With the economic climate climbing and falling more times than a roller coaster at a theme park in recent months, It can be a tough decision for anyone to part your their well-earned cash on a much needed upgrade for their PC. As a result of this some people might be struggling to keep up with developers who aim to set the standard with their new products. Whilst the high street is seemingly struggling to stay afloat, some companies are making the most with what they have and offering their consumers products that are not only keeping up but are also fantastic value for money.
With that being said we've recently had the pleasure of taking a look at one of the best value systems from CCL - The Elite Raven II, a gaming PC priced at £499 that aims to pack a serious punch whilst offering gamers the best experience, without breaking the bank.
Will this potential powerhouse succeed in offering the best bang for buck? OC3D have put it through some rigorous tests to find out.
CPU - Intel core i5-3550 3.3Ghz
Memory - 2x4 GB Patriot Signature DDR3 4GB CL9 PC3-10600 (1333MHz) DIMM
Hard Disk - Seagate Barracuda© SATA 6Gb/s 1TB Hard Drive
Optical Drive - CCL Choice 22x DVD+/-RW Drive
Motherboard - Gigabyte GA-H61MA-D2V (H61 Chipset)
Graphics Card - XFX Radeon HD 7850 Graphics Card 2GB
Case - Fractal Design Core 1000 PC Case (Micro-ATX)
Warranty - 2 Years
As you can see, the Raven II looks like a good all-rounder so far, let's take a closer look and see what it has to offer.
Up Close - External
Upon opening the well-packaged box the system ships in, you are presented with the popular Fractal core 1000. A 'wolf in sheep's clothing' case that may look basic to some but offers fantastic value for money with its good air flow and all black interior.
The case comes provided with a Fractal branded 120mm fan that runs at 1200rpm and has the capability for 2 additional fans to be fitted - a 92mm at the rear of the case and an additional 120mm on the side panel.
As you would expect with any system, all of the necessary drivers disks, cables, adapters and manuals are provided.
Although the GA-61MA doesn't have a substantial amount of connectivity, it should provide enough for almost everyone who would purchase this system and at this price point - its more than anyone could ask for.
The rear of the case is well ventilated and should provide adequate air flow with or without any additional fans.
Up Close - Internal
One of the problems we normally encounter with low end cases is awful cable management and poor air flow. I'm happy to say CCL have chosen wisely with their case for the Raven II as the Core 1000 has adequate air flow for the components inside.
Although their isn't much in the way of behind the motherboard cable management, CCL have carefully routed the cables in place to avoid obstructing air flow from the front of the case.
The system in its entirety looks very clean and even the hard drive cables have been well hidden.
Even the little things such as the front panel connections are hidden and carefully routed. The attention to detail is impressive.
As is usually the case with systems aimed at saving you cash, it doesn't stop with top value components. It's easy to neglect that a low power system can also save you on energy bills in the long run and along with low power generally comes low temperatures.
As you can see above - The Raven II not only provided cool temperatures, it also did it whilst staying relatively quiet too!
Sisoft Sandra & Aida 64
The i5-3550 isn't as popular as its overclockable bigger brother (the 3570K) but it doesn't stop it being a fantastic all rounder in a number of tests we put it through.
Whilst the memory provided in the system is budget oriented and has a speed of only 1333mhz, it performs moderately well in all benchmarks which goes to prove that big numbers don't always mean its the quickest or best. For a system of this spec, these results are more than adequate.
PC Mark & 3D Mark
PC Mark is considered one of the most comprehensive benchmarks you could put a system through. The Raven II did a sterling job at completing all of these benchmarks with decent scores which further emphasizes how much bang you get for your buck.
As you can see above, the Elite Raven II is a system that is capable of performing well in even some of the most demanding of benchmarks.
CCL have so far left quite an impression on us at OC3D so far with the Raven II. Now its time to see how it copes with some of the games they have listed as "perfect for this system"
For a system that costs less than the latest mobile phone handset, these are some stunning results. Not only is it capable of running some of the latest games at very playable frame rates, it does it with ease and most importantly - it remained quiet and cool, a quality us at OC3D take seriously.
Let's get a few things out of the way first. First of all, the system was a pleasant surprise - CCL have managed to build a PC that is very capable and versatile which is priced very competitively at £499 (inc VAT). At that price point it's important to make the right choices in the right places. Cutting corners can prove costly for both the consumer and retailer themselves. This is where CCL have hit the nail on the head and done so with the force of Thor smiting one of his foes!
One of the things we feel have been achieved successfully is value for money. Whilst the Raven II is no heavyweight in the world of PC's, it's certainly a pound for pound contender that is punching several levels above its weight class - much of which is credited to choosing the right tools for the job. It would have been easy for CCL to have thrown together a much lesser spec'd system and priced it at the same price and some end users may have been satisfied with those results, however what they have managed to bring together is a well-planned, thought-out system which, combined with a bit of witchcraft - is something a little special.
Usually there is always a price to pay with a pre-built gaming system and for those looking for a powerhouse system delivered to their door that is readily built for them - It's hard to come across anything more impressive in the sub £500 price bracket. Add this together with a keyboard, mouse, monitor and speakers of your choice - you will have a PC you will be happy with for quite some time.
Performance is something that the Raven II delivers in spades. The 7850 does the job nicely with almost all of the games we tested and it would continue to do so for a long time to come. It may not be able to run 'every' game maxed out with 8x AA and 16x AF but to be honest if you expected to achieve that with this system, then you might be missing the point a little. Whilst the Raven II is ultimately a 'Jack of all trades' it surpassed all expectations and delivered consistently good results throughout.
To end this review, the Raven II is a very well-rounded system for anyone who wants a system that will handle almost anything 'well'. Its value for money is something that is impossible to ignore for a system of this specification. It remains quiet when under the stress of gaming and synthetic benchmarks and it is put together with thought and attention to detail by the CCL team.
A well deserved Gold award.
Thanks to CCL for sending the system over for review, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.