This CyberPower Ultra Scylla SE is a re-vamped version of the same model reviewed in our last family PC round-up (see: CyberPower Ultra Scylla SE review). You'll be able to buy the update from February 1 2013. Externally almost identical, the core specification remains unchanged although a different motherboard has been used and the memory upgraded from 8GB to 16GB. We've added the "mkii" designation ourselves – CyberPower doesn't differentiate the two versions of the system by name.
The CyberPower Ultra Scylla SE uses AMD's quad-core FX-4170 processor, with a blisteringly high 4.2GHz clock speed and a price almost half that of an Intel Core i5-3570K.
However, its performance is considerably better than half as good. With a score of 2842 points in PCMark 7, the new Ultra Scylla SE falls some way behind the Intel-powered competition, but it's still perfectly powerful enough for a decent family PC. A large part of this reduced performance is due to the PC's lack of solid-state storage which can make a huge difference to overall responsiveness and is also reflected quite heavily in the PCMark 7 results where the lowest overall storage result is recorded for the Ultra Scylla SE. The system does however come with a capacious 2TB hard drive – double the storage of most competing systems.
In terms of a graphics card, an AMD Radeon HD 7770 is also included, which is the same model used by many of the Intel-based systems, and the Ultra Scylla SE holds its own in our gaming benchmarks against the more expensive Intel-based PCs.
This PC costs around £100 less than some of its rivals, yet it includes a 24in Edge 10 LCD monitor, a set of Logitech S220 speakers with a subwoofer, a built-in card reader, a webcam and Wi-Fi wireless networking. You also get a Blu-ray reader as standard. So if you don't need the extra performance of an Intel-based PC, the Ultra Scylla SE will provide a great all-round package for less.
The system retains the black Cooler Master Elite 430 chassis from the previous version case which, this time, houses a Gigabyte GA-78LMT-USB3 motherboard rather than the Asus M5A78L-M of the previous version. The specification is broadly similar, although the new system loses a PCI slot. You get a pair of USB 3.0 ports (neither of which are connected to the front of the case), but no support for 6Gbps SATA. The case itself is well made but certainly aimed more at gamers who may enjoy its aggressive looks and show-all transparent side.
CyberPower Ultra Scylla SE (MKII): performance scores
PCMark 7 score: 2842
Sniper Elite V2: 42.7 / 8.7
AVP: 47.4 / 24
Power consumption: 77 / 185
CyberPower Ultra Scylla SE (MKII): verdict
If you're not hungry for the greatest performance, but prefer a good set of features and peripherals, then the CyberpPower Ultra Scylla SE could be just what you're looking for. While it is noticeably slower than the Intel-based competition, this AMD-powered PC ticks all the boxes for around £100 less.
How we test: General system performance
Core system performance is measured using PCMark 7, an industry-recognised test suite that uses 25 different workloads to measure areas such as storage, computation, image- and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. We understand that results from this benchmark are not absolute, with Intel driver issues in Windows 8 meaning video-transcoding tests can present sub-optimal results. Nevertheless, the results give an idea of the relative performance.
As well as the overall PCMark 7 result, typically a point score between 3,000 and 7,000 with current hardware, we have also published results garnered from some of the suite's sub-routines. These are designed to gauge performance in, for example, creativity and entertainment scenarios. Another test highlights the difference between storage technologies. This is an area that impacts perceived speed more than ever, now that even the slowest modern CPUs are more than fast enough for everyday PC duties. PC Mark also measures multimedia transcoding performance which can take advantage of GPU acceleration.
How we test: Gaming performance
As entertainment centres plugged into your TV, media PCs might be used to play games. Power and noise requirements usually prohibit the use of the best graphics cards, so we tested each PC running Stalker Call of Pripyat at 720p resolution with Medium quality settings and then at 1080p with Ultra quality settings. We also ran the Aliens vs Predator benchmark at 720p and 1080p resolutions, with both tests set to maximum quality.
How we test: Overclocking
We allow overclocked systems to be submitted only for our dedicated gaming PC reviews. All other components are run at stock speeds, with the exception of factory-overclocked graphics cards designed and sold at boosted speeds. We do, however, allow underclocking for the purposes of reducing power consumption.
How we test: Subjective assessment
We also pay close attention to the physical characteristics of each PC, its noise output and its build quality, delving inside the case and taking note of the quality of components used, cabling and airflow. Good-quality peripherals are also important, and where they are supplied we note the ergonomics of the keyboard and mouse. A media PC also needs a remote control and, preferably, a keyboard that can be operated from the sofa.
How we test: Support
Differences in warranty terms can impact our scoring. Long warranties are sought after, but we also look at the terms and conditions – specifically, whether faulty systems must be returned to the vendor at your own cost and if both parts and labour are included. Ensure the vendor offers full software support and preferably a home installation for more complex systems
How we test: Gaming performance
A typical family PC is likely to be used to play a game or two in its lifetime, but pricey graphics cards tend to be outside the budget of such systems.
However, you'll be able to enjoy most modern games when run at slightly lower resolutions and quality settings. Indeed, we used the Sniper Elite V2 and Alien Vs Predator to test the graphics capabilities of each PC. Sniper Elite is configured with Medium and then Ultra quality settings at 1080p resolution while Aliens Vs Predator is run first at 720p and then at 1080p resolutions with the highest quality settings selected both times. Both of these games have benchmark versions you can download yourself to try out on your own system to see how much improvement you're likely to get.