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Palicomp Alpha Laser review

Kat Orphanides
27 Apr 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
500
inc VAT

This is one of the best-value overclocked Core i5 PCs around but you’ll have to upgrade the graphics before you can play games

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Specifications

4.7GHz Intel Core i5-3570K, 8GB RAM, 21.5in 1,920x1,080 display, Windows 8

You don't need to spend a fortune to get the latest in processor power, particularly if you don't need top-spec 3D gaming performance or are prepared to hold off until later to buy a graphics card, as you can see from the Palicomp Alpha Laser. This low-cost PC has Intel's fantastic Core i5-3570K, which has been overclocked to a blazing 4.7GHz.

Needless to say, combined with its 8GB of RAM, this PC did very well in our application benchmarks, scoring 128 overall. That puts the Alpha Laser in the same leagues as some high-end PCs that we've reviewed.

Palicomp Alpha Laser

The trade-off is that the processor's on-chip Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU isn't a match for some of AMD's on-chip graphics. As the processor has been overclocked, 3D games wouldn't even run. When we clocked the chip back down to its default speed, it managed 22.3fps in Dirt Showdown at high quality and a 720p resolution. Dropping the quality settings means that you could play some older games, provided you removed the overclock first.

Realistically, though, you'll need to add a dedicated graphics if you want to play games, which should be straightforward. The Asus P8Z77-V LX motherboard isn't a particularly fancy or expensive model, but it's a good piece of kit that we regularly see in PCs that are far more expensive than this one. None of its expansion slots are in use, leaving plenty of room for the upgrades of your choice; the PC only has a 450W power supply, but that should be enough for at least a graphics card upgrade.

The motherboard has three PCI slot and two PCI-E x1 slots, one of which will be blocked if you add a large graphics card to the PCI-E x16 slot above it. There's also a second PCI-E x16 slot, which actually runs at x4, so you can run dual graphics cards. The motherboard has six SATA ports, only two of which support the SATA3 standard. One of them is already in use, connected to a 1TB hard disk, while the DVD drive is connected to a SATA2 port. This leaves a free fast port for an SSD if you want to improve boot speeds.

Palicomp Alpha Laser

Two of the four memory slots are in use, occupied by a pair of 4GB modules of rather snazzy looking 1,600MHz Patriot memory. There’s a fairly hefty cooler on the CPU, but this is positioned so as not to get in the way of either the memory slots or the top PCI-E x1 slot.

There's plenty of room for extra 3.5in and 5.5in drives, including an external 3.5in bay suitable for memory card readers or SATA hot plug caddies. There aren't any drive rails or vibration dampening grommets, and the expansion slot covers on the back panel can only be removed permanently rather than screwed on and off. The side panel's a bit of a tight fit and there's no sound or dust proofing to speak of, but he compact CIT case is well finished both internally and externally. It doesn't look too bad, either and its 412x185x420mm dimensions make it easy to find space for. The case fans and hard disk are a little noisy, but not disruptively so.

There two USB ports at the front of the case, alongside 3.5mm mic and headphone ports. At the back you'll find another four USB ports plus two USB3 ports. There's a USB3 header and two unused USB headers on the motherboard, so you can connect appropriate backplanes if you need more ports. The back panel also has a PS/2 mouse or keyboard port, three 3.5mm audio outputs for analogue surround sound, an optical S/PDIF output for digital audio, a Gigabit Ethernet port and DVI, HDMI and VGA graphics outputs.

Palicomp Alpha Laser

The main system's powerful, so you have to compromise somewhere. The keyboard and mouse and a strictly functional Cherry wired set, but they're comfortable to use and we found the keyboard surprisingly accurate to touch-type on.

The 1,920x1,080 monitor is also reasonably good for the price. It's a 21.5in Acer G226HQL which looks little greenish at its default settings but has great colour accuracy: our colour calibrator showed that it could display 99.4 percent of the sRGB colour gamut.

If processor power is important to you, or if you anticipate making extensive upgrades of your own, the Alpha Laser is brilliant value – it’s easily the cheapest Core i5-3570K system we’ve tested. However, if you want a system that can play games at decent quality without needing any upgrades, the Wired2Fire Velocity VX is a better bet.

Basic Specifications

Rating*****
ProcessorIntel Core i5-3570K
Processor external bus100MHz (DMI)
Processor multiplierx47
Processor clock speed4.7GHz
Processor socketLGA1155
Memory8
Memory typePC3-12800
Maximum memory32GB
MotherboardAsus P8Z77-V LX
Motherboard chipsetIntel Z77

Ports

USB2 ports (front/rear)2/6
eSATA ports (front/rear)0/0
Wired network ports1x 10/100/1000
Wireless networking supportnone

Internal Expansion

Casemidi tower
PCI-E x1 slots (free)2 (2)
PCI-E x16 slots (free)2 (2)
Free Serial ATA ports2
Free memory slots2
Free 3.5in drive bays6

Hard Disk

Hard disk model(s)Seagate Barracuda (ST31000524AS)
InterfaceSATA3

Graphics

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

Sound

SoundRealtek ALC887
Sound outputs5.1 line out, optical S/PDIF out, line out, mic in
Speakersnone

Removable Drives

Supported memory cardsnone
Optical drive type(s)DVD+/-RW +/-DL

Display

Viewable size21.5 in
Screen modelAcer G226HQL
Native resolution1,920x1,080
Screen inputsDVI, VGA

Other Hardware

KeyboardCherry KU-0556
MouseCherry M-5400

Software

Operating systemWindows 8
Operating system restore optionWindows disc

Buying Information

Warrantythree years RTB
Price£500
Detailswww.palicomp.co.uk

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