a gaming pre-built that doesn’t break the bank

PC Garage’s Balaur series of pre-built computers recently welcomed two new members: the one we tested for this article and a “Balaur Pro” equipped with slightly more powerful hardware at a higher price. The “standard” model is priced at around €1,000 and comes with hardware capable of delivering a quality gaming experience, especially in 1080p resolution, but, as we discovered in our performance tests, it’s no slouch in 1440p either. You just have to come with the right expectations and choose the right settings for that hardware configuration.

Balaur comes with a well-balanced setup for gaming on high settings

What is the configuration? Well, Balaur is a system that picks the most affordable components in the mid-range. We start with the Intel Core i5-12400F processor, a 6-core model only good for gaming, and continue with a GeForce RTX 3060 GPU in ASUS Dual implementation with 12GB VRAM. So we can establish from the start that this PC is suitable for gaming in 1080p and 1440p on “high” settings, not ultra or very high.

Balaur 2023 side open rgb

The rest of the configuration includes an ASUS Prime B660-Plus D4 motherboard, which offers three M.2 SSD slots, four SATA sockets and enough USBs to please most gamers, including a USB-C on the back. Being a non-K processor, we can’t think too much about overclocking, being limited mainly by the boost frequency set by Intel. Thus, we don’t really need a high-end motherboard with features we wouldn’t use anyway.

The RAM and SSD are from Kingston. For storage we’re dealing with a 1TB SNV2S SSD, which runs on PCI-Express 3.0, so will have read and write speeds of around 3GB/s, enough for gaming, certainly, but also for most productivity cases. Memory is provided using a Kingston Fury Beast kit at 3,200MHz, with two 8GB sticks, certainly not the fastest DDR4 kit, but enough for the i5 processor and the rest of the setup. Faster memory wouldn’t have provided a significant performance boost, but would have significantly increased the price.

Balaur 2023 cooler

The ENDORFY Regnum 400 ARGB enclosure I can say exceeded my expectations for an enclosure placed somewhat in the budget area. It has three 120mm ARGB fans on the front, a 140mm RGB fan on the back for exhaust, a shorud to mask the source and cables, and plenty of places to pull cables through for the most aesthetically pleasing and airy build. Of course, this system benefits from PC Garage’s Gold assembly, with cables carefully routed through the back of the motherboard.

Given how much space remains in this case, there are multiple upgrade possibilities in the future, both in terms of CPU cooling and video card. There’s room for a high-end video card here, too. It’s just that a new source for a more powerful video card will probably be required. The 650W Seasonic with 80+ Bronze certification is very good for compact systems with lower power consumption, but it might be overpowered when video cards from the RTX 3080 or RTX 4080 ranges enter the equation. Fortunately, more mid-range cards like the 4070 Ti have proven to be quite efficient, so if you don’t go too high on the performance end of things, you might be able to upgrade to a 4060 or 4070 in the future without any problems.

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Balaur 2023 GPU

The cooler on the CPU is also from ENDORFY, a model called the Fera 5 ARGB, equipped with a single 120mm fan and a medium-sized heatsink. Still, for a 6-core processor with low power consumption, it’s enough. And the cooler’s RGB lights, as well as those on the case, are connected at the back to a HUB and then connected to the motherboard’s AURA system. All of this can be controlled and synced via ASUS’ Armoury Crate app. And the stylet glass on the left side, as well as the perforated areas of the enclosure on the front and top, will let you admire your selection of colors for the Balaur PC. Of course, if you’re like me and aren’t particularly fond of RGB LEDs, you can turn them off completely.

Specifications:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-12400F (6-core, 2.5 GHz – 4.4 GHz boost)
  • GPU: GeForce RTX 3060 12 GB (ASUS Dual)
  • RAM16 GB (2 x 8 GB) Kingston Fury Beast DDR4-3200 MHz
  • Motherboard: ASUS Prime B660-Plus D4
  • Storage: SSD Kingston SNV2S 1TB, M.2 NVMe PCI-E 3.0
  • Enclosure: ENDORFY Regnum 400 ARGB (4 RGB chokes included)
  • Cooler: ENDORFY Fera 5 ARGB
  • Source: Seasonic 650W 80+ Bronze

Performance is enough for most gamers

Now that we know that the Balaur is a well-built computer equipped with mid-range hardware, it’s time to see what it can do with it. I installed Windows 11 with all the updates up to date, the latest drivers from NVIDIA and ran the usual suite of video games that I use on all component reviews, desktop systems or laptops,

Because we’re not talking about a video card review, or a CPU review, the settings don’t have to be at their highest. Especially since this is not an extreme performance computer, just a “regular” computer that most gamers can afford. So for the Balaur we set all games to run on the “High” configuration profile. In the case of RDR2, that’s the first one where you switch from balanced settings to high settings, so around 75% of the configuration bar. Even the ray tracing tests were done on the high profile, not Ultra, and for DLSS I chose Quality, because I noticed that the system “leads” and the visual impact is minimal.

Gaming

I didn’t run tests in 4K, because this is clearly not a system for that resolution. It did amuse me, however, that this RTX 3060 is equipped with 12GB of VRAM, while the RTX 3080 in my personal PC has only 10GB, and in some games, such as the recent The Last of Us Part I or Far Cry 6, I can’t use textures on top settings, whereas this much cheaper card could load HD textures without any problems.

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I can say that I was very pleased with the results of a 5,200 lei PC that you can take as a standalone product. Given that this is the price of an RTX 4070 Ti alone, we should probably think twice when we take out money to pay for such expensive components. As long as you don’t have demands for 4K or extremely high framerates above 120, the RTX 3060 and an i5-12400F seem to be enough for most games, including very demanding ones like Cyberpunk 2077.

3DMark

Only in ray-tracing can you see that this system is on the edge, even with DLSS, but there you have the freedom to lower the settings on the environment, and still get a very good gaming experience. Visually though, I don’t really recommend using DLSS in 1080p. In 1440p, however, where available, I can easily recommend DLSS Quality, or even Balanced. FSR, on the other hand, is back and forth. Picture quality is clearly poorer, but on a smaller 24″ screen you probably won’t see much difference.

PCMark

I can’t really recommend this PC instead for productivity. The processor has too few cores, and Photoshop or video editing software will put it through its paces pretty quickly, especially if you’re working with 4K files produced by pretty much all modern cameras and phones. Of course, that’s not to say this PC isn’t capable of it, but it won’t offer a very smooth or fast experience.

Benchmarks

Cinebench R23

  • Single-Core: 1,670
  • Multi-Core: 12,332

CrystalDiskMark

  • SEQ1M Q8T1: Read: 3,703 MB/s / Write: 2,613 MB/s
  • SEQ1M Q1T1: Read: 2,984 MB/s / Write:2,520 MB/s

Conclusions

The Balaur is an average PC that has everything you need to run the latest games on high settings at more than decent framerates. It comes with enough RGB lights to satisfy even the most avid gamers and plenty of room for future upgrades. Of course, if that’s not enough, PC Garage has also built a Balaur Pro, with the same general components, but with a GeForce RTX 3070 and 32GB of RAM.

That one comes with a price tag of 6,399 lei and offers a performance threshold just above that. Whether it’s worth an extra 1,200 lei, however, is for you to decide, depending on the performance you need. But I think the Balaur is a good PC to start gaming with at a decent price, and down the road, you can add RAM, storage, another processor or a new video card if future games start demanding this configuration too much. For today’s games though, this is enough for most gamers who don’t have budgets in the thousands.

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