NRG Typhoon i502
- — 25 October, 2010 22:00
|Name||Gaming Desktop: NRG Typhoon i502|
|At a glance:||Overclocked Intel Core i5 750 CPU,Powerful Radeon HD 5850 video card,Great component selection all round,Poor-to-average cable management,Poorly mounted CPU cooler|
|Summary:||A powerful gaming PC using quality parts for a good price, let down by construction quality|
Last month we took you for a journey through the process of buying and building your own custom-specced gaming PC. If you’re the type to order something built-to-go, however, you still have plenty of options.
Some of the bigger name-brand PC manufacturers don’t usually steer their gear towards gaming but there are plenty of smaller suppliers that do. New Zealand has plenty of talented onshore companies making and selling pre-built gaming computers, but this month we received one from a company based across the ditch.
Aussie brand NRG, part of Altech Computers, has been building ‘Hardcore Gaming Systems’ since 2006 and a variety of NZ stores are now stockists of the products. Altech currently market five different gaming rigs ranging in price from $1,599 to $8,499 NZD – the unit we got to play with is called the Typhoon and retails for $2,399.
So what do NRG give you for that price tag? Take a quick look at the spec, then we’ll analyse what they’ve put together.
The CPU chosen here is probably the best value chip on the market right now. It’s effectively the same as all quad-core i7 chips except it lacks the HyperThreading technology – not a problem for a gaming rig as games rarely benefit from this. In fact, HyperThreading can even hinder performance in this area.
What’s more, they’ve overclocked the processor from its stock speed of 2.66GHz all the way up to 3.80GHz. This should give the rig enough processing grunt to power it through at least a few years of intense gaming.
The system has been given 4GB of DDR3 memory, and personally I think this is more than enough for today’s games and applications: it should be a while at least before you could justify adding any more than that (depending on what you use the system for of course). This is helped in no small part by the Windows 7 operating system being a lot more efficient with its RAM usage than the previous Vista OS.
On graphics processing duties is the popular Radeon HD 5850. This isn’t the most powerful GPU around but I’ve yet to see a game that it can’t cope with. The only other options NRG really had in this department without blowing out the price tag too much would be the HD 5870 or Nvidia GTX 470, but even these would have bumped the cost up by $100 to $200.
The NRG website just lists the generic details of “Intel P55 Chipset” for the motherboard and “1TB of HDD storage” for the hard drive, so I presume the exact models used here could vary depending on price and availability; the system we received for review packed an Asrock P55 Deluxe motherboard and Hitachi 1TB hard drive. If it were up to me I would have opted for the Asrock P55 Deluxe3 model which packs USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbits/s support, and maybe gone for a Western Digital Black or Samsung Spinpoint F3 hard drive instead, but no huge drama either way.
The 550W PSU chosen has more than enough juice to power these components, with a bit of room to spare for future upgrades as well. Antec is one of the most reliable brands of PSU around, so good choice there.
All of these parts are packed into the excellent Antec Nine Hundred Two gaming case which is sturdy, well designed and has great ventilation. And just so you don’t forget their name, there are huge ‘NRG’ stickers splattered all over it.
Well, so far the Typhoon looks good on paper, but what about the finished product?
The first thing I always check out when testing a pre-built PC is the cable management. Having tidy internal cabling not only helps with air flow (the easier air can flow in and out of the case, the cooler the components will be, adding to their usable life-span) but it also adds aesthetic appeal and gives you some insight into how much care has been taken with the rig’s assembly – after all, you have paid someone to build this computer for you.
As it turns out, I was pretty disappointed with a few aspects of the Typhoon’s build. The cable management in the visible area of the case was of average workmanship – sensibly routed for good airflow, and not a lot of visible cabling, but not much effort had gone into keeping all the cables straight, tidy, and out of the way.
The spare cabling which was tucked away underneath the motherboard tray was much worse – no effort at all had been put into keeping these tidy, they were just haphazardly crammed in there. Granted, you don’t usually go into this area of the case, but this is just poor form in my book.
Most worryingly, the CPU cooler was poorly mounted and wasn’t making very good contact with the CPU. This caused the CPU to throttle (running at a lower speed to avoid overheating) and gaming performance suffered heavily. Temporarily applying pressure to the cooler allowed me to test the unit without this being an issue but this is cause for serious concern, as I doubt the average user would know to double-check this, and would assume it’s just a poorly performing machine.
Lastly, the 120mm fan attached to the cooler was set to run at maximum speed, which made the Typhoon extremely noisy – I manually turned this down because it was driving me crazy and really didn’t need to be set so high in the first place.
On the plus side, once I had got around the CPU cooler issue at least, it performed like a dream. The highly clocked CPU and reasonably high-specced video card powered me through both Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Crysis Warhead at their highest settings on my 1,920 x 1,080 monitor, and a quick spin through 3DMark Vantage yielded 15,566 points in performance mode (I remember marvelling at systems which could break 10,000 points here not too long ago).
In theory, the NRG Typhoon is fantastic value. For $2,399 you get what are basically the best ‘mainstream’ parts available, and all components used are from high quality, reputable brands. The ability to simply jump into a game and turn all the graphics settings to High is immensely satisfying, and it’s great that you don’t have to re-mortgage the house to do so these days.
The reality, in this case at least, is that NRG need to put more care and effort into building their systems. Perhaps the issues I had with the system I received are a one-off, who knows? If I was their Quality Assurance Officer, though, I certainly wouldn’t have let this dog out of the kennel.