A sub-£500 system with a discrete graphics card, but does it succeed in balancing price and performance?
- Impressive case design
- Ability to upgrade easily
- Very reasonable price
- High power requirements
The Palicomp Impulse stands out. Despite squeaking under the £500 mark (by one penny; its official price is £499.99), the build includes both a full-fat Ryzen 5 processor and a discrete graphics card: the AMD Radeon RX 560 2GB. Even more impressively, they’re all housed in a case with a full-window side panel to show them off. Just note that it’s made from acrylic, rather than tempered glass, which at least helps to keep the weight down.
Palicomp AMD Impulse RY27 review: Features and specs
Palicomp saves some money by opting for the last-generation Ryzen 5 2600, rather than the newer 3000-series with its improved Zen 2 microarchitecture and 7nm process node, but this processor is a big improvement on the APUs we see elsewhere. While the core clock speed isn’t much different (compare the Ryzen 5 2600’s 3.4GHz base and 3.9GHz boost to the 3.6GHz base and 4GHz boost of the Ryzen 3 3200G), the six physical cores and ability to run 12 simultaneous threads mean it chews through multitasking workloads considerably faster than the four-core, four-thread APU. Palicomp has pushed the chip even further on this build, overclocking the chip at the factory to a 3.7GHz base clock at no added cost.
The compact Radeon RX 560 inside is far from the most powerful graphics card on the market, and the bundled support bracket is a nice if unnecessary touch, but it still blows integrated graphics processors out of the water. While it might have been nice to see more than 8GB of memory installed in the system – in Palicomp’s defence, it is relatively fast DDR4-3000 running in dual-channel mode – the extra 2GB of physical graphics memory on the Radeon helps level the playing field against competitors with larger amounts of RAM.
A quick glance at the benchmark results shows that the Impulse can’t be touched for performance in the sub-£500 bracket, completing the demanding multitasking test in good time. Even its gaming performance, never the strong suit of any system under £500, is impressive with an average of 61.3 frames per second in the Unigine Superposition benchmark. As per usual, this is at the 720p Low preset configuration.
Add in 512GB of high-speed M.2 PCIe storage and a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports at the rear, and the Impulse is looking tempting. There’s room for expansion with two 3.5in and two 2.5in drive bays free to make use of the motherboard’s six SATA ports, although the dual-slot graphics card blocks one of the two single-lane PCI Express 2.0 slots available on the board, leaving only one available. There are even two memory slots free, making it easy to upgrade to 16GB by adding two more 4GB memory modules in the future.
Palicomp AMD Impulse RYZ7 review: Verdict
It’s hard to see where the corners have been cut on this build. The power supply, perhaps: it’s a 500W model, but has only one 6+2 pin PCI Express connector, plus two four-pin power connectors and four SATA power connectors – not enough to use all six SATA ports on the motherboard without a couple of splitters.
The case may not be to everyone’s taste, with its rough finish, but has advantages: a magnetic filter catches dust before it can be sucked inside by the fans, and the 3.5in drive bays use impressively robust plastic sleds. The blue LEDs on the rear fan fail to provide quite enough light to make the components stand out, however.
Only the system’s power requirements really disappoint: at 54.8W idle and 150W load, it’s clear the factory overclock and discrete GPU have their cost. Nevertheless, this is nothing short of a bargain.