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Palicomp Intel i5 Raven review - the complete living room PC

Michael Passingham
27 Jan 2016
Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
700
inc VAT

The quiet and compact Intel i5 Raven is a complete - and cheap - living room PC

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Specifications

Processor: Quad-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400, RAM: 8GB, Front USB ports : 2x USB3, Rear USB ports: 4x USB2, 2x USB3, Total storage: 1TB hybrid hard disk, Graphics card: 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960, Display: None, Operating system: Windows 10

The smaller you make a PC, the harder it becomes to keep it cool. This is why conventional ATX desktop chassis typically have a huge amount of unused space inside, maximising airflow, keeping temperatures down and so making the PC quieter. When you slot a gaming PC specification into a tiny media PC-style case, there must surely be compromises either to noise or performance. At just 105mm tall, you'd expect the Palicomp Intel i5 Raven to struggle, but this media centre-sized PC manages to run quieter than the majority of mini PCs we've seen.

The PC's SilverStone Raven RVZ01 case isn't the most attractive in the range, thanks to its uninspiring matt black plastic front and sides and black metal top. It's at least practical; inside the case's 382x350mm footprint Palicomp has been able to fit all the standard desktop components you'd expect.

Take the lid off the case and you'll find a stock Intel cooler drawing heat away from a quad-core Intel Core i5-6400 processor. This is the first time we've seen the i5-6400, which retails for £140, around £60 less than the more frequently seen i5-6600K that system builders use in higher-end machines. It runs at a lower clock speed than the i5-6600K - 2.7GHz instead of 3.5GHz - and it's also locked to this lower speed so you can't go into the BIOS and easily overclock the chip. In the interest of cost, DDR3 RAM has been used instead of more expensive, higher-performance DDR4 modules. There's room for a second RAM stick if you want to expand from 8GB to 16GB, and the motherboard also supports DDR4 memory should you wish to upgrade to faster RAM later.

This PC ranks in our Best PCs 2016 list - see the rest here

The PC managed an overall score of 74 in our benchmarks, including a fairly low 66 in the single core-heavy image-processing portion. Luckily, the processor's quad-core architecture and multitasking ability helped it to mitigate its slightly low clock speed, with its video and multitasking scores bringing up its overall score.

In real-world use the PC is a decent performer, cracking through all Windows tasks without missing a beat. 3D performance is handled by a 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics card. This is a one of our favourite mid-range cards, and it excels at Full HD resolutions, which will match most living room TVs. Our first benchmark is Dirt Showdown, which tests a system's graphics capabilities on an older game running at Ultra settings. The Intel i5 Raven managed an excellent 79.4fps in this test. It also achieved 28.1fps in the challenging Metro: Last Light benchmark. This isn't quite playable, but switching off super-sampling anti-aliasing increased performance immensely, up to 53.3fps, for minimum image quality impact. Upgrading the graphics card is possible, but it's a fiddly job and you will need to ensure your replacement card is smaller than 13 inches in length.

There are some cost-saving choices elsewhere in the build; instead of an SSD Palicomp has opted for a 1TB hybrid hard disk, which is cheaper than an SSD but doesn't quite have the same performance. It's a good compromise, though: if you're going to be using this PC as your primary gaming and media PC, storage quantity is paramount. There is room for extra storage if you need it later on; the case has room for three additional 2.5in drives, be they SSDs or small hard disks. In reality there's only room for two extra drives because the space where a third would go (next to the 3.5in hard disk) is occupied by the various power and data cables used in this build. The ASUS H110I-PLUS D3 motherboard only has room for two additional SATA drives, as the other two ports are occupied by the hard disk and the slot-loading DVD drive at the front of the chassis.

At the rear of the PC you'll find four USB2 ports, two USB3 ports, three 3.5mm audio jacks and a Gigabit Ethernet adapter. The motherboard doesn't have an optical S/PDIF connector for hooking up to high-end audio systems, but if your TV has one this won't be a problem, as long as you use the HDMI port on the graphics card to connect to it. If you're using a monitor instead, there are two DVI connectors and a DisplayPort socket.

The Intel i5 Raven comes bundled with a wireless Xbox 360 controller and a USB dongle. This is a useful combination, as the official wireless PC receiver can be hard to buy. The controller works with Windows 10 without the need for additional drivers. Even better, because many PC games are also released on consoles, most big-name titles are already set up to be played with a controller, meaning you're not losing out by not using a keyboard and mouse. Bear in mind you will need a keyboard and mouse during the initial setup phase while you're setting up your username, installing your games and getting your Steam or media centre software up and running.

Palicomp's warranty is reasonable if not exceptional. Its labour coverage lasts for three years but the company will only cover replacement parts for one year.

The Palicomp Intel i5 Raven is a quiet living room gaming PC with enough grunt for the latest titles. It's not much more expensive than a similarly specified full-size desktop and includes a controller, so is ready to take over your living room as soon as it's out of the box. 

Core specs
ProcessorQuad-core 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-6400
Processor socketLGA1551
RAM8GB
Memory typeDDR3
Maximum memory16GB
MotherboardAsus H110I-PLUS D3
Motherboard chipsetIntel H110
Ports and expansion
Front USB ports2x USB3
Rear USB ports4x USB2, 2x USB3
Other ports1x PS/2
Networking1x 10/100/1000
Case typeMini-ITX
Case dimensions HxWxD105x350x382mm
PCI (free)None
PCIe x1 (free)None
PCIe x16 (free)1 (0)
Serial ATA (free)4 (2)
Memory slots (free)2 (0)
Drive bays 2 1/2" (free)3 (3)
Drive bays 3 1/2" (free)1 (0)
Drive bays 5 1/4" (free)1 (0)
Storage
Total storage1TB hybrid hard disk
Memory card readerNone
Optical drive typeSlimline DVD
Graphics
Graphics card4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 960
Graphics/video ports2x DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI
Sound
Sound cardRealtek ALC887 (integrated)
Sound card outputs3x 3.5mm
SpeakersNone
Display
DisplayNone
Native resolutionN/A
InputsN/A
Other hardware
KeyboardNone
MouseNone
ExtrasWireless Xbox 360 controller
Software
Operating systemWindows 10
Operating system restore optionWindows 10 restore
Buying information
WarrantyThree years RTB including one year parts cover
Price including delivery (inc VAT)£700
Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)N/A
Supplierpalicomp.co.uk
Detailspalicomp.co.uk
Part CodeRAV1

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