Hardware Upgrade (1) – PC Specialist

Mana Pool might be a small independent game review site, but that doesn’t mean we don’t take it seriously. We really do strive to enhance your experience to the best of our abilities, and to achieve that we’re going through a few upgrades over the coming weeks. The first upgrade is a shiny new Game Review and Video Editing machine. Obviously everyone in the team has their own machine, of various capabilities, but most of our videos are being produced here in York. The old machine was just not up to the job any more – so we had a look at what local supplier PC Specialist had on offer. What better opportunity to review their services?

Website

PCS Status GuideThe PC Specialist website is extremely easy to use – and putting together a specification that meets your budget and performance requirements is an absolute breeze. To top that off – their (recently launched) forum community is extremely helpful. Simply make a post in the correct subforum detailing your budget and requirements, and within moments a few people will jump to your rescue with advice and recommendations on how to make the best use of your budget.

Very small point of criticism is that the component selection drop-downs don’t contain ‘the difference in price’ vs. your current selection – you have to select each component one by one to compare the price easily. We were very tempted to step up to water cooling, but stretched our budget to the limit already. The next upgrade will surely move that way, though!

Excellent website overall – providing an incredibly easy and pleasant experience.

Communication

One of the most important aspects when making such an expensive purchase is communication. You really want to be kept in the loop every stage of the process. We had a really mixed experience here and we have to be honest to our readers. If someone from PCS reads this – please see this as constructive criticism, which helps identify opportunities for improvement.

First the criticism:
Our very first ticket which contained a fair number of questions that would have lead to additional sales (we were quite willing to splash out on more components, would the response have been quicker and more detailed) wasn’t answered at all until we poked one of the Administrators. It took over 5 days before we finally got an answer, because the support staff archived the ticket before answering it. It was answered “ok” but certainly did not inspire.

We also found that the level of English used by people answering our tickets was occasionally of very low standard and full with spelling errors. We know PC Specialist are incredibly busy around this time of the year – but it is vital to any business to answer customers in a timely, courteous and professional manner. A quick spell check would have done the job in most cases and we expect more from a business located in Yorkshire! From a marketing perspective, this made the replies look rushed – which makes the customer feel less valued.

Out of 3 phone calls during business hours we didn’t manage to get PCS on the phone a single time which was somewhat disappointing.

Now the positives:
PC Specialist TrackingThe order tracking system is -awesome-. Everything gets logged, and you see exactly what stage your machine is in. They also keep a record of who has performed what task – and what ‘special’ requests and tasks have been given related to your order.

The system also keeps you fully in the loop by e-mail of what phase your order is in. Honestly, we can’t think of a way of being in the loop more than you are with these guys. (Short of driving over to their office and looking over their shoulders.)

Another huge plus is that the members of staff actively interact with customers on the forums and provide a HUGE amount of advice and assistance. It’s really refreshing and gives a potential buyer a lot of confidence before making the important decision of buying a computer.

Summary:
Overall the communication is very good – but the response from support in particular could be improved a little. During extremely busy times it might be good to hire additional help to handle customer support as this makes a huge difference on the impression customers have of a business.

In terms of your actual order, you’re never left in the dark and this aspect of the experience was magnificent.

Packaging & Delivery

Delivery is arranged through DHL. Generally DHL is very good, and despite a minor hiccup of them calling at the wrong building and then claiming we were not present, an extremely helpful lady arranged a redelivery early afternoon.

PC Specialist Packaging

This box is a lot bigger than it looks. Trust me.

The packaging itself was great and very secure. Do have a helping hand around as the box is an absolute monster. People with a narrow front door beware – the box does fit but with absolutely NO room to spare! Inside the box you will find a welcome pack, which contains all your manuals, spare cables/screws and various other bits and bobs. Among this is a booklet written by PC Specialist which explains pretty much everything about your new purchase.

Under the welcome pack and a few pieces of padding – you’ll find what you’ve been waiting for all that time: your new computer. Again the packaging is fantastic, with a transparent plastic bag protecting the case from dirt/dust and some great padding protecting the computer from shocks during transport.

The computer itself has huge warning messages taped on the side, making you aware of the air/foam bag inside which is protecting your components from getting dislodged during transport. Obviously turning the machine on with that still inside wouldn’t be the best of ideas so it’s a welcome warning. We had to reconnect the fan on the side-panel as they disconnected that to protect the machine further during transport.

PC Specialist ReviewPC Specialist Review

PC Specialist ReviewPC Specialist Review

Overall Buying Experience

Despite a few minor points which could be improved to enhance the buying experience, the overall experience was great. Price wise PC Specialist hits exactly the right mark and the amount of available advice (from the forums) before your purchase is extremely helpful for cautious consumers.

PC Specialist ReviewWe highly recommend PC Specialist for your next purchase, and we’ll certainly buy our next machines there as well. We’ve bought computers from a great many companies and thus far PC Specialist stands head and shoulders above the rest. If you are considering to buy a Gaming PC from expensive companies like Alienware, Kobalt and Rock – make sure you have a look at PC Specialist and compare the price vs. performance. You’ll most likely find yourself positively surprised! (We saved well over £1,000 just to give you an idea).

The New Machine

This article wouldn’t be quite complete if we didn’t show you the new machine. We opted for the following configuration:

Case COOLERMASTER HAF 932 FULL TOWER GAMING CASE
Processor (CPU) Intel® Core™i7 Quad Core Processor i7-950 (3.06GHz) 4.8GTs/8MB Cache
Motherboard ASUS® P6X58D-E: DDR3, USB 3.0, SATA 6.0GB/s, 3-Way SLI
Memory (RAM) 12GB KINGSTON HYPER-X TRI-DDR3 1600MHz, X.M.P (6 x 2GB KIT)
Graphics Card 1GB NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX460 GDDR5 PCI EXPRESS – DirectX® 11
2nd Graphics Card 1GB NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX460 GDDR5 PCI EXPRESS – DirectX® 11
Memory – 1st Hard Disk 120GB OCZ VERTEX 2 SATA II 2.5″ SSD (upto 285MB/sR | 275MB/sW)
2nd Hard Disk 1TB WD CAVIAR BLACK WD1002FAEX, SATA 6 Gb/s, 64MB CACHE (7200rpm)
1st DVD/BLU-RAY Drive 24x DUAL LAYER DVD WRITER ±R/±RW/RAM
Memory Card Reader INTERNAL 52 IN 1 CARD READER (XD, MS, CF, SD, etc) + 1 x USB 2.0 PORT
Power Supply & Case Cooling CORSAIR 850W PSU (TX850) 80+ ULTRA QUIET
Processor Cooling TITAN FENRIR EVO EXTREME HEATPIPE CPU COOLER

We’re of course running this on Windows 7 x64. We love the connectivity on this machine – with 6 USB ports on the back and 5 at the front, Firewire, eSata and everything else we would possibly ever want/need. So that’s enough about the machine – it’s about time to start using it to produce some more reviews and videos!

PC Specialist ReviewPC Specialist Review

the author

Managing Editor of ManaPool, Peter lives in York, UK and is a great fan and master of turn-based strategy games. If he isn't playing one of those, you'll probably find him in a role-playing game instead. He's definitely not afraid to provide a straight up opinion on any game and has a strong like for indie developers. We all start small, after all.

  • http://www.manapool.co.uk Alratan

    As further recommendation, I’ll probably be buying an almost identical machine very shortly from PC Specialists for my own use. Strong approval!

  • LFFPicard

    ^^ Same, although i am considering a different case, the Antec 902 and might tweak my config a little.

    As for the prices not being shown in the component menu, i questioned this when i was speccing my PC. The answer they gave although not a complete quote was:

    “We do not carry large quantities of stock so that we are able to pass on any hardware discounts that might occure, due to this the prices of the components change on a weekly basis and therefore there are no prices on the components list.”

    Something to that effect.. Which i find really good as they pass the discounts onot the customers. For example whent he i7 950 came down in price by almost £100 they had minimul stock and was therefore able to purchase additional stock at the reduced cost and passed this on to the consumer.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    11 months on – and I can confidently say I am still *extremely* happy with this machine. I haven’t had any regrets whatsoever.

    I’ve toyed with the idea of upgrading the GPU’s but haven’t been able to justify performance vs. cost. Plus, everything still runs on high/max settings so far…

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    I’m still so happy with this machine that I can’t bring myself to replace it entirely.

    I’ve just ordered a whole bunch of parts to provide substantial upgrades – I’d happily buy from PCS again were it not for the fact they don’t supply some of the parts I want, and I can’t bear the thought of losing my PC for a few days.