PC Specialist Aurea i3-530 Pro review

£449
Price when reviewed

Intel’s recent processor refresh may have started at the top with the super-fast Core i7 range, but it’s the budget end of the scale that’s arguably more exciting. The Core i3-530 is the cheapest of Intel’s 32nm parts, yet it offers a level of power beyond anything managed by the budget Core 2 Duos of the past.

PC Specialist’s Aurea i3-530 Pro is the first system we’ve seen to include one. The new chip is based on the Clarkdale core – which is also used in Intel’s low-end Core i5 chips – and fits into the new mainstream LGA 1156 socket.

It may be far cheaper than Core i7 parts, but the Core i3-530 still includes advanced features. Its two cores run at 2.93GHz and are visible as four thanks to the inclusion of Hyper-Threading. Interestingly, it also features an integrated GPU on a separate 45nm die that allows you to buy a motherboard without any integrated graphics of its own.

PC Specialist Aurea i3-530 Pro

It proved itself to be an able performer, cantering to a score of 1.66 in our 2D application benchmarks. That the bottom-end part can score so highly really shows the power in Intel’s new range. It’s more than fast enough to handle intensive applications and, crucially, it’s far quicker than other systems we’ve seen at this budget: the Advent Firefly FP9004 has a Pentium Dual-Core E5300 processor and scored just 1.11 in the same tests.

The on-chip graphics are fine for media decoding, handling both 720p and 1080p H.264 clips smoothly, but less impressive for gamers. The chip averaged just 21fps in our Low quality 1,024 x 768 Crysis benchmark, so you’ll be lowering the settings to play most current titles.

The rest of the Aurea specification is relatively prudent. We’d like a little more than 2GB of RAM, but it keeps Windows 7 Home Premium ticking over nicely. The 500GB hard disk and DVD writer keep that trend going – once again, we’d like a little more but for this price it’s not bad at all.

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 500
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Screen size N/A

Processor

CPU family Intel Core i3
CPU nominal frequency 2.93GHz
CPU overclocked frequency N/A
Processor socket LGA 1156
HSF (heatsink-fan) Intel low profile cooler

Motherboard

Motherboard Asus P7H55-M Pro
Motherboard chipset Intel P55
Conventional PCI slots free 2
Conventional PCI slots total 2
PCI-E x16 slots free 1
PCI-E x16 slots total 1
PCI-E x8 slots free 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots free 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots free 1
PCI-E x1 slots total 1
Internal SATA connectors 6
Internal SAS connectors 1
Internal PATA connectors 1
Internal floppy connectors 1
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR3
Memory sockets free 3
Memory sockets total 4

Graphics card

Graphics card Intel X4500
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards? no
3D performance setting Low
Graphics chipset Intel 4500MHD
Graphics card RAM 256MB
DVI-I outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 0
Number of graphics cards 0

Hard disk

Hard disk Maxtor DiamondMaxSTM3599418AS
Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 465GB
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Cache size 16MB
Hard disk 2 make and model N/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speed N/A
Hard disk 2 cache size N/A
Hard disk 3 make and model N/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 4 make and model N/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacity N/A

Drives

Optical drive LiteOn iHAS/124
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical disk 2 make and model N/A
Optical disk 3 make and model N/A

Monitor

Monitor make and model N/A
Resolution screen horizontal N/A
Resolution screen vertical N/A
Resolution N/A x N/A
Pixel response time N/A
Contrast ratio N/A
Screen brightness N/A
DVI inputs N/A
HDMI inputs N/A
VGA inputs N/A
DisplayPort inputs N/A

Additional Peripherals

Speakers N/A
Speaker type N/A
Sound card Realtek HD Audio
Peripherals N/A

Case

Chassis PC Specialist proprietary
Case format Midi tower
Dimensions 190 x 474 x 423mm (WDH)

Power supply

Power supply FSP 350-PNR
Power supply rating 350W

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 2

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 9
PS/2 mouse port yes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Modem no
3.5mm audio jacks 6

Front ports

Front panel USB ports 3
Front panel memory card reader yes

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboard N/A

Operating system and software

OS family Windows 7

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 52W
Peak power consumption 82W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 1.66
Office application benchmark score 1.42
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.73
Encoding application benchmark score 1.58
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.91
3D performance (crysis) low settings 21fps
3D performance setting Low

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