Palicomp Intel i5 Elite review
With cutting-edge desktop PCs routinely costing thousands of pounds, it’s easy to forget just how capable more affordable models can be. Right on cue, the Palicomp Intel i5 Elite offers a perfect example of the sensibly priced desktop PC. Despite costing less than a top-end graphics card, the Intel i5 Elite packs in serious processing power and modest gaming performance for £600.
Palicomp Intel i5 Elite review: core hardware
What’s truly staggering, though, is just how much potential you can squeeze into a £600 PC with some judicious budget-juggling. In this instance, Palicomp has wisely dedicated a significant chunk of the money to the Intel i5 Elite’s CPU, an Intel Core i5-4690K. It’s a processor that wouldn’t look out of place in a PC build costing well over £1,000, and Palicomp has given it a hefty boost by slotting it into an Asus Z97-P motherboard and overclocking it from 3.5GHz to 4.6GHz.
This doesn’t leave a huge amount in the budget for a graphics card, but the Intel i5 Elite wisely reaches for Nvidia’s capable sub-£100 contender, the GeForce GTX 750. As the GPU that first introduced Nvidia’s power-efficient Maxwell architecture, this isn’t a card that should be judged on its size. This tiny, half-height card punches well above its weight, and not least because Palicomp has squeezed every last drop of performance out of it: the Gigabyte-branded GTX 750 has had its core and boost clocks pushed from 1,059MHz and 1,137MHz up to 1,208MHz and 1,202MHz respectively.
Palicomp Intel i5 Elite review: performance
The result of Palicomp’s efforts is a PC that absolutely flies along in everyday use. Despite the lack of an SSD – the Intel i5 Elite employs a 1TB Seagate hybrid HDD – performance is very respectable indeed. In our new benchmarks, the Palicomp proved 29% faster than our reference system – which is based around a stock 3.4GHz Core i5-4670K, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD – easing to an overall result of 129.
That’s impressive in itself, but we also ran our old benchmarks to see how the Palicomp stacked up against our current A-List entry, the Chillblast Fusion Quasar. Needless to say, the Intel i5 Elite’s faster CPU gave it the edge, with an Overall result of 1.23 pulling ahead of the Chillblast’s 1.14.
Gaming performance is also pretty good. The tiny GTX 750 scythed through our Crysis benchmark at 1080p resolution and High detail, racking up an average frame rate of 73fps, which is 2fps faster than the Chillblast. To its credit, the Palicomp served up a playable 46fps even once we pushed the benchmark settings up to Very High detail. As long as you stick to gaming at Full HD resolution and don’t go too crazy with the detail settings, the Palicomp will be more than capable of playing the latest games.
Palicomp Intel i5 Elite review: expansion and build
There’s nothing fancy or attention-grabbing about the Palicomp’s exterior: the Intel i5 Elite is housed in an unassuming Cooler Master Elite 430 case. This isn’t a high-end case by any means – a fact that’s instantly given away with the thin metal panels and basic styling, but it ticks most of the right boxes for a budget build.
Indeed, there are no issues with the case’s cooling potential. The slow-spinning 120mm fan at the front of the case and Thermalright True Spirit 120M CPU cooler keep noise to a gentle hum, but still work well. With Prime95 and FurMark pushing the system to its limits, we measured a maximum temperature of 76°C on the CPU and 80°C on the GPU. And since there’s room for a further four 120mm fans on the base, rear and roof of the case, there’s plenty of scope for adding faster components in the future. Our only gripe is the lack of dust filters; this is something the Chillblast’s Zalman case made good use of.
The Asus motherboard doesn’t deliver a huge amount of expansion potential. There are two PCI slots, two PCI Express x1 slots, and one PCI Express 2 x16 slot (limited to x2 speeds here), but there are only two SATA 600 ports free; it isn’t possible to take full advantage of the case’s four 3.5in and two 2.5in tool-free drive bays. The 10GB/sec M.2 slot comes as some consolation, though, making it possible to upgrade the build with a tiny, superfast SSD further down the line.
Another area where the Cooler Master case is found wanting is cable management. Where the Chillblast’s Zalman Z3 Plus case made it possible to stow cables behind the motherboard tray, the Cooler Master Elite 430 leaves all the cables out in the open. As a result, Palicomp has been forced to resort to bunching cables together with cable ties – despite its best efforts, it doesn’t make for the most elegant interior.
The presence of a Corsair 450W PSU is a touch limiting, too. This is ample for the Intel i5 Elite’s components, and particularly so due to the extremely power-efficient graphics card, but those looking to upgrade to a faster GPU in the future may find it doesn’t provide enough juice. By comparison, Chillblast specified a 600W FSP PSU for its Fusion Quasar.
Palicomp Intel i5 Elite review: verdict
Despite our quibbles, there’s no question that delivering this level of performance for £600 is an impressive feat. A hefty CPU overclock and some judicious component choices make for a budget base unit to be reckoned with. We’d still be inclined to choose the Chillblast Fusion Quasar for its snazzier-looking case, superior upgradability and expansion potential, especially if you’re looking to upgrade with a cutting-edge GPU in the near future, but if all-out performance is your priority, the Palicomp Intel i5 Elite is definitely the one to choose.