Introducing the WarFactory Sentinel

Getting the monster gaming machines from boutiques in house for testing is often at least interesting if for no other reason than to see just how fast a computer can get when all bets are off, but most of us just don't have four or five large to shell out for a gaming machine. What if we still want to play but can only afford to pay a reasonable price? This is the market that boutique builder WarFactory is aiming for with their price and power efficient Sentinel. Does it deliver?

WarFactory sent us their exact stock configuration for the Sentinel, and you'll find visiting their site that they try to keep from swamping the buyer with options. "Here is the standard configuration we ship, and then if you want you can tweak it." It's appreciated, but more than that, this inexpensive build seems to be a relatively thoughtful, balanced configuration.

WarFactory Sentinel Specifications
Chassis CoolerMaster HAF 912
Processor AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition
(spec: 4x3.2GHz, 45nm, 6MB L3, 95W)
Motherboard ASUS M4A87TD Evo Motherboard with AMD 870 and SB850 chipset
Memory 2x4GB G.Skill Sniper DDR3-1333 (expandable to 16GB)
Graphics ASUS GeForce GTX 460 TOP 768MB GDDR5
(336 CUDA Cores, 700/1400/3680MHz Core/Shaders/RAM, 192-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Corsair Force F40 40GB SATA 3Gbps SSD
Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) ASUS DVD+/-RW Drive
Networking Realtek PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Audio VIA VT1818S HD Audio
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
Optical out
Front Side 2x USB 2.0
Mic and headphone jacks
Optical drive
Top -
Back Side 2x PS/2
6x USB 2.0
Optical out
6-pin FireWire
eSATA
Gigabit ethernet
2x USB 2.0
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
2x DVI-D
Mini-HDMI
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 19.5" x 9.1" x 18.9"
Weight 17.8 lbs (case only)
Extras Corsair 650TX 80 Plus Certified PSU
Warranty Limited lifetime warranty
Pricing $1,089

Hey, we're testing AMD hardware for a change! While the biggest and baddest boutique builds inevitably include an Intel Core i7, WarFactory is gunning for value with the Sentinel and their CPU choice reflects that. The 3.2GHz quad-core AMD Phenom II X4 may not be as fast as Intel's chips, and it certainly isn't a "green" CPU, but it's entirely serviceable for gaming as you'll see later.

WarFactory includes the 955 Black Edition with its unlocked multiplier by default, but curiously doesn't ship with an overclock, nor can it be ordered with one. An overclock isn't strictly necessary but may have helped ameliorate the performance difference between the Sentinel and Intel-powered competition somewhat. Recognizing just how far DDR3 prices have fallen, WarFactory also straps 8GB of G.Skill DDR3-1333 to the Phenom II's integrated memory controller in two 4GB sticks.

Performing gaming duties is the ASUS GeForce GTX 460 TOP 768MB. NVIDIA doesn't really seem to have kept to their spec clocks on this, one of its best price/performance cards, but the 700MHz core clock (and corresponding 1.4GHz on the 336 CUDA cores) is among the lowest available. Still, that isn't a major complaint as the GTX 460 768MB is a perfectly reasonable video card and suitable for gaming up to 1080p.

Reflecting the fundamental sea change in the industry is the Sentinel's storage subsystem. The operating system drive is a Corsair Force F40 40GB SSD using SandForce's SF-1200 chipset, while mass storage duties are handled by a Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB mechanical drive. The only curiosity here is the use of the Caviar Blue when the Caviar Black with SATA 6Gbps connectivity is largely bog standard in other boutique builds. I don't think it makes much of a difference in terms of performance, but it's an odd choice nonetheless.

Finally, we come to the motherboard, enclosure, and power supply. The ASUS M4A87TD EVO has all the modern connectivity you could ask for, including USB 3.0, and WarFactory smartly opted for a name brand quality power supply in the Corsair 650TX. This is an easy place for a manufacturer to cheap out, and we're grateful WarFactory chose not to. The CoolerMaster HAF 912 is an inexpensive chassis, but it's one that proves that cheap and inexpensive don't mean the same thing. The case is solid, feature-rich, and reasonably quiet.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this review is WarFactory's "limited lifetime warranty". The company was founded in 2009, so obviously they haven't been around as long as most of their competitors, but they're making a pretty big claim there. With no overclocking and a selection of high quality parts, the hope is most hardware will never fail (at least not before you retire the system and upgrade). In a sense, offering such a warranty isn't really that different from a 3-year warranty, and if the company folds you'll be stuck with a useless slip of paper, but we do give them credit for not going the cheap 1-year route that we've seen elsewhere.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • TrackSmart - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    Yes, but the Dell would come with a 250 Watt no-name powersupply and the world's worst $20-equivalent case. And if you care about gaming, the graphics card is a bigger bottleneck than the CPU, so the 5770 would make the system about 20% slower for gaming (my rough guess). And the SSD, though tiny, will make all normal computing tasks much snappier, even if it is too small for games. And it comes with a lifetime warranty. How much would Dell charge if you wanted even a 3 year warranty?

    In sum, I'd still take this over the Dell any day (assuming I had to buy pre-built)
    Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    I know the power supply is more than 250 watts. Dont be ridiculous. In fact I think they upgraded it to around 430 watts. Any you may be right that a SSD makes the computer faster in day to day use. But to me this is a PC that is supposed to get maximum gaming performance per dollar. I dont think an SSD fits into that build.

    And I still dont think it makes any sense to buy a gaming PC with an old tech processor that has been outclassed already twice by Intel and with another refresh coming out soon (Ivy Bridge) that will make it even more obsolete.
    Reply
  • Lazlo Panaflex - Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - link

    "The only questionable decision I feel like they made was the use of G.Skill instead of a more reputable brand like Kingston or Corsair or Crucial"

    I call shens here. Why do you think G.Skill is a less reputable brand? I've bought a lot of G.Skill over the years, and they're *extremely* reliable. Never had any fail on me, and they have a lifetime warranty just like your other "reputable" brands. I doubt people are rushing out to buy Crucial Ballistix these days.
    Reply
  • Klober - Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - link

    I was going to post the same thing until I read Lazlo's post. I have had several kits of G.Skill and have never had any problems, and this is while running the kits well above specs. As you mentioned in the beginning of the review, inexpensive does not equal cheap and this applies to G.Skill as well.

    And for reference, I have had Crucial Ballistix Tracer DDR2 memory - 2 2x1GB kits - and one stick out of each kit was bad which doesn't say much for the "reputable" brand. Yes, I was able to get them replaced with no cost to me except shipping, but that is no less than any other RAM manufacturer does these days.

    Also, as an added thought, considering AnandTech uses G.Skill in their motherboard test configurations (G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3-2133 9-11-9-28 4x4GB Kit, 1.65V) playing them down as a lesser manufacturer is probably not in the best interest of the site. I've been coming here for years and think AnandTech has the most thorough and unbiased reviews out there - so I'm not going anywhere - but this could turn away newcomers to the site which would be unfortunate.
    Reply
  • mfenn - Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - link

    Thirded.

    G.Skill is reliable, well-priced memory. What's not to love? Oh, that's right, they don't have to inflate their prices to pay for advertising.
    Reply
  • Nfarce - Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - link

    Fourthed. My last two heavy overclocked rigs have had G.SKILL: 2x2GB of DDR2 1066 in an overclocked E8400 rig running at 4.4GHz two years ago, and more recently 2x4GB Ripjaw DDR3 1600 in a Sandy i5 2500k running at 5.0 GHz. Anyone who thinks G.SKILL is a lower end brand is less knowledgeable than he thinks. Reply
  • Liquidchild - Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - link

    I don't want to hear that who every would buy this DOES NOT WANT to build it themselves...this stuff costs 760 dollars on newegg. If you search some more I bet you could hit 700 even. If you don't know how to build a PC, pay the kid down the street to do it for 150 bucks and he will cream his pants. Its easier to build a PC then it is to pass a 11th grade tirg test, so don't even give me the "a kid is not a computer building business, its too hard for him". Reply
  • mrcaffeinex - Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - link

    I build computers for people all the time and this is right in line with several that I have built. I am a big fan of the HAF 912 and use one for one of my personal machines, in addition to several builds for customers. As several others have mentioned, I would have preferred to see a better CPU/GPU in this build, but ultimately for the budget gaming crowd there is nothing wrong with this machine. I view these types of systems as WoW boxes more often than not, but as the review demonstrates, you can play a variety of games at solid framerates.

    While the manufacturer is new to the game, they are standing behind their product, in my opinion, with their lifetime warranty. Overall, for the price, G.Skill memory is a good value, and have a lifetime warranty as do many other major memory manufacturers.

    As far as the markup, it makes sense to me: 1) they are offering a lifetime warranty, 2) they are using great quality components and the one most people don't consider, 3) they deserve a couple bucks for their knowledge and time spent in assembling this type of machine.

    There is a huge market out there full of 'users' that are not 'builders'. They do not know the first thing about building a gaming computer, but they have money to spend and will buy whatever pops up as a result of their Google search for 'gaming computer'. At least if they buy one of these they shouldn't feel like they've been fleeced.
    Reply
  • Midwayman - Wednesday, June 08, 2011 - link

    Including a SSD is a strange choice for a budget system. While you can get immense gains from it, I'd rather see a better CPU, or at least pay a little more for a usable SSD. I personally wouldn't bother until I can get to the 80-90 gig level for a SSD. You get all the hassle of having split user directories, but not enough space to really reap the benefits of installing most of your apps on the drive. Reply
  • jabber - Thursday, June 09, 2011 - link

    I build all my budget systems with a 60GB SSD now.

    Ok not gaming machines but I pair the Athlon II 3Ghz dual core with a SSD in a budget box and folks (ahem) "cream their pants" when they get it home.

    I mention to folks they will be getting a 60GB HDD and if they question if its large enough I ask them to right click on their C: drive and tell me how much space they have used on their 6 year old PC. They rarely have used more than 30GB.

    If their older system had a decent sized SATA HDD (160GB+) I will install that as a second drive for no extra cost.
    Reply

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