PC Specialist Apollo 703 ReviewManufacturer: PC Specialist
UK price (as reviewed): £799 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed):
At bit-tech we're obviously pretty keen on building our own PCs and giving you the knowledge to build your own too. There's a heck of a lot of choice out there, which is generally a good thing, but one issue around PC building is a little concerning for any PC user - first timer or old hand. Warranties and diagnosing issues and hardware failure has long dogged enthusiasts that have built their own PCs and while these days hardware is generally more reliable than ever, There's still a strong case for buying a PC rather than building one.
Heresy you may cry. Well, there are actually not one but two very good reasons you should consider buying a complete PC than building one. Firstly, it will come with a warranty. You can consider potential issues someone else's problem as retailers such as PC Specialist offer a three-year standard warranty that covers a one month collect and return with the rest of the year covering parts and labour, with the latter continued for another two years.
The second and perhaps more striking reason is that it will cost you less. It used to be the case that you could build a PC for less than a pre-built one cost, but these days margins are slim as everyone focusses on bulk sales, with the result being it's cheaper to buy a PC than it is to build it, even with the exact same components.
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Take the PC Specialist Apollo 703 that we're looking at today for example. We totalled up the whole spec and you'd be spending £50 or more on top of the £799 price tag if you bought the components yourself. In addition you get a PC that's ready to roll and comes with a warranty. Admittedly, half the fun for most of us is building and upgrading our PCs but if you don't have the time or need a garanteed working PC then you'll literally be saving cash by going for a pre-built rig.
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So, what does £799 get you with the Apollo 703? It's not a 4K gaming machine but 2,560 x 1,440 won't be out of the question, even in demanding games if you're prepared to drop a few settings. 1080p is where it's aimed at though. An Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 dishes out the frames, with a Core i5-4690K is thrown in too, so as well as being a great base for a 1080p gaming system, the Apollo 703 is also very capable media editing rig too.
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One snag we did find with our specification is that 8GB and below, PC Specialist PCs ship with a single stick of RAM. The lack of dual-channel memory mode did result in one or two slightly slower scores, but if you're buying the system to use for the next few years, we'd probably recommended stepping up to 2 x 8GB sticks anyway - this costs about £50.
The PC is housed inside an attractive if a little plain-looking In Win 703 red/black case, which sports the default fan setup of a single 120mm intake fan and a red LED rear exhaust fan. One of the four hard disk mounts is taken up with a 1TB Seagate hard disk and a 250GB Samsung 850 Evo sits in another, leaving your with two for upgrades.
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PC Specialist has opted for an Asus Z97-E motherboard, which is compatible with SLI and CrossFireX, should you wish to drop in another GeForce GTX 960 at some point. It also has a couple of spare 1x PCI-E slots so dropping in a sound card is a definite possibility too. The single 8GB DIMM is from Kingston's Hyper-X Fury 1,600MHz range. The CPU sports a 4.6GHz overclock and a rather hefty vcore to go with it given the CPU cooler on offer is a relatively modest Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo.
The PSU is Corsair's 650W CS series, so there's plenty more power on tap for future upgrades and it's 80 Plus Gold rated so has reasonable efficiency too. Rounding off the package is a DVD Rewriter plus Windows 8.1 for the operating system, which of course will be eligable for the free Windows 10 upgrade that gets rolled out on 29th July. Another small perk is a free copy of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which comes free with the Nvidia GPU. The build itself presents no issues with some fairly neat cable tidying - you obviously can't expect custom braided cables at this price but it's neat enough.
- CPU Intel Core i7-4690K (overclocked to 4.6GHz)
- CPU cores Four physical
- Memory 8GB Kingston HyperX Savage (1 x 8GB) DDR3 1,600MHz
- Graphics GeForce GTX 960 2GB
- Storage 1 x 250GB Samsung Evo SSD (OS) 1 x 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard disk
- Motherboard Asus Z97-E
- PSU Corsair CS 850 Series
- Optical Drive DVD-RW
- Cooling Cooler Master Hyper 213 EVO
- Case / Dimensions (mm) 210 x 477 x 432 (W x D x H)
- Networking Intel Gigabit LAN
- AudioRealtek ALC1150 8-channel Codec (on-board)
- Operating system Windows 8.1
- Audio and USB Ports 6 x USB 3.0 (2 x via header), 4 x USB 2.0 ( 2 x via header), 1 x audio out, line in, mic
- Warranty 3 years (1 month collect and return, 1 year parts and labour + 2 years parts)