Some of the biggest names in PC components are turning to the small form-factor to set their gaming PCs apart, and they’re not alone.
ASUS is one of the latest to throw its hat into the SFF ring with the Republic of Gamers G20 Gaming PC, a tiny but stylish micro-ITX tower that’s just smaller than an Xbox One, with a whole lot more power.
Alienware, eat your heart out
The first thing you’ll notice is the G20’s looks. It features odd angles and a somewhat more alien look than even Alienware manages, thanks to the weird-looking “writing” etched into its plastic case and some oddly-angled edges. It’s definitely very striking, especially with its customisable lights that can be set to any of 16 million colours using the included software.
The second is that the G20 comes with not one, but two external power supplies – one for the PC itself and the other for the graphics card. This is to keep the size of the tower down, as a large internal power supply would require a much fatter, much bigger case. It’s a bit of an inconvenience to rustle up two free power plugs for the G20, but the payoff is a beautiful, compact case.
Once you’ve got it all hooked up, the third thing you’ll notice is how quiet it is. When idling, the G20 barely registers 22dB, which is quieter than a whisper. It reaches 47dB under load, which is audible, but not annoyingly so.
Amazingly, despite such a compact case, the G20 doesn’t heat up significantly. That’s because ASUS put some careful thought into how air will move through the case; you can open the case up to check it all out, but be aware that doing so will void your warranty.
On first impressions, this is a mighty little gaming PC indeed.
The heart of the beast
At the heart of the system is a quad-core Intel Core i5-4790 and NVIDIA’s rather good GeForce GTX780 3GB graphics card. Two years ago, the 780 was near the top of NVIDIA’s graphics card line-up, trumped only by the ridiculously overpowered Titan and Titan-Z cards. Together, these two components deliver the bulk of the G20’s gaming performance, which, as it turns out, is very good indeed.
Windows 8.1 speeds along nicely as well as it is installed on a 128GB SSD that delivers a good speed boost over a traditional drive. For your data-storage needs and maintaining a healthy collection of installed Steam games, this G20 also has a 1TB 7200RPM Toshiba hard drive.
Our review model came with 16GB of DDR3 RAM, which is more than enough for gaming and general Windows use. I have 12GB in my gaming machine at home, and it’s seldom all used, but it’s good to know it’s there, just in case.
You also get a media keyboard and mouse in the package; these are just “okay” as they’re quite plasticky and won’t wow your friends like the case will. The large volume knob on the keyboard is the only real standout feature; otherwise it’s just a regular keyboard with a bit of a spongy feel and a nice-looking mouse. You’ll need a monitor and speakers over and above what’s in the box to complete the setup.
All told, the G20 is a well-specced gaming machine that’s designed to give you decent bang for your buck, with the added bonus of looking like something out of a sci-fi movie. Its performance is towards the high end of the single-card performance charts, too, and it will definitely grab attention at a LAN.
Frame rate fun
You may be attracted to the G20 for its looks, but ultimately you’ll want to play games on it, not look at it. And it’s here where the G20 really shines; just take a look at these figures.
As you can see, the average frame rate in all of these games hovers in that very attractive 40 – 80fps range, which means rock-solid performance across the board no matter the title. The G20 did particularly well in newcomer Dying Light, scoring an average frame rate in the mid-50s, making Techland’s parkour-and-zombie-mutilation simulator run like the wind.
The G20 also did quite well on the Fire Strike benchmark from the latest version of 3DMark, managing to just top the 8 000 points mark. This is a little behind the gaming laptops we tested a short while back, but not by much. It also costs thousands of rands less than those did, so it’s forgiven.
Overall I was very pleased with how this little box performed, and you will be too.
The little extras
ASUS has kitted the G20 out with 2x USB 3.0 and 6x USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI output for the onboard Intel HD Graphics chip, plus all the usual 3.5mm audio connections for x.1 speaker systems. Oddly, there is no optical output – a blow for anyone who wants to connect their gaming system to a fancy amplifier via optical while connected to a monitor via DVI or HDMI. They can still do it via the HDMI output from the graphics card, though.
A slimline DVD burner is present for your DVD-burning needs, and there’s a Gigabit Ethernet port for connecting to a wired network. Interestingly, the G20 also has AC-class WiFi built right in, so you may not even need that physical Ethernet jack. AC-class WiFi networks aren’t common, however, because the required routers are still quite pricey, but it works with slower networks like the more-common N-class ones as well, so it’ll still come in handy.
Lastly, USB ports and the two audio jacks needed for easy headphone/headset connections are to be found on the front of the G20 for easy access.
The G20 is a brilliant little gaming machine. It pumps out gorgeous graphics at high frame rates at very high details, and general Windows use is nice and zippy. That’s what 16GB of RAM and a fast SSD gets you.
It’s just not very upgradeable thanks to its specially-machined case that doesn’t encourage exploratory fiddling. But thanks to some great performance hardware, you won’t need to upgrade for a few years yet.
While you could build yourself something a lot more modular and comparably powerful for less cash, it wouldn’t be as small or look nearly as good, and those are the two things the G20 excels at.
After a week or so of playing with it, I found I really like the look of the G20 and think the price is actually quite reasonable for a custom-built machine from a big-name manufacturer.
- Operating System: Windows 8.1 64-bit Single Language
- CPU: Quad-Core Intel Core i7-4790 @ 3.6GHz
- Memory: 16GB DDR3L 1600MHz
- Dedicated Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX780 with 3GB GDDR5 VRAM
- Onboard Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4600
- Storage: 128GB SSD + 1TB 7200RPM SATA HDD
- Keyboard & Mouse: Included
- Optical Drive: DVD Disc Burner
- LAN: Gigabit Ethernet
- WLAN: Wireless-AC
- USB: USB 3.0 x 2, USB 2.0 x 6
- Video Out: 1x HDMI, 2x DVI, 1x DisplayPort
- Price: R22 999