Date: February 19, 2017
Author(s): Rob Williams
Can an affordable AMD-powered PC handle VR? With CyberPowerPC’s help, we find out that the answer is “yes”. Despite being priced at $700 USD, this PC looks anything but budget. It sports a beautiful Phantek’s chassis, glows with RGB lighting, and even includes a mouse and keyboard. Did we mention it can also handle VR?
A handful of months ago, AMD teamed up with the folks at CyberPowerPC to debut a $499 gaming rig that could endure the ultimate test: VR. A couple of months later, an upscaled version of that build arrived at our doorstep so that we could put its promises to the test.
The reason this build is so inexpensive is thanks to the inclusion of the $200 Radeon RX 480, and also the affordable 970 platform. We were sent a $699 version of the build, and due to light information surrounding the $499 one, I’m not quite sure what this adds for that extra $200. What I do know is that there is a lot of PC crammed into this $700 package.
That’s so much the case that I admit I was quite surprised when I hauled this PC out of its box. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve taken a look at a PC of this price-point, so to see it include a gorgeous LED-lit chassis and even a keyboard and mouse; I’m left impressed.
Before going further, I should say that this review comes at an odd time, as AMD’s first Ryzen chips are expected to launch in a couple of weeks. For that reason, I can’t recommend this exact model by default because Ryzen is going to be worth the short wait. That’s even without knowing its true potential; there’s just no question that it’s going to be better than the Piledriver chip found in this build.
That all said, if you like what you see here, I’d encourage you to scour CyberPowerPC’s website once Ryzen launches, as it will have a collection of new builds designed around it.
|CyberPowerPC AMD VR Gaming PC|
|Processor||AMD FX-8350 8-Core @ 4.0GHz|
4.2GHz Turbo; 8MB L3 Cache; 2x4MB L2 Cache
|Motherboard||ASUS M5A97 R2.0 (AMD 970)|
|Memory||8GB (4GBx2) (11-11-11-29 @ DDR3-1600)|
|Graphics||AMD Radeon RX 480 4GB|
|Storage||1TB Toshiba DT01ACA100 (7200RPM)|
|Audio||ASUS IXP SB600 (Realtek Codec)|
|Ethernet||Realtek PCIe GBE|
|Wireless||Intel Dual-band Wireless-AC 3165 & Bluetooth 4.2|
|Chassis||Phanteks Eclipse P400S Tempered Glass|
|Connectivity||Back: 2x USB 3.0 (ASMedia), 6x USB 2.0, PS/2 Keyboard & Mouse, Ethernet, 6x Audio Jacks, S/PDIF, Wi-Fi (ac), HDMI, DisplayPort x3|
Top: 2x USB 3.0 (ASMedia), Audio In, Audio Out
|Et cetera||18.3 (H) x 8.3 (W) x 18.5 (D) inches|
Includes gaming mouse and keyboard
In order to keep the price of this build as low as possible, a 4GB version of the Radeon RX 480 is included, rather than the more common 8GB model. That admittedly shouldn’t matter a great deal, unless you ever plan to go the CrossFire route and run 4K resolution, or ultra high-end settings at 1440p. By itself, the 4GB RX 480 can deliver great 1080p gaming and good 1440p gaming, as well as a solid VR experience.
Other key specs include the 4GHz FX-8350 processor, ASUS’ M5A97 R2.0 motherboard, and a glaring flaw: the OS installed to a 1TB mechanical hard drive.
It’s entirely understandable why CyberPowerPC didn’t include an SSD in this build, but I truly believe we’re at the point where an SSD should be a non-option. Either the HDD should be sacrificed, or some extra bucks should be splurged in order to keep the important stuff, like the OS, on an SSD.
I took a look at an ASUS gaming PC a couple of years ago that shipped without an SDD, and it was evident to me from the moment I started up the rig. The same applies here. Not long after I booted this PC up, I took a screenshot of the desktop and tried to open Microsoft Paint to paste it in. The lag at that point was so bad that I thought the keyboard had died while I was typing “Paint” into the Start menu. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case; it was just mechanical storage rearing its ugly, slow head.
That said, if you’re looking for a build like this and don’t want to go over its initial pricepoint, I’d recommend upgrading to an SSD as soon as you can later on, because you will notice the difference.
Overall, CyberPowerPC did a great job of packaging this PC. Inside its box, it was protected with a plastic bag, and held in place by two thick pieces of styrofoam. The tempered glass on the chassis was also protected with plastic, and included a note to explain how you should continue your unboxing effort.
After the plastic and note were removed from the door, I was left with what’s seen in the first shot above. After removing four thumbscrews (the top two are different from the bottom two) and removing the door, the huge clump of disfigured foam padding can be removed from the interior. This foam kept everything in place very well; there were no issues caused by shipping at all, as seen in the second pic.
Taking a look at the back of the PC with its side panel off, we can see the care that went into keeping the build as clean as possible cord-wise. Cables that were needed (eg: molex) are tied up, and the rest are routed in an efficient way, ultimately leading to a seriously clean-looking interior (important considering the large tempered glass side will let you see everything in action).
This particular build uses Phantek’s beautiful Eclipse P400S chassis, and includes both a fan at the back, next to the I/O panel, and another in the front, bottom, to help draw in some cool air and blow it towards the GPU. Cooling could be improved down-the-road with a couple of more fans installed at the top, although you’d need to use a splitter, as the motherboard has only a single fan header open (towards the left middle), for a total of four total across the board. As long as the chassis is kept clean, though, extra fans are not necessary.
At the back of the PC, 2x USB 3.0 ports can be found in addition to 6x USB 2.0 ports. Also available are separate PS/2 ports for the mouse and keyboard, Ethernet, S/PDIF, audio, DisplayPort x3, HDMI, and also Wi-Fi. The wireless capabilities are provided by an Intel add-in card, delivering both 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2.
The front of the Phantek’s chassis chosen is very clean; it’s not a door, so internal optical drives are a no-go. Towards the top of the front is a CyberPowerPC logo, and above that is ventilation for cool air to enter (or hot air to escape; it’s an open border policy).
At the top, we see two USB 3.0 ports, audio in and out ports, and also the power button. The reset button is hidden underneath the top flap, along with the LED strip color change button. For most of testing, I thought that the PC was stuck in its red mode, but that’s not the case at all. Hitting this secret button will cycle through a handful of common colors.
Also at the top is a magnetic air filter that can be easily removed for cleaning. This can remain in place if you install two top fans down-the-road, although if you’re not married to the aesthetics, it could be removed for improved air exhaust/intake.
Peeking inside, we can see that CyberPowerPC opted to use a DeepCool air cooler to keep the FX-8350 chip under control, as well as ADATA DDR3. If the preinstalled 8GB becomes a little too limiting as time goes on, you can easily upgrade to a maximum of 32GB. Along the same expandability lines, users can also install some extra storage drives on their own, with three SATA ports available towards the bottom of the board.
To help keep costs down even further, CyberPowerPC doesn’t include spare SATA cables, so any storage expansion will require you to source your own. The same applies to the screws required to install a secondary storage drive in the primary bay underneath (can be seen in the final shot in the above slider), or the dual SSD holders at the back of the motherboard.
One of the reasons I was surprised by the value of this build owed some thanks to the fact that CyberPowerPC included a gaming keyboard and mouse in the box. These are not high-end peripherals; they’re budget, but as good as budget could be. Both peripherals served me very well throughout all testing, and I honestly wouldn’t be too bothered to have to use them for the long haul.
For the life of me, I couldn’t find out what switches the keyboard used, but for the most part, they felt pretty good to use. They’re linear in design, so there’s no modest bump with a halfway press, but they require more force than the super-loose CHERRY MX red or black. Overall, no complaints here for a budget keyboard included with an affordable build. Just don’t expect perfect LED backlighting or the most durable keycaps.
As far as I can tell, no software solution is available for these peripherals. To change the LED lighting on the keyboard, a special key on the right side of the space bar needs to be pressed. Don’t fret: if you hate LED backlighting, you can turn it off.
With the hardware covered, let’s tackle software – although there’s not too much to tackle. Windows 10 Home comes preinstalled, and after typing off some basic information after the first boot, a clean desktop awaits:
In terms of bloatware, the absolutely only piece preinstalled is Microsoft Office, which might prove convenient if you already have a license. Beyond that, only drivers are preinstalled:
In the Start menu, there are also two special tiles: one links directly to CyberPowerPC’s website, and the other brings you straight to the download page for Oculus’ Rift software.
I did encounter one bizarre issue with the software that must be mentioned, although I don’t think it’s a big deal. The Windows key used for the preinstalled Windows 10 Home failed, leaving me with an unactivated Windows. The final five characters of the key Windows revealed to me didn’t match what was on the side of the chassis, so I am not sure how this happened, but the fix was easy.
There’s not much to report on software-wise outside of that, which is a good thing, so let’s get a move on and check out the rig’s performance.
Before diving into a “Best Playable” look at gaming performance, I wanted to tackle VR from the get-go. As I can’t currently “benchmark” VR, the best I can do is relay my experience with the Oculus Rift on this PC, and tell you whether or not it will fit the bill.
So with that said, I can tell you that it can in fact fit the bill. I didn’t have the Touch controllers for testing, so all of the games played were with the Xbox 360 gamepad. Those include Pinball FX2, Polynomial 2, DiRT Rally, Project Cars, and Trackmania Turbo.
While I was a bit limited without the Touch controllers, there was a ton of fun to be had with this configuration. In all games tested, the PC handled the content just fine, even the demanding DiRT Rally. I experienced no noticeable lag while playing, and didn’t feel any more limited than when I’ve used VR on a much more powerful PC.
According to Futuremark’s VRMark benchmark, this RX 480-powered PC is “Super” in the Orange Room test, which is modeled after modern VR content. It falls short in the Blue Room test, but so does an SLI GTX 1080 configuration (it’s a very forward-looking test!)
Overall, I’d heartily recommend this PC for today’s VR content. The future, though? I wouldn’t be so sure, but since this is a PC, it comes with an awesome feature called “upgradeability”. You could add a second RX 480 down-the-road, or upgrade to a future architecture once the current one begins lagging behind.
With that covered, I wanted to pore over some “Best Playable” results across six semi-modern and modern titles. The goal of the Best Playable results is to hit 60 FPS on average, which means a fair bit of graphics tweaking can sometimes go on. In some cases, 60 FPS isn’t hit for the simple reason that a framerate loss won’t hurt that particular game too much, or a game is so grueling, that you simply need to suck it up and expect to come nowhere close to 60 FPS (Civilization VI is a good example). Without further ado, let’s go:
|Resolution:||2560 x 1440||Texture Quality:||High|
|Texture Filtering:||High||Lighting Quality:||High|
|Effects Quality:||High||Post Process Quality:||High|
|Mesh Quality:||High||Terrain Quality:||High|
|Undergrowth Quality:||High||Antialiasing Post:||TAA|
Despite being as gorgeous as it is, Battlefield 1 runs great at 1440p on the RX 480. If you want to experience the greatest of this game’s visuals, you can drop the resolution to 1080p and upgrade the detail to the Very High profile.
|Resolution:||1920 x 1080||Antialiasing:||Off|
|High-Res Asset Textures:||Off||HQ Visual:||High|
|Overlay Resolution:||4096×4096||Screen-Space Overlay:||On|
|Terrain Quality:||Medium||High-Res Geometry:||On|
|High-Res Textures:||On||HQ Quality Shader:||On|
|Ambient Occlusion:||Off||High-Detail Clutter:||On|
|High-Res Water:||Off||HQ Water Shader:||Off|
|Reflections:||4 Passes||Animated Leaders:||Off|
Civilization VI might look “simple” at quick glance, but it’s one of the most grueling games available right now. Don’t believe me? Well, the PC hit 54 FPS average in Battlefield 1, whereas I had to give up at ~40 FPS in Civ VI because I had already dropped enough of the game’s settings as is. Admittedly, the CPU could be acting as a slight roadblock here, which is another reason I’d advise holding out for Ryzen.
|Resolution:||2560 x 1440||Anti-aliasing:||FXAA|
|Anisotropic Filtering:||x16||Motion Blur:||Medium|
Despite the fact that Crysis 3 came out (almost exactly) four-years-ago, these results prove that the game remains hardcore on current hardware. As with Battlefield 1, you could move to the Very High profile in Crysis 3 if you want to drop the resolution to 1080p, but the game still looks amazing at 1440p.
|Deus Ex: Mankind Divided|
|Resolution:||1920 x 1080||MSAA:||Off|
|Texture Quality:||High||Texture Filtering:||16x|
|Shadow Quality:||High||Ambient Occlusion:||On|
|Hardening Shadows:||Off||Parallax Occlusion:||High|
|Depth of Field:||On||Level of Detail:||High|
|Volumetric Lighting:||On||Screenspace Reflections:||Off|
|Temporal Anti-Aliasing:||On||Motion Blur:||On|
|Lens Flares:||On||Cloth Physics:||On|
|Subsurface Scattering:||On||Chromatic Aberration:||On|
Mankind Divided is the best-looking Deus Ex to date, and… it has the performance requirements to match. On the RX 480, 1440p was out of the question, as even at 1080p I had to drop a lot of settings off, including anti-aliasing and tessellation. This PC still delivers a great-looking game, though, and with great framerates.
|Rise of the Tomb Raider|
|Resolution:||2560 x 1440||Anti-Aliasing:||FXAA|
|Texture Quality:||High||Anisotropic Filter:||4x|
|Shadow Quality:||High||Sun Soft Shadows:||On|
|Ambient Occlusion:||On||Depth of Field:||On|
|Level of Detail:||High||Tessellation:||On|
|SS Reflections:||On||Specular Reflection:||Normal|
|Vignette Blur:||On||Motion Blur:||On|
|Screen Effects:||On||Film Grain:||On|
Rise of the Tomb Raider is an incredible looking game, and like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, it requires quite a bit of GPU horsepower to run well. In this PC’s case, the average fell just short of 60, but that’s not bad when we’re talking about 1440p.
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt|
|Resolution:||2560 x 1440||Anti-Aliasing:||On|
|Depth of Field:||On||Chromatic Aberration:||On|
|NVIDIA Hairworks:||Off||Hairworks AA:||0|
|Hairworks Preset:||Low||Number of BG Chars:||Ultra|
|Shadow Quality:||Medium||Water Quality:||Ultra|
|Grass Quality:||Ultra||Texture Quality:||High|
|Terrain Quality:||High||Foliage Visibility:||Low|
Witcher 3 wraps up our game testing nice with 60+ FPS and nice detail settings to boot. You can max out the game’s settings for 1080p and hit the maximum here as minimum there (per our review of the RX 480).
To take a quick look at overall system performance on this CyberPowerPC rig, I’m digging HD Tune, PCMark, and 3DMark out of my digital toolbox. For comparison’s sake, I am comparing this PC to two modern gaming notebooks (that cost a lot more than this PC, it should be said). Those include Eurocom’s Sky M5 R2 (2016) and ASUS’ G751JY (2015).
I mentioned earlier that for the sake of overall cost, this PC didn’t include an SSD, but rather a 1TB hard drive, from Toshiba. To me, an SSD is a non-option nowadays, because the speed improvements are enormous. I dealt with lag while trying to open Microsoft Paint, one of the simplest tools around, simply because the PC was doing something else in the background. Whereas the included HDD has a seek time of ~20ms, an SSD has one of ~0.1ms or better, and while the HDD suffers with IOPS (in/out performance) of about 150, a modest SSD would be in excess of 10,000.
Just get an SSD upgrade. Believe me.
|Futuremark PCMark & 3DMark|
|CyberPowerPC (Radeon RX 480)||Eurocom (GeForce GTX 1060)||ASUS (GeForce GTX 980M)|
|PCMark 8 – Home||3618||4746||4776|
|PCMark 8 – Work||4392||5169||5245|
|PCMark 8 – Creative||5260||6972||5378|
|3DMark – Fire Strike||8667||9435||8528|
In Futuremark’s tests, this RX 480-powered CyberPowerPC performs admireably, mostly with regards to the gaming test. On the general system performance front, PCMark proves that the AMD Piledriver processor found in this rig can’t compete with Intel Core i7s, which is yet another reason we’re all gasping at the bit for Ryzen to land.
With AMD’s super-ultra-mega-(fill in the blank with more exciting words)-hyped Ryzen processors set to launch in the very near future, it’s automatically tough to recommend this exact model PC as Ryzen is going to be worth the wait. This is not the fault of the PC, of course; we just received our sample for testing at a bit of a strange time.
That said, based on what I’ve seen from this machine, I am really excited to see similar builds in the near-future that replace the aging processor with AMD’s latest hotness. Ryzen will run cooler, draw less power, and of course, be a lot faster, hopefully giving Intel a run for its money.
Processor succession aside, I’m left very impressed with this CyberPowerPC build. I expected a budget system, but what arrived didn’t feel budget at all. This build is $200 more than the $499 VR rig we talked about a couple of months ago, but as mentioned before, there’s a lot that this PC’s cost gets you.
This doesn’t look budget in any shape or form. The Phantek’s chassis is well-built, strong, and looks fantastic. Add the tempered glass side, and not to mention an LED light strip, and we’ve got ourselves a sharp-looking gaming box.
Build-wise, CyberPowerPC did a fantastic job with the installation. Cables are kept very tidy, and there’s a ton of airflow to keep the performance parts cool – a great thing since the CPU cooler isn’t exactly heavy-duty.
Speaking of; if any of the parts don’t suit you in the future, you’re able to easily upgrade this PC, as CyberPowerPC doesn’t bolt everything down like some OEMs do. You can upgrade absolutely anything in this rig, but you should always check with CyberPowerPC first to see how that affects your warranty (if it lasts that long).
The included mouse and keyboard are not the highest-quality I’ve ever used, but for being included within this price-point, I’m even left impressed with those. The keyboard is smooth to type on, and the fact that it also boasts RGB lighting just like the chassis is another nice perk.
This is a $700 PC that includes everything you need, outside of a monitor and imperative SSD upgrade. Within that $700 price is a PC that can handle any of today’s games at 1080p with great quality, 1440p with good quality (though that’s not possible in all games, as Deus Ex: Makind Divided taught us), as well as VR support.
It might seem a little funny to see a $700 PC that touts VR support, when the VR kits themselves cost as much as the PC, but ultimately, this is about getting set up with an appropriate VR setup for as cheaply as possible. $1,400 for the PC and VR kit is a lot better than $2,000, although I’d still encourage an SSD upgrade; the gain in OS responsiveness is worth it.
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