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Friday, June 6, 2014

Gladiator Firestorm OC review: a decently priced part-time compact gaming PC


If you're of the opinion that gaming PCs need to be brash, and the brasher the better, you'll like the striking red panels of the Gladiator Firestorm OC. See what's the best gaming PC?

It uses an Aerocool Dead Silence Cube Window case to enclose the Gladiator PC's innards, here finished in a dangerous red. The case is cuboid in shape, with squat dimensions that should appeal to those looking to minimise its impact in the living room, even if the colour scheme reverses much attempt at discretion.

The smaller chassis is not without its drawbacks, though. The case is fairly confined, and there isn’t much in the way of vents for air to circulate properly, so temperatures can get fairly warm.

Aerocool offers a choice of lids. Gladiator has opted for a nicely ventilated mesh panel, but if you want to extend that eye-catching colour scheme, you can replace mesh with a solid red lid – albeit at the risk of reducing essential cooling further and raising the temperature inside the case.

But the Cube Window case has other virtues. It's lovely and quiet, and we also liked the way the motherboard is placed horizontally across the middle of the case, effectively splitting the Cube into a bottom floor and a top floor.

The 'top floor' has plenty of room for the sizeable Be Quiet CPU cooler, and the layout means that the motherboard won't have a huge and weighty CPU cooler hanging down from it. Gladiator has got around the potential shortage of drive bays by having the main optical drive, a 24-speed Lite-on DVD±RW unit, tucked away in the top corner. This leaves plenty of space in front of the graphics card, should you want to replace it with a longer version.

The Firestorm didn’t reap the fastest benchmark results. Indeed, many of the components look rather modest when placed alongside the powerhouses that featured in our recent Compact Gaming PCs group test.

The Intel Core i5-4670K is a decent start, although here it's pushed from its default 3.4 GHz to a rather more eye-raising 4.2 GHz. The memory is from the high-calibre Corsair Ballistix Sport range, and there’s 8GB of it.

Gladiator skipped on the opportunity to install an SSD drive, and this is perhaps the biggest reason for a relatively low PCMark 7 score of 5124 points.

The graphics card is also rather lowly when compared to the 770s and better that proliferate. The nVidia GeForce 750 Ti is a new card that offers very good frame rates for its low price. Assuredly you can play games on this PC, but you’ll need to avoid high detail levels and expansive resolutions.

It remained playable in Sniper Elite V2 at 720p, hitting 194.1 fps at Low quality settings, and 81.6 fps with greater detail added. But at 1080p, with settings pushed to the max, it tumbled to an unusable 18.6 fps.

In Aliens vs Predator, the Gladiator Firestorm could play at a comfortable 77.3 fps at 720p, but slumped to a more lowly yet still playable 41.2 fps at 1080p.

The Firestorm, though, is more about hitting a budget price of £695 and keeping the size down than allowing you to play Windows games at best quality.

Its idle power consumption was a quite substantial 70 watt, although it rarely went much beyond double this figure, except when pushed to the limit. In gaming, it hit a maximum of 166 watt, but was more typically in the region of 130-140 watt. This is an unusually low power draw for a gaming desktop PC, and is perhaps testament to the low-power graphics card.

There are also some nice touches that may enhance your gaming experience. The Sound Blaster Cinema audio is a notch above the standard onboard sound, and the Killer E2200 ethernet port is supposed to minimise network latency.


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