PC brands, system builders and etailers flocked to Multiplay’s biggest LAN gaming consumer event this weekend – i55 – and we visited every stand to give you a full rundown.
Here’s what you need to know from Insomnia 55, from the stock on sale to new innovations on display, including a PC in a desk, PC on a wall and even a £1,500 transforming case.
1. PC Specialist teams up with the Sidemen
The system builder has struck a deal with well-liked YouTube game streamers the Sidemen, with a host of branded desktops on show, available to order now.
Sales and marketing manager John Medley told PCR he had first met the YouTubers – including popular content creator KSI – at previous Insomnia events as well as EGX.
Across PC Specialist’s stand, there was a massive queue of people looking to buy Sidemen merchandise, and on Friday evening a huge crowd gathered to watch them play a game of FIFA on stage.
2. Thermaltake puts the PC on a wall
It’s ironic that the vendor’s off-the-wall idea actually involves mounting a computer onto one.
The upcoming P5 system can be placed on a wall, allowing the user to view their system vertically. It’s due out in Q4 but an RRP has not been established yet.
A spokesperson told PCR the system has had a "very good response" so far, as have its new ring backlit fans which light up in a circle. The latter are out now, priced at £12.95 each, with a £20 RGB version coming in Q4.
3. Watch In-Win’s £1,500 transforming tower in action
PCR was treated to a live demonstration of the case that wowed attendees at Computex earlier this year. At the touch of a button it opens up to reveal the PC’s interior, but a final launch date or list of partners is still a while off yet.
In Win’s UK channel sales exec Justin Fletcher told PCR that the H-Tower (pictured at the top of this article) is still just a concept at this stage, but could cost around £1,500 when it finally hits the market. He added that In Win is also working with a variety of vendors at this stage on different options.
"People are switching on to premium products now and are more willing to pay more for better products," he told PCR. "The ceiling has been raised."
The company also showed off other cases, including the upcoming 805 (£129) and 909 (£299) models due in October.
4. Chillblast gets ready for VR
Gaming system builder Chillblast presented a variety of virtual reality ready machines at i55, which are out now.
Ben Miles reiterated Cooler Master’s views on its new Master Case, saying Chillblast had seen good initial demand for the case and an "extremely positive response".
Visitors to the stand could order goods from the website and get them delivered to their door.
5. Scan gets the party started
Scan Computers had a huge stand promoting tons of desktops and other accessories, with a Corsair section pushing its new Strafe keyboard and Void headset.
Visitors were trying out a variety of systems, including Nvidia Battle Box PCs and 3XS Systems, as well as a racing chair complete with a large curved screen.
Scan was also getting attendees excited with a raffle, as well as handing out pizzas to delegates who could pull the silliest faces. By the end of the huddle there was bits of pizza strewn all over the floor. Only at i-series.
6. Overclockers UK shows off £12,000 system
The system builder’s resident overclocking maestro Ian ‘8Pack’ Parry (pictured) was on hand to talk to consumers about the upcoming 8K-ready Supernova system, featuring four Titan Xs and a cool £12,000 price tag. It’s due to launch in October or November.
The system builder also had new Raijintek cases on display as well as an official Razer-branded NZXT case, and various other components and accessories. Plus, visitors could use the system builder’s free repair offering on the day, and get goods delivered to their computer in the LAN gaming area.
7. Cooler Masterasks the audience to make their own case
This has to be PCR’s pick of the stands. Instead of going along with the over-the-top and in-your-face styling that many booths had (who knows how much GAME spent on its monstrous ship in the centre of expo hall), Cooler Master opted for a more crisp, clean and simple offering that really played to the vendor’s strengths.
It had a range of compact Quick Fire TK keyboards on show (available to buy for a discounted price at Box.co.uk’s stand behind the vendor), but the real star of the vendor’s stand was the Master Case area. Cooler Master had mocked up a workbench, and was inviting visitors to modify the brand new customisable case the way they liked before having a photo taken next to their unique creation, with the winner taking home the case.
The innovation of the MasterCase should be applauded – and early demand shows that Cooler Master may be rewarded for its efforts. We were told that early sales have been "incredible", with Chillblast requiring more stock to hit demand.
The vendor also had a £140 Quick Fire XTI keyboard on show, boasting red and blue colour swashes, which should launch in October.
Keep an eye on Cooler Master as it could be a vendor that makes even more exciting changes in the near future.
8. DinoPC unveils new strategy
Gaming system builder DinoPC had a presence at i55, hot off the back of opening a new refurbished office last week.
It’s an exciting new time for the company, which is redesigning its website to make it more mobile friendly, and has ambitious growth plans.
DinoPC’s Nic Carnelutti told PCR: " We’re trying to become more of a brand rather than just a system builder."
On show was a £10,000 red and white dinosaur-themed desktop, as well as a PC built into a desk with a transparent tabletop.
DinoPC is certainly one of the more quirky system builders out there, the team has lots of personality and passion. Interestingly, we’re told that half of the team (seven of 15 staff) are Italian, giving the builder a certain je ne sais quoi!
9. Box.co.uk sells to the masses
The etailer had its range of own-brand Cube systems on display and was selling a range of products to attendees, including discounted prices on Cooler Master keyboards and other goods.
10. The company that wants to put you in a game
Easily one of the most interesting and innovative companies exhibiting for the first time was BackFace, with its 3DFX Scanner. This British-based team had a booth filled with cameras, inviting attendees to step in, pay £20 for a scan before being transformed into a virtual 3D model.
From there, the person can be placed in a unique open-world PC game that the team is working on, or pay to receive a 3D printed figure or bust of themself.
BackFace’s Tim Milward told PCR the game was a couple of months away from launch, but was open to the idea of opening up their technology to other developers and retailers.
The company said it has spent the last six months in R&D and wants to travel the country to show off its technology.
11. Aorus is making waves
Gigabyte’s Aorus gaming brand is eyeing further growth in the market after launching over a year ago.
There was a range of gaming laptops and peripherals on show at the booth, including the X3, X5 and X7 notebooks which are out now (the latter two featuring Nvidia G-Sync flicker-free technology).
Gigabyte’s UK country manager Steve Clark told PCR the brand is doing well and boasts good margins.
12. Aria teams up with Thermaltake
Aria was showing off the Force 800, Force 1200 and Force 1800 systems at i55, starting from £779.99 and rising to £1,809.99.
There was an impressive liquid cooling PC on display and the system builder had a collaboration with Thermaltake, featuring its new backlit ring fans.
13. Fierce PC focuses on feedback
Fierce PC had a long stand at i55, with the system builder telling PCR every system on show was brand new.
There were rows of machines for visitors to play on, with the £1,499.95 Imperial Dragon PC a highlight, plus Fierce PC was also letting consumers test out the firm’s new website and leave feedback.
14. CCL Systems caters to everyone
CCL was focusing on its wide catalogue of products rather than brand new systems in particular, demoing everything from its starter £299 Crafter range right up to £1,800 systems.
The company has partnered with Nvidia to produce its own Nvidia Battle Box system, an X99 desktop priced at £2,749, and boasted a handsomely-sized stand.
15. Razer bus gives customers a wheely good time
Multiplayer gaming was taking place on the upper deck of the bus, with prizes handed out for daily high scores.
Razer was also live streaming from the bus – featuring Razer Deckard, PhaseMagazine, TrollZous and Monstah.
There was new looks at indie games, interviews with developers, publishers, players and industry people as well as Let’s Plays, challenges and more. Razer also partnered with gamer Syndicate to host various activities including a lock-in play session and prizes.
16. Astro unveils new headset
Astro Gaming announced its new A40 TR headset and mixamp, as well as a Pro version, both with swappable mod kit components.
The vendor allows gamers to customise the side plates on each headset, charging users £30 for two custom plates. The headsets also come with game-branded plates, while the mixamps allow the user to change the volume and more from a desk-based unit rather than a fiddly in-line one.
Visitors were testing out the headsets on rows of gaming systems.
17. Eclipse shows off Skylake systems
The system builder had a range of accessories, GPUs, motherboards and PCs on show including new Skylake i7 ones.
Eclipse’s £769.95 Aegis system’s case lets the owner add a custom LCD image on the front of the case. A spokesperson told PCR it was impressed with AMD’s latest budget FreeSync monitors but wants the vendor to shout about them more.
18. Yoyotech is working on something special
Yoyotech’s sleek stand featured an impressive embossed logo and a wide range of products, from components to systems and Skylake motherboards (including the £139 Ranger and £169 Hero). It was also offering a deal – buy a new motherboard and get a free headset.
When PCR mentioned some of the other highlights of the show to Yoyotech’s managing director CK (including rival OCUK’s £12k system), he hinted that Yoyotech is working on a big new system of its own: "We are coming up with a new, big system," he said. "We’re doing something phenomenal, something different." Watch this space.
19. MSI shows off modded notebook
MSI had a modded GS30 on show, a 1.2kg 13-inch notebook tweaked to include a Titan X in its docking station, running The Witcher 3 at 87.5fps.
A host of new small form factor Nightblade systems were on MSI’s large stand, featuring 1080p and Windows 10 compatibility, as well as enough space to host full-sized graphics cards inside. The vendor told PCR it is working with retail customers like PC World with these, allowing the partners to choose the internal components as they want.
There were also a host of laptops on show, updated with Broadwell processors, with the top-of-the range GT80 featuring a mechanical keyboard built-in and a price tag of £3,499.
20. Ebuyer goes big
The etailer’s stand was reminiscent of its booth at the Gadget Show Live earlier this year, selling goods from a wide range of partners, which had their own areas across the huge two stands. These included Gigabyte, Element Gaming, Blue, Intel, Crucial, Ballistix, Logitech, BenQ, Syber and playable systems powered by Cyberpower.
21. Logitech’s new-look goods
Logitech showed off its fresh G headsets at i55 in its marquee-like booth, after unveiling its new Logi brand recently. The G933 (wireless) and G633 headsets have just hit the market, as has the G640 mouse mat is new.
Gamers could also get to grips with the G29 gaming wheel at the Logitech booth.
22. Ducky presents shiny new keyboard
Distributor Bosse Computers teamed up with Ducky on this stand, offering plenty of accessories to visitors with special show-only pricing.
The Shine 5 RGB keyboard was on display, which will go on sale in mid-October priced at around £149.99. Bosse Computers is the sole distie of Ducky in the UK and also supplies PSUs, cables and the like.
23. Affordable virtual reality headset targets mass market
Merge Virtual Reality had a handful of headsets for passers by to try out. The £49 headset is similar to Google Cardboard except it is more durable, flexible and launches exclusively with GAME in November, with pre-orders open now.
The headset can house any smartphone up to the size of an iPhone 6 Plus. Merge’s marketing coordinator Taryn Saavedra told PCR the device is "for everyday life".
"Any phone, any face – we want it to be for everyone."
The company was founded in late 2013 and the device is now about to launch in the US too.
24. GAME sets sail as it takes centre stage
Multiplay’s new owner GAME had a Gametronics stand selling consumer electronics, while it was also selling boxed games, PC games and merchandise in its big ship, complete with masts and traditional boat styling, as well as taking pre-orders and throwing out free T-shirts to the masses.
PCR spotted UK boss Martyn Gibbs at the top of the ship (which consumers didn’t have access to), but was unable to talk to him as he was apparently in a meeting up there. Only in the games industry.
25. Other stands of note
Everything else worth mentioning (these stands either didn’t have brand new PC hardware on show, or there was no one available to give us a quick tour):
- Microsoft’s stand featured a playable version of Gears of War Ultimate Edition on Xbox One, plus visitors could have their photo taken with someone dressed up as Master Chief from Halo
- Roccat had a few products on show as well as a counter
- A Multiplay Store was selling branded event T-shirts
- XFX showed off its XFX 3 Series, as well GPUs, PSUs, 4K monitors, racing chairs and an Oculus Rift
- ASUS had a large stand near the entrance featuring its ROG gear
- Synology was showing off its latest wares