The PC Specialist Vanquish HD-660 immediately stands out thanks to its eye-catching metallic blue details which come courtesy of the Cooler Master Elite 311 system case into which the PC is built. You'll also notice the Blu-ray drive and a handy multi-card reader built into the front fascia. The PC Specialist Vanquish HD-660 will be available from February 7 2013.
Inside the PC Specialist Vanquish HD-660, we find an Intel-based system of 3.4GHz Core i5-3570 processor installed in an Asus P8H77-M motherboard witted with 8GB of DDR3 memory. This system outperformed all other recent family PCs we've tested in the PCMark 7 benchmark with a score of 5768 points.
A 1TB hard drive is included with the PC Specialist Vanquish HD-660 hard disk, which is supplemented by a large 120GB Kingston HyperX 3K SSD. This lends a considerable speed boost to the system as well as providing ample storage space for Windows to store user documents and files in their default locations without the need for the user to carefully manage storage space.
PC Specialist has selected a 23in AOC i2352VH IPS monitor for the PC Specialist Vanquish HD-660which delivers superior picture quality, wide viewing angles and offers VGA, DVI-D and HDMI inputs for flexible connectivity options. Like many other family PCs, you also get a set of Logitech S220 speakers complete with a subwoofer and a Logitech MK260 Wireless keyboard and mouse combo set.
Unlike most of the competition, however, PC Specialist has installed a reasonably pokey nVidia GeForce GTX 600 graphics card with 2GB RAM. This delivers gaming frame rates far in excess of many less-powerful systems. This does however push the system price up considerably meaning it'll be of interest primarily to those for whom gaming plays a significant part of their PC use.
Inside the case, the system looks rather less expensive than it does from the outside, but we expect users of this system to be less likely to want to upgrade and tweak than those who might purchase a less well-specified PC.
PC Specialist Vanquish HD-660: test results
PCMark 7 score: 5768
Sniper Elite V2: 59.9 / 15.1
AVP: 79.4 / 41.8
Power consumption: 43 / 166
PC Specialist Vanquish HD-660: verdict
The PC Specialist Vanquish HD-660 is a very powerful system, delivering high overall benchmark results and good frame rates in our gaming tests. It's housed in an attractive and practical system case and comes with an excellent monitor. It's not cheap, however.
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.