Palicomp Alpha Phase review

Perfect for upgraders or anyone who just wants a desktop with a serious CPU, this system’s perfect if you want power on a budget

10 Sep 2012
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
5/5
Price when reviewed 
500
inc VAT

Specifications

4GHz Intel Core i5-3570K, 8GB RAM, N/A display, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Intel's latest Core processors aren't just the preserve of high-end performance PCs, such as the excellent Chillblast Fusion Vantage. The Palicomp Alpha Phase proves that you can have an unlocked Core i5-3750K processor in even a modestly-priced system. In this configuration the chip is overclocked to 4GHz on a stock Intel cooler, giving it a score of 126 in our benchmark tests - far beyond what we'd expect from a budget PC.

Palicomp Alpha Phase

While the PC isn't an eyesore, it's not much of a looker, either. The compact tower case doesn't weigh much, although its perforated rear and sides do little to block out sound. There's only one case fan - a surprisingly noisy 80mm outflow at the back. The system is well supplied with USB ports, even though there are only two at the front. The Gigabyte GA-Z777-D3H motherboard has four USB3 and four standard USB ports at the back, alongside the usual Gigabit Ethernet port, a PS/2 port, optical S/PDIF output and analogue 7.1 audio outputs. There are also headphone and mic ports at the front of the case.

The backplate is also home to the HDMI, DVI and VGA ports for the processor's integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset. You can connect up to two displays for multi-screen desktop use. The latest generation of Intel's on-processor graphics is a huge improvement on Sandy Bridge, and can finally play modern games. It's not powerful enough for our usual desktop PC Dirt 3 test, which we run at 1,920x1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing and Ultra detail, but when we dropped the settings to 1,280x720 with High detail and no anti-aliasing we saw a smooth 37fps. The integrated graphics processor can of course cope with HD video from the PC's Blu-ray reader. You can upgrade the graphics with the free PCI Express x16 slot, but you'll need a better power supply for all but the least power-hungry cards.

The Alpha Phase has a 1TB hard disk, and plenty of room to add extra storage as and when you need it. There are two SATA3 ports, one of which is connected to the hard disk, and four SATA2 ports, of which one is hooked up to the optical drive, leaving four ports free for additional storage. There's also an mSATA slot, which you can use to fit a compact mSATA SSD to use as a cache for your main disk, but using this takes one of your SATA2 ports out of commission. There are six free 3 1/2in drive bays, one of which is external, and two free 5 1/4in bays. There should also be a third free 5 1/4in bay, but it's blocked by cabling from the front panel.

Palicomp Alpha Phase

The motherboard has plenty of room for expansion, too - currently, there are no expansion cards installed at all. There are two PCI-E x16 slots, but one runs at x4 speed so is better suited to non-graphics PCI Express cards. It's worth noting, though, that two of the three PCI-E x1 slots on the motherboard will be disabled if you use this slot, as they share bandwidth. There are also two PCI slots, which means there's loads of scope to add expansions such as sound cards, TV tuners and Wi-Fi adaptors.

All four of the motherboard's memory slots are occupied by 2GB modules running at 1,333MHz. 8GB of RAM is plenty for most users, but you'll have to replace modules if you want more than that. The motherboard can handle a maximum of 32GB of RAM.

The Alpha Phase is an excellent PC for anyone who wants a powerful but basic system with an eye to upgrading in the future. It's perfectly functional as it is and - with the addition of a new power supply - has the potential to be transformed into anything from a home entertainment PC to a gaming powerhouse. At £500, this is the cheapest overclocked Core i5 PC we've seen and a worthy Budget Buy winner.

Basic Specifications

Rating *****
Processor Intel Core i5-3570K
Processor external bus 100MHz (DMI)
Processor multiplier x40
Processor clock speed 4GHz
Processor socket LGA1155
Memory 8
Memory type PC3-10666
Maximum memory 32GB
Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H
Motherboard chipset Intel Z77

Ports

USB2 ports (front/rear) 2/8
Firewire ports (front/rear) 0/0
eSATA ports (front/rear) 0/0
Wired network ports 1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking support none

Internal Expansion

Case midi tower
PCI-E x1 slots (free) 3 (3)
PCI-E x16 slots (free) 2 (2)
Free Serial ATA ports 4
Free memory slots 0
Free 3.5in drive bays 5

Hard Disk

Hard disk model(s) Hitachi DeskStar HDS721010DLE
Interface SATA2
Total storage capacity 1,000GB

Graphics

Graphics card(s) Intel HD Graphics 4000
Graphics/video ports HDMI, DVI, VGA

Sound

Sound VIA VT2021
Sound outputs 7.1 line out, optical S/PDIF out, stereo line out, mic in
Speakers none

Removable Drives

Supported memory cards none
Optical drive type(s) DVD+/-RW +/-DL BD-ROM

Display

Screen model none
Native resolution N/A
Screen inputs N/A

Other Hardware

Keyboard none
Mouse none

Software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Operating system restore option Windows disc

Buying Information

Warranty one year RTB
Price £500
Details www.palicomp.co.uk

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