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Shootouts

Small form factor gaming desktop shootout: Punching above their weight

By Koh Wanzi - 28 Oct 2017

Performance benchmarks

Performance benchmarks

Here’s a list of the benchmarks used:

  • PCMark 10
  • 3DMark (2013)
  • VRMark
  • Ashes of the Singularity
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division

The desktops reviewed here are prime examples of compact, high-performance machines. However, with the exception of the ASUS ROG GR8 II, all the systems come equipped with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070, so they perform quite similarly for the most part.

As a result, performance isn’t the only deciding factor, and things like design and price matter a lot as well.

Test desktops compared
  Aftershock Impulse V2 ASUS ROG GR8 II Dreamcore One Zotac Magnus EN1070K
  Aftershock Impulse V2 ASUS ROG GR8 II Dreamcore One Zotac Magnus EN1070K
Launch SRP
  • From S$1840
  • From S$2149
  • From S$2320
  • From S$2437
Processor and Chipset
  • Intel Core i7-7500 (3.4GHz, 6MB L3 cache)
  • Intel H110 chipset
  • Intel Core i7-7700 (3.6GHz, 8MB L3 cache)
  • Intel H110 chipset
  • Intel Core i7-7500 (3.4GHz, 6MB L3 cache)
  • Intel B250 chipset
  • Intel Core i5-7500T (2.7GHz, 6MB L3 cache)
  • Intel B150 chipset
Operating System
  • Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 Home (64-bit)
Memory
  • 8GB DDR4-2400
  • 16GB DDR4-2400
  • 8GB DDR4-2133
  • 8GB DDR4-2133
Storage
  • Western Digital Green 120GB SSD
  • HGST Travelstar 7K1000 7,200RPM 1TB HDD
  • SK Hynix 256GB SATA SSD
  • HGST Travelstar 7K1000 7,200RPM 1TB HDD
  • Samsung 850 EVO M.2 250GB SSD
  • HGST Travelstar 7K1000 7,200RPM 1TB HDD
  • Samsung 850 EVO M.2 500GB SSD
  • HGST Travelstar 7K1000 7,200RPM 1TB HDD
Video
  • Zotac GeForce GTX 1070 Mini
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB
  • MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Aero ITX 8G OC
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070
Networking / Communication
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
  • Intel Ethernet Connection I219-V
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260
  • Intel Ethernet Connection I219-V
  • Qualcomm Atheros QCA1x4A Wireless Network Adapter
  • Intel Ethernet Connection I219-V
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160
  • 2x Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller
I/O Ports
  • 2x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) front
  • 1x PS/2
  • 1x DVI-D
  • 1x HDMI
  • 4x USB 2.0
  • 2x USB 3.1 (Gen 1)
  • 1x RJ-45 LAN port
  • HD Audio Jacks: Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
  • 2x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) front
  • 2x USB 3.1 (Gen 1)
  • 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-A
  • 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C
  • 2x HDMI
  • 1x DisplayPort
  • 1x RJ45 LAN
  • 1x Kensington Lock
  • 1x DC-in
  • 1x Optical S/PDIF out
  • 1x Audio Jack(s) (Speaker out)
  • 1x DisplayPort
  • 1x HDMI
  • 1x LAN (RJ45)
  • 4x USB 3.1 (Gen 1)
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • 5x Audio jack(s)
  • 1x Wi-Fi antenna port(s)
  • 2x USB 3.1
  • 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C
  • 1x USB 3.1 (Gen 2)
  • 2x USB 2.0
  • Dual Gigabit LAN
Dimensions
  • 235 x 328 x 120mm
  • 281.3 x 299 x 88mm
  • 330 x 215 x 63mm
  • 210 x 203 x 62.2mm

 

PCMark 10 Extended

PCMark 10 Extended assesses the performance of systems in a variety of workloads, including basic computing tasks, productivity applications, digital content creation, and gaming. Compared to PCMark 8, it also adds in new test metrics, such as app startup times, which quantifies how long it takes to launch a variety of real-world apps, and a rendering and visualization workload to simulate professional graphics and engineering applications. In addition, existing workloads have been updated to reflect modern usage.

However, this is a balanced benchmark that takes into account performance in varied scenarios, and as such does not highlight the strengths of these gaming systems. But since there’s a good chance that you’ll be using one of these desktops for more than just gaming, the figures here are of interest as well.

The Aftershock Impulse V2 inched ahead here in terms of the overall score, but the Dreamcore and ASUS PCs weren’t far behind. The Zotac lagged behind more, probably due to its lower power Intel T-series CPU. The latter has better graphics performance than the ASUS system, but PCMark 10 also takes into account CPU performance.

For instance, a look at the score breakdown shows how the ASUS ROG GR8 II’s more powerful Core i7-7700 processor helped give it an advantage in basic tasks and productivity applications, only for it to fall behind in the Gaming workloads because of its weaker GeForce GTX 1060 3GB GPU.

 

3DMark (2013)  

3DMark is a more relevant assessment of gaming performance, and it puts the system through a range of graphics and computational performance tests at different resolutions, starting at 1080p and going all the way up to 4K.

Unsurprisingly, the ASUS ROG GR8 II trailed the rest by a fair amount because of its soldered GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, while the other three machines performed more closely. In fact, the Dreamcore One was a good 29 per cent faster than the ROG GR8 II, so that’s quite a sizeable performance gap.

This difference widened to a yawning 55 per cent in the 4K Fire Strike Extreme benchmark, so the ROG GR8 II really isn’t 4K gaming material, as the other gaming benchmarks will show as well.

Having said that, the Zotac wasn’t quite on the level of the Aftershock Impulse V2 and Dreamcore One either, likely due to the lower base and boost clocks of its MXM graphics module and weaker 35W CPU.

 

VRMark

Futuremark’s VRMark benchmark is designed to assess a PC’s ability to handle high-performance headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. If a PC passes the Orange Room test, it is ready for the latter two systems. We’ve also included a separate graph with the average frame rates to show how far they exceed the target frame rate of 109FPS.

All the systems passed the test quite handily, although there was once again quite a large difference between the ASUS system and everyone else. The Zotac sort of fell in the middle, where it was around 7 per cent slower than the Dreamcore One.

 

Ashes of the Singularity

Ashes of the Singularity is a demanding real-time strategy game that puts thousands of units on screen, and it’s capable of pushing even the most powerful GPUs. However, at the lower resolutions and settings, it’s actually one of the few CPU-bound games out there.

This was particularly evident at High settings and at both the 1080p and 1440p resolutions, where the Core i7-7700 on the ASUS ROG GR8 II powered it to a nice lead over its competitors.

However, once you start to ramp up the graphics settings, the GPU becomes more of a limiting factor, and the ASUS desktop once again fell behind. Its shortcomings are particularly clear at the 4K resolution, where it’s abundantly clear that it’s not cut out for gaming at that resolution.

It’s also worth noting that none of the systems exceeded 60FPS at even the lowest settings, so if you’re going to play this game, you’ll need both a good CPU and graphics card.

 

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided can really push a system with the settings and resolutions cranked up, but the GeForce GTX 1070 in the Aftershock, Dreamcore, and Zotac PCs handled it quite well. There aren’t really any significant differences between those three machines, and it’s impressive to see how well the Zotac card performed given its diminutive size.

Unfortunately, the ASUS machine was in a different league entirely, and it couldn’t quite keep up again because of its weaker card. The performance differences are quite large, where the ROG GR8 II was up to 35 per cent slower in some cases.  

 

Tom Clancy’s The Division

We see more of the same in The Division, where the Aftershock, Dreamcore and Zotac systems posted very similar results and the ASUS continued to trail behind. At 1080p and High settings, the performance gap was roughly 39 per cent.

At High settings, the GeForce GTX 1070-equipped systems also managed to post relatively playable frame rates at a 4K resolution, so they’re really no slouch at all despite their compact form factors.