The Ryzen 5-based CCL Reaper is an excellent all-rounder, with a 1440p-capable GPU and enormous multitasking power
It’s a little noisy, but the CCL Reaper is the best all-rounder we’ve seen at this price
IT’S TAKEN A few months, but the trickle of fully AMD-based PCs on the market has turned into a steady stream. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the reliable combination of Intel and Nvidia, AMD’s Ryzen chips certainly offer something a bit different to Intel’s Core i range, and the RX 500 series of Radeon graphics cards comprises the newest consumer GPUs on the market.
The extra choice alone is good for potential PC buyers, though it would all be for naught if these new components didn’t make for quality systems. Fortunately, it’s been good news so far, judging by the Overclockers Titan Merlin (Shopper 356) and, now, the CCL Reaper.
This is an upper-mid-range desktop, combining a hexa-core Ryzen 5 1600 (a middle part of the Ryzen 5 line-up, above the 1400 and 1500X but below the 1600X; see page 38) with 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a 4GB Radeon RX 580 GPU, the replacement for last year’s potent RX 480.
The list of encouraging specs continues: in addition to a 250GB Samsung 850 Evo – our favourite SATA SSD – a massive 2TB hard disk is on hand to provide backup storage. CPU cooling is handled by an all-in-one Cooler Master MasterLiquid Lite 120, with fans on both sides of its radiator, while an unusually generous three 120mm intake fans sit at the front, and can all be customised with RGB lighting (as can the graphics card and motherboard, a Gigabyte GA-AB350-Gaming 3). They’re red by default, in keeping with the Cooler Master MasterBox Lite 5 case’s red and black styling.
HUMMING AND AHHING
Admittedly, this case is the closest thing the Reaper has to a weak link. It looks nice enough, but it soon becomes apparent that the fancy full-size side window is actually made of bendy acrylic, not the tempered glass it so obviously tries to imitate.
A moderately aggravating buzzing noise also started emanating from the middle intake fan after less than an hour out of the box – a quick poke around indicated that while the fan itself was securely screwed in, it would vibrate against a strip of plastic running across the case’s mounting point, producing the buzz. This could be fixed by taking off the front panel and pulling the blade hub away from the shaft, seemingly reducing the vibrations, but it was annoying nonetheless.
Even without such rattling, this is hardly the quietest of PCs, especially when dealing with heavy loads. The watercooler is the main offender, rising to a drone that you’ll need headphones or some decently loud speakers to drown out, and the GPU’s dual-fan cooler pipes up quite a bit during games as well. To be fair to the latter, it can also run on passive cooling when performing simple tasks, so can go completely silent as well.
Why, then, have we given a Best Buy award to something we’ve just spent a couple of hundred words complaining about? Mainly, it comes down to the Reaper’s application expertise. In our 4K benchmarks, CCL’s PC scored 124 in the image test – decent, but unspectacular for the price – then rocketed ahead of any Intel-based competitor with sky-high video and multitasking scores of 185 and 214 respectively. This gives the Reaper an overall score of 189, an incredible 44 points higher than our current £1,000-ish pick, the Chillblast Fusion Hubble (Shopper 350), which runs off an Intel Core i5-7600K.
We expected a Ryzen CPU to outdo its Intel equivalent in multithreaded tasks while slipping behind on single-threading, as is the Zen architecture’s wont, but the sheer extent to which the 1600 shot through our demanding benchmarks was a very pleasant surprise, and we re-ran them a few times to make sure they weren’t too good to be true. CCL hasn’t even overclocked the CPU; it was running at the stock 3.2GHz base clock with a 3.6GHz boost clock. With that healthy 16GB of RAM, this PC can definitely handle tough jobs such as media editing, video encoding or streaming pretty much as well as you can get for the money.
You can overclock the Ryzen 5 1600, but judging by our standalone tests (page 40), this won’t necessarily give you a big performance boost. At least the watercooler does a good enough job that you shouldn’t have to fear raising the temperature too much; at stock speeds, the CPU never exceeded 70°C, and the 1600 can safely go as high as 95°C.
The Reaper is no slouch when it comes to gaming, either. Dirt Showdown enjoyed a slick
129fps when running at 1,920x1,080 with Ultra settings, and this only dropped to 101fps at 2,560x1,440. At 3,840x2,160, its 56fps average was still nice and smooth, but since this is a relatively undemanding game, we wouldn’t suggest using a 4GB RX 580 for 4K gaming unless you’re willing to turn down settings.
Case in point, Metro: Last Light Redux only produced 10fps at 3,840x2,160 when running maxed out. Dropping to High quality and disabling SSAA, this still only rose to 32fps, so we dropped further to Medium quality, which finally resulted in a pleasant 45fps.
Still, back at full settings, the Reaper did just fine at 1,920x1,080, scoring 46fps. The 26fps it put out at 2,560x1,440 isn’t ideal, but a simple disabling of SSAA improved this to 50fps without any noticeable drop in quality.
It should be said that of all these performance scores across both games, Dirt Showdown at 1080p was the only test in which the Reaper pulled significantly ahead of Overclockers’ Titan Merlin; in all other cases, the CCL PC was only a handful of frames faster, despite the Titan Merlin having only an RX 570 GPU and costing a couple of hundred pounds less. The Reaper’s SteamVR Performance Test score of 6.7 is also just 0.2 points ahead of the Titan Merlin’s.
Still, this is more to do with the Titan Merlin being good than the CCL Reaper being bad, and the latter does indeed effectively match the Fusion Hubble on gaming performance, so it’s not below par at all.
The Reaper also has benefits that the Titan Merlin doesn’t, and not just its exceptional multitasking prowess. We’ve already praised the huge capacity of the Reaper’s dual-drive storage setup, but it’s the SSD speed that really makes it special: sequential read speeds of 513.84MB/s and sequential write speeds of 491.37MB/s, according to the AS SSD benchmark. It’s not an NVMe drive, which would surely be even faster, but the 850 Evo’s blend of performance and value makes it the next best thing.
If you do ever wish to add an NVMe SSD, you can do so via the motherboard’s empty M.2 port. This is joined by everything you’d expect on a mid-range ATX board: four RAM slots, three PCI-E x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots and six SATA ports. Only one of the PCI-E x16 slots (the one occupied by the GPU) runs at true x16 speeds, though, with the other two running at x4 and x1 respectively. Keep that in mind if you ever plan to add a second graphics card running in CrossFire mode.
The case is quite short of drive bays: there are only two dual-purpose 2.5in/3.5in trays underneath the PSU shroud, and both are taken up by the existing storage drives. There are mounting holes for a 2.5in SSD on the internal chassis, so to add a second hard disk, you’d need to remove the 850 Evo, move it to the chassis then replace it in the tray with your new drive. Internal 5.25in drives are outright incompatible with the case design.
NOT SO GRIM
Owners of expensive audio equipment will appreciate the Reaper’s connectivity: there are optical S/PDIF, C/SUB and rear speaker outputs, as well as two USB2 DAC-UP ports, all on top of the standard line in, line out and mic jacks. The general mix should work for everyone, though, with four USB3 ports joining two even faster USB3.1 ports on the back, with two HDMI, three DisplayPort and two DVI-D video outputs for multiple monitors.
The rear I/O panel can also be fitted with two included antennas, enabling the built-in Wi-Fi. This is a handy extra if your desk is too far away from your router for an Ethernet connection, though it is just 802.11n rather than the superior 802.11ac.
It’s far from perfect, but the CCL Reaper’s successful juggling of qualities makes it too good to pass up. Chillblast’s Fusion Hubble is cheaper, but only by about £40, which is small change at this point – and the Reaper matches it in games, hugely outperforms it in multithreaded applications, has a better SSD and a larger HDD, and it comes with bonus Wi-Fi. Only the noise is an issue, and unlike poor performance or overheating, this can be worked around with relative ease.
Note that on CCL’s website, the Reaper is mainly advertised at the price of £1,000; this is without a Windows 10 installation, which it requires to, well, work. Even at the ‘true’, OS-inclusive price of £1,090, however, it’s still Best Buy material.
The extent to which the Reaper shot through our demanding benchmarks was a pleasant surprise, and we re-ran them a few times to make sure they weren’t too good to be true