The best mid-range gaming PCs should be a competitive mix of processing power and Full HD gaming without scrimping on other areas of the build. In the hotly competitive desktop market, finding that balance can sometimes be a major stumbling block.
The Vibox Defcon 2 reveals its mid-range origins almost immediately. The Corsair Carbide SPEC-01 case lacks any degree of subtlety, with aggressive front panel styling, a large plastic window and bright red LEDs, including an extra LED strip light fitted by Vibox to illuminate the case interior. It isn’t hideous by any means, but for mid-range desktops, less is often more.
The two 120mm Bitfenix fans installed at the front are another cause for concern. Whether the system is idling in an igloo of if it’s playing Crysis 3 in the Kalahari, the fans will operate at maximum speed. Granted, this keeps the components inside noticeably cool, with the CPU idling at 26 degrees celsius, but the combination of case acoustics and basic fans creates an audible, metallic hum whether you place the PC on a carpet or a desk.
Noise aside, the Defcon 2 is a rather practical PC with twin audio jacks and two USB ports on the front panel above the optical drive, although only one of them is high-speed USB3. Two more USB3 ports are at the rear, along with four regular USBs, gigabit Ethernet and three 3.5mm audio jacks. The MSI GeForce GTX 960 graphics card has two DisplayPort connectors, two HDMI ports and one DVI connector.
The GTX 960 is a superb mid-range graphics card that can handle the latest games at Full HD resolutions. It blitzed through Dirt Showdown at 1,920×1,080 with an average frame rate of 85.1fps. Our Metro: Last Light Redux benchmark is more suited for pushing mid-range cards to their limits, with Very High settings and super-sampling anti-aliasing (SSAA) proving too big a challenge for many PCs. The Defcon 2 managed an average frame rate of 30.5fps, and although it did at times dip into the low 20s, turning off the GPU-pounding SSAA brought this up to a consistently playable 56.2fps.
Inside the case, amid the harsh glow of the red LEDs, a Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO CPU cooler moderates the temperature of the quad-core, 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-4590 processor. It might be multiplier locked, preventing overclocking, but the i5-4590 is still a great mid-range processor with more than enough grunt to handle basic desktop tasks and multimedia rendering. In this system, it was able to beat our Intel Core i5-4670K reference machine, which scores 100 in every task, managing 112, 104 and 105 in the image, video and multitasking tests respectively. This gives it an impressive overall score of 106, meaning the Defcon 2 should be ready for any task you throw at it.
You won’t need to remove the two 4GB sticks of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM if you want to add more memory, as there are two slots free on the MSI Z79 PC Mate motherboard. There are also four free SATA3 connectors providing ample space for more drives, and the case has three additional hybrid 2.5in/3.5in drive bays in addition to a single external 5.25in bay.
The PCI-Express x1 slots are sensibly spaced far enough away from the first PCI-E x16 slot that the dual-slot graphics card doesn’t obscure them, although the large MSI graphics card could prevent some components from fitting. A second PCI-E x16 slot only runs at x4 speeds, and the motherboard only supports AMD CrossFire, meaning the Defcon 2 isn’t particularly suited to a dual-GPU setup – unless you’re prepared to buy two new graphics cards.
The solitary 1TB mechanical hard disk is probably the weakest part of this build. We would have liked to see a faster SSD for quick loading times in games and snappier performance generally, although its absence is explained by the relatively low base price. Still, with no option to add one at checkout you’ll have to get your own or contact Vibox to customise your order.
You get two years of parts cover with this PC, which is generous, although you will have to pay for shipping the PC back to Vibox if it develops a fault if you’ve owned it for more than 90 days. Vibox operates a lifetime labour warranty, too. You’ll still pay for replacement parts outside of the two years of parts cover, but buyers who want to upgrade in the future but don’t have the technical knowhow will appreciate the option of having Vibox do this for free.
The Vibox Defcon 2 is a fairly well-equipped, mid-range gaming PC with great processing and graphics performance for the money. Our only slight reservations lie with the noticeable fan noise and the lack of an SSD. At this price, and considering the good warranty, it’s still a great value PC. If it doesn’t quite suit your needs then check out our Best PCs and buying guide.
|Processor||Quad-core 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-4590|
|Memory type||1600MHz DDR3|
|Motherboard||MSI Z97 PC Mate|
|Ports and expansion|
|Front USB ports||1x USB2, 1x USB3|
|Rear USB ports||4x USB2, 2x USB3|
|Other ports||2x PS/2|
|Case size HxWxD||430x200x479mm|
|PCI (free)||2 (2)|
|PCIe x1 (free)||2 (2)|
|PCIe x16 (free)||2 (1)|
|Serial ATA (free)||6x SATA3 (4)|
|Memory slots (free)||4 (2)|
|Drive bays 2 1/2″ (free)||4 (3)|
|Drive bays 3 1/2″ (free)||4 (3)|
|Drive bays 5 1/4″ (free)||2 (1)|
|Total storage||1TB hard disk|
|Memory card reader||None|
|Optical drive type||DVD rewriter|
|Graphics card||MSI GeForce GTX 960|
|Graphics/video ports||2x HDMI, 2x DisplayPort, 1x DVI|
|Sound card||Integrated Realtek ALC887|
|Sound card outputs||3x 3.5mm audio jacks|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Operating system restore option||Windows 8.1 restore|
|Warranty||Two years RTB, lifetime labour|
|Price including delivery (inc VAT)||£736|
|Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)||N/A|
|Part Code||Defcon 2|