It's a shame consumers can't simply walk into a shop and purchase their favourite components on a whim. Severe and ongoing stock shortages have curtailed such efforts at a time where new hardware is genuinely worth considering. The latest CPUs and GPUs, coupled to a modern chipset and a high-speed SSD, have plenty to offer when upgrading from an older machine, and the tech has evolved such that a powerful replacement need not be big in size or overly detrimental to the bank balance.
Take, for example, PCSpecialist's Topaz-Pro R. Priced at £1,749 and sold as is, this petite mid-tower base unit stomps its way through most workloads, be it video rendering or high-quality, high-resolution gaming.
In order to achieve those goals, the Wakefield-based system integrator has turned to AMD as the source of its underlying tech. The CPU of choice is a stock-clocked, eight-core Ryzen 7 5800X, which sits atop an Asus TUF Gaming X570-Plus motherboard and is joined by an XFX Speedster Merc 319 Radeon RX 6800 Black 16GB graphics card.
A potent mix, whichever way you look at it, and the Corsair 4000D Airflow chassis does a fine job of dressing things up while providing front USB-C connectivity and a tinted full-size windowed panel that helps lend a modern aesthetic. It's a nice-looking piece of kit, and at 453mm x 230mm x 466mm in size could live happily above or below the worktop.
In a way, the Topaz-Pro R is testament to how easy it is to build a modern high-performance PC. The complexities of old have been cast aside for smaller, simpler upgrades, and PCSpecialist makes sensible choices in the key areas. A 500GB Seagate FireCuda 520 M.2 SSD makes use of the X570 chipset's PCIe 4.0 capabilities and comes pre-loaded with a 64-bit install of Windows 10 Home, there's a 2TB Seagate Barracuda hard disk for secondary storage duties, and power is supplied by a 650W Corsair TXM supply that conforms to AMD's minimum requirements for Radeon 6800.
Continuing the no-frills approach, 16GB of dual-channel Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3600 provides fast memory without any RGB adornments, and rather than dabble with liquid cooling, the CPU is kept in check by a dual-fan ID-Cooling SE-225-XT, rebranded for PCSpecialist as the Frostflow 150. There's evidently a need for some glam, mind you, as the number of chassis fans has been bolstered by three additional Corsair LL120 RGBs in the front. These are pre-plumbed to a Corsair controller around back, yet while airflow is amplified, so too is noise. There are a total of 11 fans inside the system, so keeping quiet is never going to be easy.
Cable management is tidy enough and getting online is made simpler through the inclusion of an Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 PCIe card. There's not a great deal to quibble about, but we are critics after all and for this sort of high-performance rig we'd like to see 2.5GbE starting to feature as standard. Is there a case to be made for jettisoning the hard disk, too? Personally, I'd be happy to lose the secondary drive in favour of a 1TB primary SSD.
Lastly, we normally compare the prebuilt price tag against the cost of buying all the components individually. That's easier said than done when so many parts are out of stock, but if everything were available, we don't anticipate being able to build this exact system for less, and that's without taking into account PCSpecialist's three-year warranty. The more pressing concern is when might such a system ship? That remains unknown, but there's bound to be a lengthy wait.