A terrific graphics card and a good monitor make this a great gaming buy, but the PC Specialist Invictus lags behind for 2D work
Processor: Dual-core 4GHz Intel Pentium G3258 (Overclocked), RAM: 8GB, Front USB ports : 1x USB, 1x USB3, Rear USB ports: 4x USB, 2x USB3, Total storage: 1TB hard disk, Graphics card: 2GB Palit GeForce GTX 960, Display: 21.5in AOC e2250wda, Operating system: Windows 8.1
It’s often difficult to squeeze processing performance and graphical power into a reasonably-priced PC, but PC Specialist has taken an interesting approach to its Invictus gaming PC to try and make the most out of both.
Inside the stylish ATX chassis you’ll find both a 2GB Palit GeForce GTX 960 graphics card and an overclocked Intel Pentium G3258 processor. While the Pentium brand might not exude images of speedy processing power, bear in mind that this 20th anniversary chip is cheap and unlocked so can be overclocked to get great performance on a tight budget.
PC Specialist has dutifully done so, brushing aside the factory default 3.2GHz clock speed and ramping it up to a more impressive 4GHz. With a large Titan heatsink and fan attached to keep this overclock stable, the processor was able to deliver some decent results in our difficult performance benchmarking tests. The high clock speed means it’ll fly through single core-focused tasks such as image processing, but only having two cores mean multithreaded processes will suffer slightly. Indeed, in the image-crunching portion of our benchmarking test, the system scored an impressive 93. Things fell apart in the video rendering and multitasking portions, with the performance dropping by more than half giving the Invictus an overall benchmarking score of 55.
This isn’t necessarily a problem if you’re not going to be doing processor intensive tasks and won’t affect performance in most games, although more complex games such as simulations may suffer.
Usefully, PC Specialist has chosen to use a single 8GB stick of RAM instead of two 4GB sticks. Because the motherboard only has two RAM slots, your upgrade options are limited, but thanks to this slot remaining free, you can at least save money by buying a single stick instead of two.
With the money saved on the processing side, PC Specialist has gone all-out with the graphics card, which is up there with the most powerful of any of the £600 systems we’ve tested. The GeForce GTX 960 is Nvidia’s latest mid-range GPU and is capable of some impressive performances. The Palit card has 2GB of DDR5 memory, although unlike some of the other 960 iterations on the market, the fan doesn’t stop spinning when the chip isn’t under load. However, in terms of raw power, little at this price can touch it.
In the Dirt Showdown test it managed an excellent 74fps while in the ultra-challenging Metro: Last Light benchmark it scored 29fps. Switching off the GPU-hammering SSAA and re-running the benchmark, we managed a much more stable 50.9fps. This PC is capable of playing the latest games at very high graphics settings with almost no problems whatsoever.
Take a peek through the small plastic window on the side of the case and you’ll see plenty of blue LEDs attached to the three 120mm case fans. There’s one on the bottom, one at the rear and one on the top to keep the air flowing when the PC is under load. Flashy additions may not be to everybody’s tastes, but they look the part in this particular build.
Cable management isn’t particularly tidy, with PC Specialist choosing not to route the cables behind the main portion of the case. The cables are kept tightly secured by cable ties, which is fine if you’re not planning on upgrading in the future but may be a pain if you choose to add an extra disk drive.
This is something you may wish to do as you only get a single 1TB Seagate hard disk in this PC build. It would have been nice to see an SSD for quicker loading times and sprightlier performance, but frankly at this price and considering the other components on board, this would have been a big challenge.
You get two USB ports on the front of the case: one USB3 and one USB sit either side of 3.5mm audio jacks. The Asus H81M-PLUS motherboard has two USB3 ports at the rear alongside a further four USB ports, so there’s plenty of room for expansion. The graphics card has two DVI outputs, one DisplayPort and one HDMI connector.
The bundled AOC e2250wda monitor is adequate, although being just 21.5in diagonally it’s a little small for our tastes. Nonetheless, it’s a Full HD panel that has surprisingly good colour performance and pretty wide viewing angles, so we can’t complain. We measured it as being able to produce 88.8% of the sRGB colour gamut, while its contrast ratio of 1,046:1 is great for the price.
The bundled Cooler Master Devastator is our favourite budget keyboard and mouse set. Comprising a full-size, backlit membrane keyboard with chunky keys and a satisfying typing action and a stylish blue-lit five-button mouse.
PC Specialist’s three-year warranty is competitive, although it’s only RTB cover meaning you’ll have to handle shipping the PC back to the company if you have problems. Parts are covered for a year, so you’ll have to pay for parts (but not labour) if a component fails outside of the first year.
The PC Specialist Invictus is a well-built and great-value gaming PC that whizzes through basic desktop tasks and powers through the latest games with ease. Our only slight concern is that the processor won’t stand up to more intense tasks such as video editing and dealing with multiple video streams at once. If this isn’t something you’re planning on doing though, this is a highly competent PC that’ll serve you well for several years. If you’re looking for something different, check out our guide to the best desktop PCs.
|Dual-core 4GHz Intel Pentium G3258 (Overclocked)
|PORTS AND EXPANSION
|Front USB ports
|1x USB, 1x USB3
|Rear USB ports
|4x USB, 2x USB3
|1x 10/100/1000 Ethernet
|Case size HxWxD
|PCIe x1 (free)
|PCIe x16 (free)
|Serial ATA (free)
|2x SATA3 (1), 2x SATA2 (1)
|Memory slots (free)
|Drive bays 2 1/2″ (free)
|Drive bays 3 1/2″ (free)
|Drive bays 5 1/4″ (free)
|1TB hard disk
|Memory card reader
|Optical drive type
|2GB Palit GeForce GTX 960
|2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort
|Sound card outputs
|21.5in AOC e2250wda
|Operating system restore option
|Windows 8.1 restore
|Three-year RTB (one year parts cover)
|Price including delivery (inc VAT)
|Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)