These days there are many manufacturers which make custom or prebuilt gaming PCs, but which one is the right one for one to choose? There are many factors to take into account such as price, choice of parts, real world performance numbers, the reliability of the system, the quality of construction and assembly, the availability of support as well as the duration and quality of the warranty, and especially these days whether or not the company will be around during the life of the product to be able to help you with or help repair the system. There are many brands and companies to choose from whether big or small, such as Alienware, Dell, OriginPC, IBuyPower, LanSlide PCs, WarFactory PCs, and many others. I’ve seen many companies come and go so most people will usually only want to purchase from a bigger company but even some of those are starting to disappear. It’s important to choose the right brand. Today, we will be looking at The Sentinel, the model offered around January 2011 by the manufacturer WarFactory PCs. I will discuss its real world performance, how I found the construction and finish to be, and talk about what I thought about WarFactory PCs based on my interactions with them.
What are the specifications of the Sentinel – January 2011 model?
Price As Configured: $1238
OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
PROCESSOR: AMD Phenom II X6 1090T BE 3.2GHz stepping: AACAC AC, CACAC AC
GRAPHICS PROCESSOR: ATI 5870 1 GB
MEMORY: G.Skill 4GB DDR3 1600MHz
MOTHERBOARD: ASUS M4A89TD/USB3
STORAGE: Western Digital Caviar Black 500GB
CASE: Cooler Master HAF 912
POWER SUPPLY: Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt
PERIPHERALS: Asus DVD Burner
Performance benchmark tests:
The criteria used for my gaming PC benchmarking is shown in my Gaming PC Benchmarking Guide February 2011 article.
The Sentinel will be compared to my old gaming PC that I built in 2007. At the time it had all the parts needed to run anything and it still can run just about every game out there. That system has the following specs:
OS: Windows XP Professional (Corporate)
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-MA770-DS3
CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ 2.8 Ghz
Video Card: Sapphire ATI 3870 512 MB
Memory: G. Skill 4 GB DDR2 800 Mhz (limited to 3.4 GB by the 32-bit OS)
Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster Live Platinum
Storage: Western Digital 750 GB 7200 RPM HD
Case: generic black case from newegg.com
Power Supply: generic 480 Watt
Peripherals: NEC DVD burner
Following the order of my benchmarking guide first we will see how well the systems compare in the RealStorm Global Illumination Bench 2006 test.
If you remember my benchmarking guide you will remember that this test shows a real world analysis of single core raw processing power. In this test The Sentinel is 43.79% faster than my machine. That means that each core is that percent faster per CPU core. This is important because not every program one uses is multi-threaded (supports multi-core processing).
The average performance in this test showed that The Sentinel is about 44.06% faster than my gaming PC in this single-core CPU test.
In this same test, this shows that at the bare minimum frames per second rendered, The Sentinel was 39.41% faster than my system. Minimum FPS tests are usually very important tests because this is when you notice the lag the most.
At their peak performance, we see a performance difference of The Sentinel being 47.35% faster than my gaming PC. Max fps is not as important as other benchmarks but I include it in my tests simply to see as high as peak performance goes.
Battleforge is a free RTS MMO that I used to play a lot of and it still looks pretty amazing and is a great benchmarking tool for testing how good your system is at running a modern war game. I usually run my Battleforge settings to display 1024×768 so I wanted to benchmark it like that, as well as at a higher resolution. At 1024×768, The Sentinel performed on an average 757.60% faster than my old gaming PC. This is the proof I needed to remind myself to get a new gaming PC! The game supports all the latest graphic technologies for modern video cards as well as has modern multi-core support.
Again, this is where a PC fails and we notice lag, which ruins the gaming experience. In this test, The Sentinel is 311.76% faster than my system. It put out 14 Frames Per Second, which is still under the desired 30 Frames Per Second that most of us would want, but then again this is with every option on, so a smart move would be to turn down some of the options before playing.
In this test we see that The Sentinel is 240.61% faster than my machine. The game is obviously much smoother on The Sentinel system.
The Battleforge test gets more brutal as the resolution gets bumped up to 1280×1024 with everything on. The limitations of my own system are more obvious now and even The Sentinel has a hard time, but it’s still 845.58% faster in this test.
11.1 Frames Per Second are still not desirable so again, I recommend lowering the graphic settings. Still, it’s nice to bring systems down to their knees. Although in this test, The Sentinel does shame my old machine by being 2120% faster than it… Yeah…
This again is the fastest each system can run the benchmark. The Sentinel flies again, yielding performance 215.51% faster than my old gaming rig.
Like I mention in my guide, Dirt 2 is simply brutal and overall the best benchmark I recommend for testing the real gaming capability of a system since racing games require so much to run right. Lag is most unforgiving in racing games out of all games because one wrong move and you crash, so you need peak performance always. This test shows that The Sentinel is 280.25% faster than my machine. I will have to get a new machine before playing the next Codemasters racing game, although I do love how efficient they code them.
This is where we see that my system can no longer handle modern racing games. The Sentinel is 273.88% percent faster than mine. It’s Frame Rate at 50.1 is much higher than the 30 fps minimum we all need. This does make it a great gaming machine for modern gaming.
Tom Clancy’s HAWX is still one of my favorite action flying games out there and it does showcase some of the best graphics I’ve seen come out in the past 2-3 years. The efficiency of this game engine makes me smile and the built-in benchmark tool does too. At peak output, which this test shows, The Sentinel is 181.88% faster than my machine.
Again, in this test The Sentinel shames my system by being 582.60% faster than mine. Its 157 Frames Per Second put my 23 fps to shame utterly.
This game is filled with super eye-candy and you really want to be able to run this game on a system that is totally up to par with the scalability of the game’s graphics engine. In this benchmark, The Sentinel was 397.80% as faster than my machine. The average FPS is at 84.686 which is way higher than the fabled 60 FPS that most people desire.
This test shows what a legacy game that still requires a good system to run will yield. The window closes a little but The Sentinel still beats the crap out of my system being 107.86% faster than it.
Performance Conclusion and Parts Analysis:
In the performance department, The Sentinel is sufficient enough of a gaming PC to be able to run any modern game at pretty much max settings, staying reasonably realistic.
The processor it comes with is great for both gaming and running heavy applications. It’s great for multitasking and multi-threaded programs and applications as well.
The video card has 1 GB of memory on it which is really important for rendering high resolutions. 1 GB of video memory is usually enough for most gaming needs unless you are one of those people that wants to set the resolution as high as your display can handle for every single game you play. It also has a strong GPU which keeps your framerates high while minimizing minimum framerates.
The RAM is quick but 4 GB is starting be a low number for modern PCs. It’s still enough to run anything, don’t get me wrong but this is probably one of the first areas that one will want to improve on if you are like me and run 10 applications WHILE running a game at once and alt-tabbing. The motherboard supports 16 GB of RAM max so it’s very future-proof and that’s a really great thing to have.
The hard drive only has 500 GB of space, which is not high compared to some other gaming machines but it does have enough speed to be able to load games up quickly. Anyways, I wouldn’t probably use the machine to store much on if you want it straight up for gaming and if you do want to store a lot, I would recommend adding a multi-TB hard drive for storage and using the main drive for applications and gaming. That’s a no-brainer. ;]
The case is a Cooler Master HAF 912 which looks both great in its jet black color and could pose well not only as a gaming machine but a professional server or business computer. Not many cases have such prestige to be able to pull that off. Great pick, WarFactory PCs on such an amazing case. The design of the case inside is so well done that it’s easy to install and remove components. This is highly desirable. All wiring came neatly assembled and tucked-in correctly as well.
Compared to my systems The Sentinel is relatively quiet. The fans barely make any noise even when under heavy load.
The Corsair CMPSU-650TX 650 Watt power supply is more than enough to handle the power requirements of the system and leaves enough free power for reliable operation as well as adding more parts and faster parts in the future.
Support and Warranty Information:
The basic price and system include a limited lifetime warranty. This means that you get a one year warranty on the actual parts, a three year labor warranty, and a lifetime of general support. Since there are manufacturers out there that will not provide any sort of support whatsoever for an out of warranty machine, WarFactory PCs beats them in with their lifetime general support warranty. At the time of this writing, support is available through a phone system at the number 708-667-5375 as well as through AOL Instant Messenger under the screen name WarFactoryPCs and email. It’s important to be able to call a company in the instance that the system is your only system and you have no way to get online to contact support. WarFactory PCs addresses this criteria with their phone system support channel.
My Impressions of WarFactory PCs:
They were very attentive to my many, many annoying questions that I used for formulating this review as well as asking them questions that showed me that they are a reliable and trustworthy company worth buying products from. If you guys know how annoying I am and how little life I have, you very well know that I am the kind of person that will contact a company in the middle of the night when normals are sleeping or having dinner. Gamers don’t rest! WarFactory PCs understand this.
If you are looking for a gaming PC machine right now that DOES have a manufacturer warranty and is set at a reasonable price, I would recommend The Sentinel to be among the systems you look at before making a purchase or build decision. Some manufacturers which I will not name right now (or yet) offer really shitty entry-level gaming PC solutions, but this is not the case with The Sentinel. Even the basic configuration is worth getting as it will be able to run every modern game. You can’t go wrong with a system like that for only $1238. This recommendation is coming from someone that only builds his own systems and never buys any built PCs. It might totally be worth the difference of spending 100-200 dollars more knowing that you have the manufacturer’s expertise to help you out when something goes wrong.
This review was done on a Sentinel PC lent to me by WarFactory PCs solely for review purposes. Stand by for upcoming reviews by other gaming PC manufacturers. Once I get a good list of reviews going and more data for my benchmarking database, stand by for a competition to see who is the best bang for the buck out of these gaming PC manufacturers!