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CCL Nebula 200i review

Richard Easton
28 Sep 2015
CCL Nebula 200i teaser
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
700
inc VAT

The Nebula 200i’s eye-catching case makes it stand out from the mid-range PC pack

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 3.2GHz Intel Core i5-4460, RAM: 8GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 4x USB3, 2x USB2, Total storage: 1TB SSHD, Graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, Display: Asus VE247, Operating system: Windows 10.1

A Budget of £600 will get you a highly capable PC, but manufacturers still need to make some compromises to conform to what is a reasonably modest price bracket. One of the areas that often feels the pinch is the PC’s case. We’re used to seeing some solid but unexciting chassis in PCs at this price.

With that in mind we were pleased to see that CCL has made a slightly unusual choice for its Nebula 200i: the beautiful Xigmatek Nebula Mini-ITX case. This compact case is distinctly cube-shaped, which means it’s both shorter and wider than your typical tower. You’ll need to keep this in mind if you plan on placing the system on your desk, as it has quite a large footprint. The case is unusual in that it can take in air from its base from some delightfully quiet case fans.

The side panels are matt black with an attractive glossy finish on the top, and the case feels well made with quality materials. A cutout in the front bottom-left corner glows and blinks orange when the system is on, which could be distracting. There’s no easy way to disable it either, although you can always disconnect it from the motherboard. Conveniently, the two side panels and front panel all pop off without the need for tools, so gaining access to the internals is a breeze.

Unsurprisingly considering the case’s dimensions, the motherboard is mounted horizontally. The Nebula 200i uses an MSI H97I AC Mini-ITX motherboard, which doesn’t offer much scope for upgrades due to its small size. There’s only one PCI-E x16 slot and this is occupied by the system’s dedicated Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics card. If you ever want to replace the graphics card in the future, bear in mind that the case only supports cards up to 200mm in length. That excludes most powerful models, but some manufacturers are producing mini versions specifically for this type of small case.

CCL Nebula 200i guts

There’s also a half-size Mini-PCI-E slot, but it’s occupied by an 802.11ac Wi-Fi networking card. This means it’s all set to connect to your wireless network, and the fact that the card uses the faster 802.11ac standard is a real bonus. We don’t often see wireless cards included with PCs, so this is certainly a useful addition. There are no other PCI slots for upgrades such as dedicated sound cards, but most PCI cards have USB equivalents that do a similar job although aren’t quite as neat.

The motherboard supports up to 16GB of memory and only one of the two slots is occupied by an 8GB DDR3 1,600MHz module. Adding another 8GB is a cheap and simple upgrade, and you’ll benefit from a slight performance boost as the RAM will run in dual-channel mode.

Processing performance comes from a quad-core 3.2GHz Intel Core i5-4460, which, as a Haswell-based processor, is getting a little long in the tooth. An overall score of 83 in our application benchmarks shows it’s still a respectable performer, though. The processor struggled most with the multitasking benchmark, which manipulates images while encoding and playing back 4K video, so a newer CPU is a better bet if you need high performance in such intensive tasks.


CCL Nebula 200i rear ports

The system’s gaming performance is also top-notch. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics card managed an excellent 84fps in our Dirt Showdown benchmark at 1,920x1,080 with 4x anti-aliasing and Ultra quality settings. In Metro: Last Light at 1,920x1,080 with SSAA turned on and Very High quality we saw a just-playable 29.6fps, but turning off anti-aliasing lifted the frame rate to a much smoother 54.2fps. Considering the system’s size, it packs a decent gaming punch.

You’ll have plenty of space to install games, as the PC has a 1TB SSHD hybrid drive, which combines some of the speed benefits of NAND flash memory with the higher capacity of a mechanical hard disk. Windows 10 felt highly responsive on this PC. The drive’s performance should improve as you use your PC, as it works out which files you use most often and stores them in its cache.

There are two USB3 ports and a headphone and microphone jack on the right side panel of the case. We’d have preferred these to be on the top of the case for ease of access. The back of the system has four more USB3 ports and two slower USB ports. You’ll probably plug your keyboard and mouse into the normal USB ports, leaving you with four super-fast ports to play with. For audio it has connections for up to 7.1 surround speakers and an optical S/PDIF jack. The graphics card has two DVI ports, HDMI and DisplayPort so you can easily connect up multiple monitors.

The Nebula 200i is available with an Asus VE247T monitor for an extra £100. Its contrast ratio of 979:1 isn’t particularly impressive, and its black levels of 0.31cd/m2 don’t help. However, the screen performed much better in our colour accuracy tests, covering 93% of the sRGB colour gamut.

If you buy the complete system, you get a wired Microsoft keyboard and mouse set. The mouse is basic but perfectly serviceable and comfortable to use. The keyboard’s keys are a little spongy but we were able to type quickly and accuracy. The keyboard doesn’t have the smaller backspace key that plagues other cheap keyboards, and no keys are in strange places. The function keys along the top are small and fiddly, however.

The CCL Nebula 200i is a decent mid-range system. The case is delightful and the PC’s combination of reasonable application and strong gaming performance makes it a great all-rounder in a tidy package. If you’re after a small PC, though, the CCL is just pipped at the post by the Vibox Exile, thanks to its quicker processor. Those who are after a seriously powerful system with space for upgrades will be better off buying a larger PC, such as the Yoyotech Warbird RS10, however. For other options check out our Best desktop PCs and buying guide.

Core specs
ProcessorQuad-core 3.2GHz Intel Core i5-4460
Processor socketFCLGA1150
RAM8GB
Memory type1,600MHz DDR3
Maximum memory16GB
MotherboardMSI H971 AC
Motherboard chipsetIntel H97 Express
Ports and expansion
Front USB ports2x USB3
Rear USB ports4x USB3, 2x USB2
Other ports1x PS/2
Networking1x 10/100/1000, 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Case typeMini Tower
Case size HxWxD330x260xx260mm
PCI (free)0 (0)
PCIe x1 (free)0 (0)
PCIe x16 (free)1 (0)
Serial ATA (free)4x SATA3 (3)
Memory slots (free)2 (1)
Drive bays 2 1/2" (free)1 (1)
Drive bays 3 1/2" (free)1 (0)
Drive bays 5 1/4" (free)0 (0)
Storage
Total storage1TB SSHD
Memory card readerNone
Optical drive typeNone
Graphics
Graphics cardNvidia GeForce GTX 960
Graphics/video ports2x DVI, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort
Sound
Sound cardRealtek ALC892
Sound card outputsOptical S/PDIF, 7.1 surround
SpeakersNone
Display
DisplayAsus VE247
Native resolution1,920x,1080
InputsDVI, VGA
Other hardware
KeyboardMicrosoft wired keyboard
MouseMicrosoft wired mouse
ExtrasNone
Software
Operating systemWindows 10.1
Operating system restore optionRestore partition
Buying information
WarrantyThree year collect and return
Price including delivery (inc VAT)£700
Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)£600
Supplierwww.cclonline.com
Detailswww.cclonline.com
Part CodeCCL-NEB-200if

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