We have another gaming system in from Ironside Computers for us to take a look at. Named after those cute yellow creations from Despicable Me, our Minion gaming PC comes on a budget, rather roughly the same size as the minions from the movie.
Since this is a budget gaming system, we're also going to be taking a look at future upgradeability, as if we found more funds for an upgraded video card at a later date. This is especially interesting as it is our first AMD CPU-based system.
Ironside has previously impressed with its custom airbrushing and cable management. Will Ironside continue to impress, even with a budget offering? These questions and more will be answered in our review. Without further ado, let's dive into the meat of this review.
Specifications, Configurations and Pricing
These specs are quite a bit lower than we're used to listing here, and this is the first time I have been able to say this about a system: the CPU at the heart of our Minion is an AMD Athlon x4 750K, a quad-core FM2 APU running at 3.4GHz based on the Trinity APU architecture.
As you would expect in a budget system, cooling the CPU is AMD's standard heat sink, which will almost definitely result in fairly high CPU temperatures. Alas, this is one of the tradeoffs when working with a small budget.
Arguably one of the most important components in a system, the motherboard in our Minion is an ASRock FM2A55M-VG3+. This motherboard is a micro-ATX board, so it has limited expandability. Specifically, it features just one PCIe x16 slot, meaning only one GPU will ever be able to be installed at a time. Additionally, it features one legacy PCI slot, perfect for a wireless networking card or other expansion card. On board, it features four SATA 2 ports, four rear USB 2.0 ports, and D-Sub out (VGA). Audio is provide by Realtek's ALC662 codec, providing 5.1 channel audio out capabilities.
In what I consider a bad move, Ironside has chosen to slot just a single stick of DDR3 into the motherboard, meaning you will be limited to single-channel bandwidth. I'd much prefer to see two 2GB sticks versus the single 4GB stick included. Our 4GB stick is a Kingston HyperX Fury clocked at 1,600MHz.
Our GPU is the low-end Radeon R7 250X from AMD. The specific card is from PowerColor, model number AXR7 250X 1GBD5-HE. While a capable card for low-end gaming, those looking to play at high resolutions or high detail will definitely want to order it with an upgraded card or install one themselves. As part of our in-depth testing, we wanted to find out how future-proof this system is. In order to test upgradeability, we installed an ASUS Radeon R9 290X and re-ran the pertinent benchmarks. These results are clearly denoted in the charts by "Ironside Minion (290X)."
These components are all installed inside the RAIDMAX Cobra Z, which has been modified with custom airbrushing. Our model is specified by Ironside as Minion Case Glacial Blue. There are several different color options available. All come with the "Minion" name airbrushed on to the side panel.
Windows 8.1 64-bit is installed upon the 500GB 7,200RPM Toshiba HDD. We would love an SSD, but recognize that this would increase the cost of this budget gaming system. While the Minion starts at just $519.99, in order to do really any gaming, you'll need to upgrade from the base Ubuntu Linux to Windows, in our case Windows 8.1 64-bit, bringing the price up to $606.99.
Ironside has three base models available: Minion, Minion Advanced, and Minion Ultra. The Ultra comes with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 GPU, whereas the Advanced features an R7 260X GPU. The Ultra comes stock with Windows 8.1 and retails for $849, and the Advanced comes with Linux at stock and a starting price of $619.