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Dino PC Stormclaw R9 280 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £599
inc VAT

The Stormclaw R9 280 has great gaming performance, but we’d prefer it to have a stronger processor


Processor: Six-core 3.5GHz AMD FX-6300, RAM: 8GB , Front USB ports : 1x USB, 1x USB3, Rear USB ports: 6x USB, 2x USB3, Total storage: 128GB SSD, 1TB Hard disk, Graphics card: 3GB AMD R9 280, Display: N/A, Operating system: Windows 8.1

The Corsair Carbide Series SPEC-01 case is one of our favourite cases for mid-range PC builds, so we’re pleased to see it used as the base for the Stormclaw R9 280 PC. The SPEC-01 is a budget case, but it’s well-designed and allows for neat and tidy cable management. A number of blue LEDs in the front of the case give the PC slightly haunting glow, which we like.

The PC isn’t overly big, so it won’t take up large amounts of space on your desk, but be aware that the noise produced by the system, while not obnoxiously loud, is noticeable and distracting. The front intake fans and the power supply are make the most noise when the system is under load, but there was an audible whirr from the fans even when the PC was idling on the desktop.

The Stormclaw R9 280 gets its processing power from a six-core AMD FX-6300 processor that runs at a base clock speed of 3.5GHz and a boost speed of 4.1GHz. The FX-6300’s performance in our application benchmarks was a little underwhelming, with the PC scoring 77 overall. This means the PC is powerful enough to handle most desktop tasks, such as watching videos and browsing the web. However, we’ve seen other similarly priced systems perform better than the Stormclaw R9 280, such as the Wired2Fire Diablo VX-6 and Gladiator Warbird 800 Intel Gaming Bundle, so we were a little disappointed with the Stormclaw R9 280’s performance.

While the Stormclaw R9 280 didn’t particularly impress us in our application benchmarks, it did perform well in our graphics benchmarks thanks to its AMD Radeon R9 280 graphics card, which has a generous 3GB of graphics memory. At a resolution of 1,920×1,080, with 4x anti-aliasing and Ultra quality graphics, the PC produced a more than smooth 78.9fps. The PC even performed well in our much more challenging Crysis 3 benchmark, with the Stormclaw R9 280 producing a comfortably playable average frame rate of 38fps at a 1,920×1,080 resolution with 4x anti-aliasing and High quality graphics.

The Stormclaw R9 280 is based around a Gigabyte 970A-DS3P motherboard that has reasonable upgrade potential. There are four memory slots, and only two are occupied with two modules of 4GB 1,633MHz DDR3 memory, so there’s room to increase memory capacity and the motherboard supports up to 32GB of RAM. There are also two PCI-E x16 slots, although only one runs at full speed while the other runs at x4, with the AMD Radeon R9 280 installed in the first slot. There are also three PCI-E x1 slots, although one is obstructed by the graphics card and a second is occupied by an 802.11n wireless card. There are a further two PCI slots for legacy devices as well.

As for storage, the Stormclaw R9 280 is equipped with a 128GB SSD on which Windows 8.1 is installed. You may be able to install a few applications on the SSD, but 128GB really isn’t that much space, although we do like the faster start-up speeds and system responsiveness that the SSD provides. Thankfully, the SSD is supplemented by a 1TB hard disk, so there’s plenty of space for photos, videos and so on. These two drives use two of the motherboard’s SATA3 connections, so you have another four to use should you want to add any additional drives.

There’s no optical drive included but there’s scope to install one thanks to two unoccupied 5.25in external drive bays. There are also four 3.5in/2.5in combo bays, with two already used for the storage drives. The Stormclaw R9 280 uses a 550W Corsair VS Series VS550 power supply, so you’ll probably want to upgrade it if you choose to install a particularly demanding second graphics card.

There are a decent number of connection ports, too, with two USB ports on the front, one of which is a USB3 port. There are a further eight USB ports on the back but disappointingly only two of these are USB3. There is also a Gigabit Ethernet port, two PS/2 connections for a keyboard and mouse and three 3.5mm audio jacks.  On the graphics card there are HDMI, DisplayPort and two DVI outputs.

The Dino PC Stormclaw R9 280 is a very capable Full HD gaming system thanks to the inclusion of the AMD R9 280 graphics card. However, we were disappointed by the choice of processor, which didn’t perform as well in our graphics benchmark as we’d hoped, and the PC was louder than we’d have liked. However, the Stormclaw R9 280 is still a good buy if you want a budget gaming PC. If you want a better all-rounder, though, take a look at the Chillblast Fusion Obelisk, which is available for around the same price and uses a very powerful and overclocked Intel Core i5-4690K processor.

Core specs
ProcessorSix-core 3.5GHz AMD FX-6300
Processor socketAM3+
Memory typePC3-12800
Maximum memory32GB
MotherboardGigabyte 970A-DS3P
Motherboard chipsetAMD 970 Northbridge / SB950 Southbridge
Ports and expansion
Front USB ports1x USB, 1x USB3
Rear USB ports6x USB, 2x USB3
Other ports2x PS/2
Networking1x 10/100/1000, 802.11n Wi-Fi
Case typeMid tower
Case size HxWxD200x413x467mm
PCI (free)2 (2)
PCIe x1 (free)3 (1)
PCIe x16 (free)2 (1)
Serial ATA (free)6 x SATA3 (4)
Memory slots (free)4 (2)
Drive bays 2 1/2″ (free)4 (2)
Drive bays 3 1/2″ (free)4 (2)
Drive bays 5 1/4″ (free)2 (2)
Total storage128GB SSD, 1TB Hard disk
Memory card readerNone
Optical drive typeNone
Graphics card3GB AMD R9 280
Graphics/video ports2x DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort
Sound cardRealtek ALC877
Sound card outputsLine out, mic out
Native resolutionN/A
Other hardware
Extras802.11n Wireless LAN card
Operating systemWindows 8.1
Operating system restore optionWindows restore disc
Buying information
WarrantyThree-year RTB (one-year parts and labour, then labour only)
Price including delivery (inc VAT)£599
Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)£599
Part CodeStormclaw R9 280

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