaming performance.
Indeed once you have made the decision to go for performance primarily and thus eliminated the need for a flash case and lots of RGB lighting it is amazing how much extra budget you have for the parts. The bits that actually matter. We're not saying that the Obsidian Zen is a return to the bad old days of beige boxes because the smoked front and LED fan looks nice straight on, just the grey windowless side is a little bland. However, that's the only bland element as the performance is really good.
We liked the Ryzen 3 a lot as the basis for a gaming system where GPU horsepower matters far more than CPU power, and the Ryzen 3 1200 at the heart of the Obsidian Zen has enough to make the daily browsing/editing type tasks go smoothly whilst also capable of pushing plenty of polygons to the GTX 1060. Speaking of which we've always said that if you're looking to build a gaming system and you have a tight budget you should always spend more on your graphics card. You will gain far more real-world performance from a beefier GPU than almost any other item of hardware. The difference between a flagship motherboard and a basic one is tiny, but even the next model up in a graphics range will give noticeable improvements. Thus the decision to 'blow the budget' on the Zotac GTX 1060 is a wise one and it bore fruit in our gaming benchmarks. With some careful settings choices you're guaranteed to run even the latest titles at 1080P over 60 FPS without compromising image quality.
If we had one area we'd improve it would have to be the storage. It's always difficult to balance capacity with speed, and that makes the Seagate Firecuda a wise choice as its hybrid nature really shines when you're playing a game and it can access its cache. Where it slows the whole system down is when you're moving from task to task, as we do when benchmarking or if you're just tooling about in Windows, and given the low pricing of something like a 120GB SSD we think that putting an extra £50 on the budget for an SSD for the OS and leaving the Firecuda to data storage tasks would really invigorate the times when you're not running the same game for ages. However, squeezing everything into such a low price point there are always going to be places you can improve, and there is enough room and cabling inside the case that you can add one in later on when funds permit.
The PC Specialist Obsidian Zen combines some wise hardware choices with incredible affordability to produce a system which can easily handle modern gaming at 1080/60 and thus wins our OC3D Gamers Choice Award.
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