PCs

★★★★☆ £1,440 • From www.scan.co.uk

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - James Archer

The Zo­tac MEK1 avoids the usual pit­falls of pre-built com­pact gam­ing PCs: it’s as pow­er­ful as a full-sized desk­top, and the bun­dled pe­riph­er­als off­set a high price

VER­DICT

It’s svelte for a gam­ing PC, but the MEK1 doesn’t com­pro­mise on graph­i­cal power

THE SKINNY MEK1 is new ground for Zo­tac, which has pro­duced some great com­pact bare­bones sys­tems such as the Mag­nus ER51060 (Shop­per 360) but un­til now hadn’t ap­plied its knowl­edge to a fully built tower.

It’s still on the small side, to put it mildly. At 418mm tall and just 118mm thick, it’s nar­row enough to grab ei­ther side with a sin­gle hand, yet it in­cludes an 8GB GTX 1070 Ti graph­ics card – and that’s no small-fry GPU.

In fact, it’s a gam­ing pow­er­house, de­liv­er­ing the 4K per­for­mance that its price of £1,440 es­sen­tially de­mands. In Dirt Show­down, run­ning on Ul­tra set­tings, the MEK1 pro­duced 110fps at 1,920x1,080, 109fps at 2,560x1,400 and 86fps at 3,840x2,160, so what­ever your mon­i­tor’s res­o­lu­tion it will be able to han­dle less de­mand­ing games with ease.

A much tougher test came in the form of Metro: Last Light Re­dux, but the MEK1 still im­pressed with 76fps at 1,920x1,080 and 44fps at 2,560x1,440 – again, with the high­est pos­si­ble graph­ics qual­ity. 3,840x2,160 proved too much at these set­tings, drop­ping to 19fps, but by chang­ing to High set­tings and turn­ing off SSAA, we were able to get a far smoother 53fps with only min­i­mal im­pact on fi­delity. The MEK1’s per­fect score of 11 in Valve’s Steam VR Per­for­mance Test ce­ments it as a fully qual­i­fied pre­mium gam­ing rig.

LATE AR­RIVAL

It’s not all the lat­est and great­est hard­ware, how­ever. While it’s been paired with a healthy 16GB of DDR4 RAM, the 7th-gen In­tel Core i7-7700 is start­ing to show its age in our ap­pli­ca­tion bench­marks. Specif­i­cally, the MEK1 scored 133 in the im­age test, 148 in the video-en­cod­ing test and 156 in the mul­ti­task­ing test for an over­all score of 150. That’s hardly slow go­ing, but even mid-range com­po­nents in the 8th-gen In­tel and 2nd-gen AMD Ryzen ranges outdo these scores by big mar­gins.

As a case in point, the Pal­i­comp i5 Cos­mos (Shop­per 366) is a few hun­dred pounds cheaper and has a Core i5-8600K, but this hexa-core chip thrashes the MEK1’s quad-core Core i7-7700 by 49 points. The i5 Cos­mos also has a GTX 1070, so it’s a re­li­able 4K-ready gam­ing sys­tem as well – next to it, the MEK1 doesn’t seem par­tic­u­larly good value, at least not from a strictly per­for­mance-fo­cused stand­point.

The Zo­tac PC’s SSD write speed is also dis­ap­point­ing, mea­sur­ing a mere 377MB/s in the AS SSD bench­mark. This is in con­trast its fe­ro­cious write speed of 1,930MB/s.

IN­SIDE SCOOP

Still, speed isn’t ev­ery­thing, and this is a re­mark­ably prac­ti­cal PC for one that’s so small. For in­stance, un­like many com­pact sys­tems, you can eas­ily take off the side pan­els and ac­cess the com­po­nents within, and while there isn’t re­ally scope to add new parts (there are no empty RAM slots or spare stor­age drive bays), up­grade-con­scious users should be able to re­place what’s al­ready there. Con­nec­tiv­ity is well cov­ered, too, es­pe­cially net­work­ing, with dual Gi­ga­bit Eth­er­net ports on the rear and built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Also at the back are two USB2 ports, three USB3 ports and a legacy PS/2 port for pe­riph­er­als, while the graph­ics card pro­vides three Dis­playPort out­puts and one HDMI port. C/SUB and S/PDIF out­puts al­low for high-end au­dio gear to be used, and if the back panel fills up, there are two USB3 ports at the front as well. In another neat touch, these can be con­cealed be­hind a small slid­ing cover, which also masks the power but­ton, mic jack and head­phone jack for a cleaner look. Speak­ing of looks, RGB fans will ap­pre­ci­ate the thin light­ing strips run­ning around the side pan­els. Zo­tac’s Spec­tra soft­ware could be more in­tu­itive, but we were soon us­ing it to cus­tomise the colours and ef­fects on our MEK1; we’re par­tic­u­larly fond of the sub­tly puls­ing ‘Breathe’ ef­fect.

KEY BAR­GAIN

Also in­cluded in the box are a mouse, mousepad and a full-sized me­chan­i­cal key­board. Al­though the first two are noth­ing spe­cial – the mouse has some extra side but­tons, but is too light and pla­s­ticky for our tastes – the key­board is light years ahead of most bun­dled key­boards. Its off-brand switches aren’t quite as sta­ble and con­sis­tent as the clicky Cherry MX Blues they’re clearly em­u­lat­ing, but there’s still a pleas­ant tac­tile feel to each press, and there’s even a de­tach­able wrist rest. If you’re look­ing to buy a com­plete desk­top setup from scratch, this key­board has two ma­jor ben­e­fits: one, it makes the price pre­mium much eas­ier to swal­low; and two, it helps make the MEK1 a par­tic­u­larly good starter pack of sorts.

Com­bined with its top gam­ing per­for­mance and space-sav­ing build, this qual­ity en­sures that even if it does have an older pro­ces­sor, the MEK1 is still a fine choice for any­one look­ing to jump into PC gam­ing at the deep end. The i5 Cos­mos is bet­ter value, and is far more cus­tomis­able, but it’s also bulkier and comes with­out a me­chan­i­cal key­board.

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