Watford Aries Perfecta 8156 review

£899
Price when reviewed

If you take a look at the Demonite case in this Labs you’ll see immediate similarities to the one used in the Aries Perfecta. That’s not surprising, since Watford took ownership of the Demonite brand earlier this year.

Both systems use a Cooler Master case, and this one’s the Centurion 5. It’s less flamboyant than the Demonite’s, but it’s still attractive. On the noise front, it occupies middle ground as well, just squeaking into the top half of our quietness test.

Inside, you’re presented with a spacious layout and plenty of spare drive bays, with two spare Molex power connectors and one SATA. But the motherboard, an MSI 945G Neo, has quite a few missing optional components and connectors. What you miss out on are FireWire and RAID. It’s also only one of two PCs this month to rely on a single Ultra ATA/100 connector for optical drives (Fujitsu-Siemens’ Esprimo is the other).

However, you still get four SATA/300 ports and Gigabit Ethernet. A 250GB hard disk isn’t bad either, and the DVD drive, although not dual-layer, handles DVD-RAM to give convenient drag-and-drop removable storage. A handy card reader sits in the external 3.5in drive bay.

In our 2D benchmarks, this PC kept close company with the Mesh and Evesham Intel machines, opening up a gap back to the Fujitsu-Siemens. And it’s certainly no slouch in the 3D department either; an MSI Radeon X850 XT sees to that. Its average frame rate was just a whisker off the Labs’ speediest gamer, the Intel-based Evesham with its 7800 GT.

This X850 XT is a big double-width card, obscuring the PCI Express 1x slot underneath. However, its airflow arrangement is different to the other 3D cards this month, and you can slot an expansion card right up against it in the remaining 1x slot. There are also three empty standard PCI slots. Integrated graphics are available courtesy of the 945G Express chipset. Of course, this isn’t in use with the 3D card in place, but it provides a handy backup for fault diagnosis should there be problems with the X850 XT.

The first year of the warranty is on-site, followed by five years’ return-to-base cover. This sounds great, but only labour costs are covered, so you’re still exposed to freight and hardware expenses.

Overall, the Watford is a mixed bag. Performance levels are high and expansion options are comparatively good, but the cut-down motherboard loses it feature points. Before you buy, take a close look at both the Mesh and the Evesham.

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