Hardwired PC is a Brisbane based custom PC store with the mantra that quality comes first when designing a gaming rig. We had the pleasure of sampling their Reaper Junior, a budget orientated gaming machine tweaked specifically for enthusiasts. The system can be customised via their website for those who wish to micromanage the specifications; what we got was their own handpicked combination, placed at about $100 above their barebones price of $868.
The Reaper Junior is a tower only system, as is often the case with custom machines. As the name suggests, there is another more powerful 'Reaper' system offered which has the option of water cooling and other goodies. The case chosen to house this particular system is the BitFenix Shinobi, an admittedly awesome little case given the cost. Its black exterior extends throughout the case, unlike many cheap units which leave bare internal metal. The finish is tidy and free from burr, has dust filters to maintain a clean dust free system, and provides spacious holes for cable routing!
Through the clear acrylic window we could see that Hardwire spent time ensuring cables are tucked away, so that the many fans can circulate air without obstruction. Each of these fans feature LEDs to give the tower a blue aurora. This is probably not the best choice of colour for night-owls, but we're nitpicking here.
What surprised us is that the choice of components are similar to those often recommended in enthusiast circles, particularly the Atomic forums. Cooling the Intel i5 2400 is the famous CoolerMaster Hyper 212+, often recommended as a cheap alternative to the evil clip ridden stock coolers that plague Intel retail boxes. For an enthusiast machine, we would have loved to see the i5 2500K installed (we think it's worth the extra $25) given the sufficient cooling, although that being said the 2400 is definitely no slouch. It also means quieter operation, without blowing the budget on expensive cooling units.
Pumping the pixels is an AMD HD 6870, a great budget choice, and one we know will render modern titles without an issue. Whilst on the note of AMD, we should also point out that there's a choice of Phenom II processors on offer, if one wishes to sample the fruits of a greener camp.
Providing the backbone for all this tech is the Z68 based GIGABYTE GA-Z68XP-D3. Despite the similar model name to the motherboard we reviewed last month (the UD3), there are some key differences, such as 4x bandwidth on the second 16x expansion slot, no SLI support, and lack of Dolby Home Theatre support. This probably won't be an issue given that it's a budget system with an AMD GPU, but it does restrict the upgrade path somewhat. Fortunately the Z68 chipset means grabbing a new Ivy Bridge processor in future is a simple case of swapping out the old for the new, and you have the ability to add a cheap SSD to utilise Smart Response Technology (SRT).
The performance of this system is what you'd expect from a budget build. It's fast, but don't expect to run BattleField 3 on ultra settings. For what it's worth, it runs Crysis at a playable frame rate on high settings, and does well in our benchmark suite. Throughout the tests the system remained cool and quiet.
It's important to note that this system comes with a trial copy of Windows 7 Pro, so you will have to source your own copy unless you select it during customisation. This keeps the cost down, whilst giving you the freedom to select your own OS (not that there's any other choice for gaming).
We decided to see what the price of this system would be if we sourced parts ourselves using the StaticIce website. Without considering the blue LED fans, we came to a total of $860. For the extra $100 Hardwired PC charge, you're getting a 1 year back-to-base warranty, lifetime e-mail support, a clean build, and the saved time you'd be wasting trying to track down parts from a handful of different online companies, whilst paying delivery fees for each. As such, we'd say this system is a pretty sweet deal.