A premium GPU and distinctive chassis make this a great gaming PC, both inside and out
- Stunning to behold
- RTX 2070 Super is immensely powerful
- Aggressively priced
- Storage capacity is measly
- Odd choice of mid-range CPU
Sometimes it’s hip to be square, at least if the Intel i5 RTX – from the newly formed PC builder firm AlphaBetaPC – is any indication.
By using the Tsunami Coolman Gorilla chassis, one that doesn’t appear to be otherwise available in the UK, it forgoes the usual desktop style of most gaming systems and puts everything into a classy, glassy box. It’s wider than the average mid-tower, but also shorter – both top to bottom and front to back – so won’t necessarily leave you with less desk or floor space.
AlphaBetaPC Intel i5 RTX review: Components
Inside, there’s nothing so radically out of the ordinary, but it’s an interesting bunch of parts regardless. There’s the processor, for instance: a hexa-core Intel Core i5-9600KF. This differs from the standard Core i5-9600K in having no integrated graphics, but you get the same six cores (and threads), plus the same 3.7GHz base clock speed, 4.6GHz boost clock speed, unlocked multiplier for overclocking and even the same 95W TDP.
You hardly need onboard graphics when the other main component is a GeForce RTX 2070 Super graphics card. This is the first sub-£1,000 system we’ve seen that gets its gaming muscle from an RTX 2070 Super, so depending on how the CPU comes into play it could end up being something of a bargain.
The M.2-based SSD, Crucial’s MX500, offers good capacity: 480GB is an awful lot of solid-state storage to get out of the box on a £999 PC. That said, it’s also the only storage drive, with no secondary hard disk to add extra space.
AlphaBetaPC Intel i5 RTX review: Design
We’ll come back to that, but first it’s worth stressing how nice a case this PC is contained in. Build quality is high throughout, with tidy cables and well-secured components, but the foundation looks and feels like something really special. There are no side panels as such. Instead, slabs of dark, tempered glass cover the top, front and both sides, while massive 200mm fans – both with RGB lighting – dominate the front and the roof of the system.
The prevalence of glass as an integral building material, not just something that acts as a single window, means you can see just about everything inside, and you can’t fail to notice the unconventional internal layout. The power supply and storage mounts are segmented into an entirely separate chamber, accessible from the left side, while the motherboard and all of its attached components have their own section on the right.
It’s clear to see where the square shape comes from: by effectively positioning the PSU alongside the motherboard rather than beneath it, the whole thing has become wider but can afford to be shorter. We’re not entirely sure why the motherboard needs to be upside down, but it’s quite cool to see all the graphics card fans spinning for once, instead of a featureless backplate.
The Intel i5 RTX looks fabulous in general. Light from the roof fan bathes the components on both sides of the central partition, and all that tinted glass creates a sharp, intensely modern look for what could have quite easily been a boring black cube. You can, of course, customise the RGB fan lighting, albeit not in the usual way: a little remote control is included, and can be used to instantly swap between solid colours and dozens of swirling, multicoloured effects. There are also buttons for changing the fan speed, although these seemed to just change the lighting brightness instead. Even so, it’s a fun little tool.
AlphaBetaPC Intel i5 RTX review: Performance
Moving on to performance, the Core i5-9600KF isn’t as powerful as its closest AMD equivalent, the Ryzen 5 3600X, but it’s a sufficient enough mid-range chip. Together with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, it propelled the Intel i5 RTX to an overall score of 211 in our 4K benchmark tests, calculated from 160 in the image test, 208 in the video test and 231 in the multitasking test.
None of these results is individually higher than those of the 3600X-powered PC Specialist Inferno R1, which scored 267 overall. However, that PC costs £200 more, and the AlphaBetaPC system is reasonably comfortable with editing and encoding in any case.
You could potentially try overclocking the CPU yourself, as although the Core i5-9600KF is unlocked, it comes running at standard stock speeds in this PC. Then again, any major speed boost would also require a cooler upgrade. The Intel i5 RTX’s tower-style air cooler does a decent job at keeping both temperatures and noise down, but using CoreTemp we recorded peak core temperatures of between 85°C and 91°C, depending on the core. Since the safe limit is 100°C and overclocking would inevitably raise temperatures, you’d either have to make very minor tweaks or replace the entire cooler.
Frankly, it’s largely fine as it is, although it looks like some CPU throttling occurred in both our Dirt Showdown 1080p and 1440p tests: both averaged 130fps, when logically 1080p should have been higher. The Inferno R1, by comparison, averaged 190fps at 1080p with a less powerful RTX 2060 Super GPU.
This isn’t as disastrous as it sounds, however, as 130fps is still very smooth, and unless you own a crushingly expensive 240Hz monitor, you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. What’s more, at 4K resolution, the GPU finally became the defining factor, allowing the Intel i5 RTX to beat the Inferno R1 with 113fps to the latter’s 94fps. Again, you’d need a monitor with a higher than 90Hz refresh rate to benefit, but 144Hz displays are much more common and affordable than 240Hz models.
The RTX 2070 Super further demonstrated its superiority in Metro: Last Light Redux, where the CPU is far less impactful. With very high quality and SSAA enabled, the Intel i5 RTX produced fine scores of 107fps at 1080p and 63fps at 1440p, outrunning the Inferno R1 by 18fps and 10fps respectively. At 4K, it fell just short of the 30fps minimum with 28fps, although simply disabling SSAA bumped this up to a smooth 57fps. That’s another win over the Inferno R1, which averaged 48fps using the same trick.
Both systems also scored 11 out of 11 in the SteamVR Performance Test, but ultimately the Intel i5 RTX is the better choice for gaming, both on value and raw performance. The vast majority of modern games aren’t as reliant on the CPU as Dirt Showdown is, so having a real high-end GPU like the RTX 2070 Super in a £999 system is a very attractive prospect.
This sense of getting a good deal is also enough to overshadow the fact that the SSD is only a SATA drive, so you can’t get NVMe-level speeds. As with the CPU, however, it might not be outstandingly fast, but it’s quick enough, managing a 526MB/s sequential read speed and a 482MB/s write speed. Windows boots quickly and there’s no serious delay in loading applications, and since it’sa480GB model, there’s more space for your favourite games and apps than a 250GB/256GB drive would allow.
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AlphaBetaPC Intel i5 RTX review: Customisation
The catch, as we mentioned, is that 480GB is your lot. Unlike most gaming PCs we review, there’s no 1TB or 2TB hard disk waiting in the wings, so you’re liable to run out of room much more quickly.
Fortunately, it’s possible to add up to four extra drives yourself, as the chassis includes mounting points for two 3.5in drives and two 2.5in drives. Some might find the scattershot approach of their positioning to be a little too chaotic, but we found it charmingly unusual. Instead of neat trays or simple screw holes on the chassis, there’s a sort of mounting bar that runs the full length of the internal chamber. One 3.5in drive can be held vertically, the other horizontally, and if you use the two 2.5in bays, the drives will sit upright in parallel with each other, like little books on a shelf.
There’s a fair amount of room for other upgrades and additions, too. PCI-E x16, PCI-E x1 and RAM all have two spare slots apiece, and the only reason you can’t use a third x1 slot is because the graphics card is covering it.
Back on the outside, we’d have appreciated some more higher-end connectivity such as USB3.1 and Type-C, but the Intel i5 RTX is absolutely not lacking otherwise. Six USB3 ports, two PS/2 sockets, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, one HDMI output and three DisplayPort outputs are all available at the rear, and the case’s front panel adds another single USB3 port, two USB2 ports, and separate 3.5mm mic and headphone jacks. Even without the fancier stuff, there’s more than enough connectivity for most users.
AlphaBetaPC Intel i5 RTX review: Verdict
The Intel i5 RTX isn’t perfect – storage capacity is relatively low and there are better mid-range CPUs than its particular choice of chip – but in exchange for putting up with a few niggles, it can grant you an immense amount of GPU power, contained within an exquisite chassis, and all at a very aggressive price.
After all, it’s not just moderately more expensive systems that it can outperform, it’s also PCs costing £1,400 and upwards, such as the Overclockers Titan Falcon. Having to drop an extra £40 or so on a hard disk is not, all things considered, a step too far.
|AlphaBetaPC Intel i5 RTX specifications|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super|
|Storage||480GB Crucial MX500|
|Case||Tsunami Coolman Gorilla|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Home|
|Warranty||3 years RTB|