Palicomp Excalibur 630OC35 £600
13th Apr 2010 | 09:30
A budget gaming system that uses AMD tech to great effect
AMD made a serious switch in emphasis a few years ago, eschewing the traditional 'biggest is best' mantra, which had become the hallmark of its struggles against Intel in the CPU war (and with its ATI hat on up against Nvidia), in favour of the more practicable notion of value.
It ceded ground to the far superior Core chips of Intel focusing on producing speedy budget processors and up against Nvidia it went for scalable GPUs which could happily double up to take on the monolithic designs of its green-eyed competitors.
So if you want a machine capable of throwing around the latest games like the arcade cabinets of old, but don't want to go north of £1,000, then surely it's all about the AMD systems.
Nvidia graphics are far too pricey and Intel's incredible Core processors also require expensive motherboards, so it's a no-brainer then.
Palicomp obviously thinks so and this Excalibur machine is based 100% on AMD technology providing the heart of this budget gamer.
Things have changed recently, though. Sure, AMD has still got the value side of the graphics divide locked down, with Nvidia's belated GTX 4xx cards coming in at the top-end with no mid-range on the near horizon, but Intel is definitely clawing back ground on the value CPU segment.
With the release of the dual-core Core i3 series of CPUs, offering multithreading support to match up against AMD's budget quad-core chips, the value end is suddenly a lot more crowded. Instead of opting for a more competitive Phenom II chip, Palicomp has instead dropped in a quad-core Athlon II.
With many modern games still struggling to scale properly with extra CPU cores switching to a lower grade, quad may seem like a slightly backwards step, but the performance figures bear up Palicomp's choice.
The gaming performance of the Excalibur though is definitely down to the impressive £100 5770 thrumming away in the sleek CM Storm Scout chassis. Being able to chuck polygons around at 2560x1600 is not what this machine is all about, and yet it still manages playable frame rates only a little short of the 30fps milestone.
The more reasonable 1680x1050 res is where this rig is pointed and it really comes into its own, capably dealing with full settings on all our benchmark titles.
Our only real issue with the Excalibur though is that much of its components are based on last generation hardware. The Athlon II X4 is a thoroughly reasonable quad-core, but is lacking in the more modern cache memory side. The use of DDR2 memory and the 770-chipset motherboard also means that there's little chance of future upgrades.
One of the best things about AMD's change has been the fact that cheaper AMD DDR3 boards would support its future AM3 chips down the line, and there isn't as huge a price premium between the two memory standards as there was even six months ago.
But it all works now and does its job admirably. For £600 you'd be hard pushed to find a machine as well specified and as quick off the blocks as this.
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