It’s been a long time coming, but AMD can once again field the complete performance PC package - powerful CPU and GPU working in perfect harmony, that is. In fact, AMD is the only company that achieve just that. Its main rivals in the CPU and GPU market, Intel and Nvidia respectively, can only currently deliver on half of the equation.
But what, exactly, is a PC powered by AMD’s latest hardware actually like? Enter UK PC builder, PC Specialist. It has cooked up the Inferno S1, which showcases that killer combo of AMD Ryzen 3000 series processing and Radeon RX 5700 graphics, also known as ‘Navi’.
It’s worth noting, of course, exactly where this hardware slots into the market. While the new Navi graphics tech is impressive, for now AMD isn’t pitching it right at the very high end. For that reason, this rig likewise doesn’t include the most powerful version of its third-gen Ryzen CPU. Think of it as an upper middle performance gaming PC with a £1,500 price tag to match.
Here is the PC Specialist Inferno S1 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X eight-core, 3.6GHz base, 4.4GHz Turbo
Graphics: AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT
RAM: 16GB (2 x 8GB) Corsair Vengeance DDR4 2933MHz
Motherboard: Asus TUF Gaming X570-PLUS
Case: PCS SR-628B RGB GAMING
Power Supply: Corsair 650W VS-6500
Storage: 500GB Samsung 970 EVO PLUS M.2, 2TB Seagate Barracuda 7,200rpm
Connectivity: LAN, 802.11N 300Mbps/2.4GHz PCI-E WiFi card
Operating system: Windows 10
Price and availability
PC Specialist is offering this particular configuration for £1,549. Ultimately that reflects the component set.
The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics card, for instance, is a nigh-on £400 component, while the Ryzen 3700X eight-core CPU is over £300 alone and the Asus motherboard clocks in over £200.
Add in RAM, SSD, HDD, case, PSU, cooler, WiFi card, a copy of Windows and the rest and you’d barely build this rig DIY for less money. That you get all that with a one year return-to-base warranty and another two years cover for labour, is very appealing.
Design and features
In terms of visual impact, the PC Specialist Inferno S1 socks it right to you. The in-house PCS SR-628B case serves up a stunning mix of RGB LED-lit fans and additional lighting features that really pop when the PC is powered up. Regardless of how powerful it actually is, it sure looks like it wants to crunch numbers and crank out in-game frames at a furious pace.
Functionally, the case should tick most gamers’ boxes with plenty of space behind the tempered glass window for powerful components and future expansion, not to mention good cable management, support for standard-sized cooling solution such as water cooling radiators, and all that jazz. Access is pretty straight forward , albeit not as slick as the very best of the truly toolless case options out there.
PC Specialist has likewise done a nice job of mounting all the components, managing cables and making the most of the LED lighting. It looks slick and professional. Where you might take issue is the quality of the case itself.
The main glass window and front panel housing the triple system fans are nicely executed. But the rest of the case feels fairly cheap. Up to a point, that’s par for the course with PC cases. However, there are alternatives out there that look this good but also offer more pleasing material quality. Given the circa £1,500 sticker price, that would be welcome.
As for the specifications, however, we have fewer quibbles. The AMD Ryzen 3700X CPU PC Specialist has fitted would be our pick from AMD’s new Ryzen range and the Radeon RX 5700 XT is currently as good as it gets from AMD in terms of graphics.
Elsewhere, there’s a 500GB Samsung 970 Evo M.2 SSD paired with a 2TB Seagate Barracuda hard drive, plus 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR4 RAM, all running on an Asus TUF Gaming X570-PLUS motherboard.
The PSU, meanwhile, is a Corsair 650W VS series unit and CPU cooling comes courtesy of a CoolerMaster MasterLiquid Lite 240 closed loop water cooler.
None of this stuff is absolutely cutting edge. There’s no PCI-E 4.0 SSD, for instance. But it’s all quality clobber and makes sense given the upper-middle tier position of the system overall.
Here’s how the PC Specialist Inferno S1 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
3DMark: Sky Diver: 51,954; Fire Strike: 22,614; Time Spy: 8,894
Cinebench CPU: 2,078 points; Graphics: 163 fps
GeekBench: 5,573 (single-core); 32,645 (multi-core)
PCMark 8 (Home Test): 4,579 points
Total War: Warhammer II (1080p, Ultra): 87 fps; (1080p, Low): 197 fps
Shadow of the Tomb Raider (1080p, Ultra): 119 fps; (1080p, Low): 181 fps
With a name like PC Specialist, you might expect something beyond a standard setup with everything running at default settings. And you’d be right. PC Specialist has tweaked a pretty wide range of BIOS parameters in order to fine tune performance, including memory timings and implementing Asus’s Direct Over Clock Profile tuning tool.
However, our review system also shipped with the Ryzen CPU’s SMT or simultaneous multithreading disabled. That limits the chip to eight rather than 16 software threads in parallel. At first we thought it might just be a measure intended to improve gaming performance.
There’s been debate, of late, over the impact of SMT on the latest Ryzen CPU’s games performance. The broad consensus is that you probably lose as much as you gain by disabling it.
In any case, it was confirmed by PC Specialist that ‘SMT off’ was an erroneous BIOS configuration. Switching it back on is simple enough, but we suspect most buyers wouldn’t be hugely impressed. If nothing else, it slightly undermines your confidence in the accuracy of the overall configuration.
Whatever, with SMT enabled, the PC Specialist Inferno S1 duly cranks out some very nice numbers indeed. Any application that benefits from lots of fast CPU cores, like video encoding, absolutely flies on this rig. As for its core competence, gaming, at 1080p it’ll crank out frame rates getting on for 100fps beyond in the vast majority of games, even at the highest settings.
Of course, at this price point, a 1440p rather than 1080p monitor is probably a more realistic target. At that resolution you’re still going to get pretty smooth gaming, with average frame rates at ultra settings of at least 50fps. What you’re not going to be able to do is take full advantage of, say, a 144Hz monitor. For that you’ll need an even more powerful GPU.
Of course, going AMD means you don’t get hardware support for ray-tracing in games. But so few titles use Nvidia’s ray-tracing tech (and the ones that do tend to run painfully slow with it enabled), so our view is that it’s not a pressing current concern. Ray-tracing could be a core competence for your next upgrade cycle in a few years. For now, it’s a niche benefit.
Props also go to PC Specialist for creating a very quiet rig. Even under heavy load, it was near silent in our testing. The water cooling no doubt helps there. As for overclocking, it is of course supported by the AMD Ryzen CPU. But AMD’s new third-gen Ryzen chips offer very little overclocking headroom, so it’s a somewhat academic facility.
When AMD is producing competitive hardware, the whole PC market feels that much healthier. So, it’s great to see this all-AMD PC Specialist Inferno S1 rig putting out strong numbers in pretty much every benchmark.
Some lament that AMD can’t compete at the highest levels in terms of graphics. But the reality is that’s a relatively small market. The PC Specialist Inferno S1 isn’t exactly cheap at over £1,500. Add one of Nvidia’s most powerful GPUs and you’d be staring the thick end of £2,000 in the face.
So, this is a great all-round performance PC for both games and productivity, then. Our only reservations involve the quality of the case and PC Specialist’s configuration.
The case won’t really impact your enjoyment - this rig runs very quiet after all. It’s just disappointing to pay this much and discover a case that looks eye-popping at first glance, but feels cheap on close inspection.
As for the config SNAFU involving the disabled multithreading, it’s a minor error, but one we hope is very much the exception rather than the rule. You also need to bear in mind that if you’re intention is to game at 1440p and enjoy frame rates fast enough to make the most of a high-refresh monitor, you’re going to need to spend even more money.
Those provisos aside, the PC Specialist Inferno S1 is a powerful PC that will give plenty of enjoyment.