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Mystery Shopper: Online system builders - PC Retail

Mystery Shopper: Online system builders

Our Mystery Shopper heads to the world wide web for a small form-factor PC
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After visiting online system builders last year for a gaming desktop, this month our Mystery Shopper returns to find a small form-factor PC ideal for gaming. Armed with a budget of £800, let’s see how they get on…

Note: This Mystery Shopper was carried out in mid-August

Eclipse Computers 6/10

Everything was quite squashed on Eclipse’s website, but it was great to see that prices were highlighted making it easier when it came down to a decision.

It was easy to locate the range of small form-factor PCs using the navigation bar across the top, and I could narrow my search using the filter on the left hand side. A varied selection was on offer with prices ranging from £138 to £500, but in the end I picked out the SFP Prodigy Series System.

A step-by-step guide then aided me through the configuration process, where I could choose my own RAM, motherboard and processors. Although, when it came to checking out, I was slightly shocked to see that the delivery was a pricey £14.95.

Cyber Power 7/10

A summer giveaway banner greeted me on Cyber Power’s site, and the bright colours made my visit even more enticing.

Unfortunately I couldn’t locate the mini PCs, as they were not under a separate category, instead they were hidden within brand names such as Intel and AMD.

Eventually I found the Vapor P, priced at £478.80. All of the specs for the device were listed alongside it, from what RAM was included, to its motherboard and memory, and I was also given the opportunity to change any if I wished to.

When it came to checking out, I had the option to pay using PayPal and I was pleased to see that the standard delivery was free of charge. I also didn’t have to create an account to complete my order, which was a great relief. 

Overclockers 9/10

I knew I had to check out Overclockers for a mini PC, and although there was a lot of information crammed on to its homepage, just like last year when we visited, it was easy enough to find the mini PCs thanks to the navigation bar above the page.

I found the Gigabyte Primo Nano BT with prices starting at £193.99 – well in my price range. Once it boiled down to the configuration process, I was given an option to add Windows 10, various security software programs and alternative memory sizes.

Once again I had to create an account to purchase my selected item, but there was a variety of payment options from PayPal and Visa to choose from.

I was also given the option to log in using an Amazon account, which proved to be a much simpler process compared to starting up a new account. 

Scan 7/10

A live webcast launch of Windows 10 is the first thing I see when I reach Scan’s homepage, before I notice the navigation bar situated above it. Although the bar was very comprehensive and laid out in alphabetical order, I struggled to find any mini PCs, something we found a problem with last year when we visited.

Instead, I tried using the search bar to find what I was after and voila – up popped some mini PCs. There was a varied selection on offer, but the MSI Wind Box DC111 Mini PC System caught my eye.

After clicking to view the device, I found a series of reviews, which was a bonus, plus several images were also visible on the page so I was able to get a glimpse of the product I was purchasing.

Sadly, I could only pre-order the PC rather then buy it outright, which was a slight hindrance on my visit.

Chillblast – Star Store 10/10

Without a doubt, Chillblast had the best layout in terms of navigation and simplicity, and I was able to choose my PC by task, which took me to the system builder’s range of compact PCs.

There were countless PCs available for me to pick through, but only two made it into my budget of £800. In the end I opted for the Chillblast Fusion Master Box, which came with the option to customise, and for an extra £35 I could add an Intel Core i5-4690K Haswell processor, which of course I did. Plus, it already came equipped with Windows 10.

After this stage, I got the option to include some peripherals from monitors to mice, and in the end my total came to £764.98.

I was given the choice of paying with Amazon or PayPal and I didn’t have to sign up, which is always a bonus in my book.

Utopia Computers 8/10

Gaming screams out as you enter Utopia’s site with the homepage telling users they will get The Phantom Pain free with selected products. After locating the mini PC range I had just two devices to inspect, and I decided to take the 4K-ready Hero, which came with the tagline ‘epic gaming in your living room’.

Similar to when we visited last year, there were plenty of specs listed about the Hero, and I was given four set levels to choose from when it came to configuring the PC.

This approach made it much simpler when it came to picking my components, and I opted for ‘Level 2’, priced at £719, which featured an Intel Core i3 processor and an Nvidia GTX 960. However, this was the highest set of specs I could get for my buck, as the other levels were way out of my price range.

Before I reached the checkout, I was given the option to add a custom paint design, but unfortunately that took me over my budget so I continued without.

YoYoTech 7/10

I had some trouble trying to find my desired mini PC on the YoYoTech website, but in the end I found them positioned under the home/desktop PCs page.

There were a few on show for me to pluck my way through, but in the end I went for the Virtue Vesa Box 1, complete with Intel HD graphics and 8GB DDR3 memory. It was also priced at a bargain £269.99.

After picking my device, I was given the choice of which Office software I preferred, as well as if I wanted a keyboard or a mouse. A series of images were also embedded in the page pointing out all of the device’s ports, which was a helpful addition.

When it came to checkout, I was pleased to see that I didn’t have to waste any time setting up an account, and could go straight through to entering my details. Plus, I could get my hands on the system in three to five days for £4.16.

DinoPC 7/10

As soon as I entered DinoPC I was greeted with a headline reading ‘gaming PCs’ – just what I was after. It even informed me that the prices started from £549.

Some of the compact PCs were a little pricey, but I eventually spotted the Mini Gamer for £599, down from £699 – a bargain in my eyes. Some of the specs were also already listed below the product, so I didn’t have to keep clicking on to different pages to find what I was after.

A free copy of McAfee Antivirus came with the device and I opted for a Core i5 processor when it came to customising the PC, taking the price up to £648.11.

I then got the chance to add some more items to my bill, including a monitor or a keyboard.

As I went through to pay I was welcomed by a new customer checkout option, since I wasn’t already a member, and had to sign up to make my final purchase.

Summary

All in all, each system builder had an abundance of mini PCs for me to choose from this month. Using a website to find a device, navigation proved to be of great importance, but Scan and Cyber Power were unfortunately disappointing when it came to locating a mini PC. I appreciated the fact that the specs were listed beneath each product on DinoPC’s website, similarly I found Utopia Computer’s level system a much simpler way of configuring a PC.

I was a little shocked to see how expensive some delivery prices were, with Eclipse Computers offering to deliver my PC for £14.95, but I liked the fact YoYoTech included imagery within the products spec to point out its ports.

Overclockers proved to be a tough contender this month, but thanks to its competitive prices and stress-free website, Chillblast was able to scoop the top spot.

I didn’t have to set up an account to complete my order for a PC and felt that the customer service given from the site was top notch, making Chillblast a deserving winner this month. 

PCR's Sector Spotlight on Gaming is running throughout September - click here for more articles

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