This is the first time we’ve had a system from indie builders PCG4M3R in the labs, and while we may giggle quietly at the outfit’s name (l33tspeak – really, in this day and age?), there’s no doubting that PCG4M3R has a solid lock on what makes a good build.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about these guys is they’re not a reseller in any way. This means they’re not locked into choosing a part purely because they need to keep that company happy – instead, PCG4M3R can choose whatever it considers to be the best parts for a given price-point and purpose.
And thus, we have the Soldier V5, an AMD-based system aimed at some serious mid-range gaming.
The Soldier’s firmly armoured in an Antec Six Hundred case – a decision we certainly can’t fault. It’s a bold looking design with solid cooling options that we scored an 84 per cent for back in issue 110. It also has a side window, and the view inside is seriously tantalising...
It’s not quite an NRG-grade cabling job, but the once you remove that sidepanel the Soldier features a very neat interior. Power cables are all routed behind the motherboard, or tucked away into spare drive bays, while everything else is tied down and similarly unobtrusive – there’s not a lot at all to get in the way of airflow or to pick up dust. There are some niggles – there’s a loose power connector just hanging in the air from the PCIe cable, and there’s a length of cabling secured by one of those plastic-wrapped wire twists you sometimes get on bread.
Something with metal wire in it doesn’t seem ideal, but it does the job, we guess.
But there’s also a lot of well-considered hardware in here too. The heart of the system is a Black Edition AMD 965 chip, on a Gigabyte board backed up by 4GB of A-RAM, um, RAM. None of this is great stuff, to be sure, but consider for a moment the name of the rig – this is a machine that can ably Soldier its way to performance. There are better AMD boards on the market, to be honest, but this will get the job done.
The graphics side of the equation is handled by a HIS 6850 card with 1GB of DDR5 memory on board. Both the CPU and video card come overclocked, too, which certainly amps up the performance stakes. The PSU is a 650 watt Corsair model, a choice we can certainly get behind. Cooling’s handled by a brace of Silverstone fans, which not only push a lot of air to achieve positive air pressure inside the case, but are also very quiet.
But what about the performance of all this kit?
Annoyingly, we’ve recently updated most of our benchmarks, so there aren’t too many direct comparisons we can draw. However, the Soldier’s slick enough to blow away stock performance compared to other 6850-powered systems. It’s not up to full Tesselation load in Unigine’s Heaven benchmark, delivering 14.6fps on average, but untesselated it pulls down 28fps. That’s three to four frames per second from a stock 6850 on a similar Intel system. In Crysis, it manages to move along at a shade below the optimum 24fps – of course, that is at 1920 x 1200 and with all settings maxed out. With a bit of tweaking, this still demanding game would be more than playable.
This isn’t a system that’s going to set the world on fire, and nor is it a system we’d build ourselves. However, as a complete package it’s quite a good performer, and with the good cabling and overclocks, a pretty good price, too. It does come without an OS, but who doesn’t have one of those lying around these days? Good job, PCG4M3R, even if we do hate typing your name.