When iBuyPower first contacted us about giving their Trace 4 9310 prebuilt system a try, there wasn’t a lot of fighting about who would get the chance to try it out. I even recall one person jokingly asking if it could even run games. I’ve been building and upgrading my own PCs for nearly 15 years now, so I figured I would see exactly what the prebuilt market had to offer and gave the 9310 the chance it deserved.
iBuyPower has been building PCs since 1999. Today, they meet gamer’s needs with prebuilt and custom designed systems. Prices can reach into the thousands of dollars for one of their bleeding edge custom systems. For us, iBuyPower sent over a more modestly priced Trace 4 9310 prebuilt. Selling for $699.99 through Amazon the Trace 4 9310 is built around AMD components, giving the buyer as much bang for their buck as possible.
- CPU - AMD Ryzen 5 3600
- GPU - Gigabyte RX5500 (GV-R55XTOC-4GD-rev-1.0)
- Motherboard - ASRock A320M/ac (may vary due to availability but all boards will have the A320 chipset)
- RAM - 1x8GB Adata D4U2666W8G 19-B
- Storage - 240GB Adata SU360 SSD
- Power Supply - High Power 80plus Bronze 500W (HPG-500BR-FS12S)
- Case - iBuyPower Trace 4 Case
- Keyboard - iBuyPower Ares M2-KB
- Mouse - iBuyPower Ares M2-MS
- Warranty - 1 year parts & labor, plus lifetime US tech support (M-F, 8:30am - 5:00pm PST)
Out Of The Box
When the iBuyPower Trace 4 9310 arrived I was happy to see that everything made it intact. The box is made of double thick cardboard and made the trip without being crushed or torn. Even if there had been some damage, there is a couple of inches of foam protecting the top and bottom of the PC and about 1 ½ inches between the side of the box and the case. Tucked away in the top piece of foam was the keyboard and quick start manual. The bottom piece of foam held all the remaining equipment - mouse, Wi-Fi antenna, power cord, and an ASRock driver disk. The mid-tower case, which measures 8 ½” wide by 18” deep by 18” high weighs in at about 28 pounds, so getting it out of the box and onto my desk was a single person job.
The computer comes with a quick start guide, though it almost isn’t necessary. Other than attaching the antenna and plugging in the power cord, mouse, and keyboard, the only other thing left to do was plug in a monitor. The 9310 comes with a dedicated graphics card so it was nice to see iBuyPower had covered the motherboard’s built in HDMI connector with a message alerting the buyer that they needed to connect their monitor to one of the video card ports. Of the total assembly, this is the one thing that could cause a lot of frustration and extra calls to customer support, so it was a nice touch.
The whole setup process only took less than 10 minutes and showcases one of the benefits of buying a prebuilt computer. I’ve built several computers and it still takes me an hour or so to get the computer ready to turn on, and, assuming it starts up on the first try, that doesn’t even count the time needed to install Windows. With the 9310 I was done customizing Windows and ready to install my first game in a fraction of the time. In the event your 9310 doesn’t start up, the customer service number is prominently displayed on the quick start guide. Take it from a guy who has had to head to YouTube when a DIY build goes wrong, the safety net of a customer service rep to talk to shouldn’t be dismissed.
The Case And Assembly
I’m a computer geek first and foremost, so once I was sure everything was up and running like it was supposed to, the next thing I did was shut the computer down and crack open the case to take a look-see. My first impression was iBuyPower is definitely pushing the gaming PC aesthetic as a selling point. I get it, in a world full of RGB you have to have an initial flash of style to just get someone to look your way. Well, the Trace 4 has style.
The Trace 4 case is a good base to start a build in. The primarily black case comes with a tempered glass panel on its left side but doesn’t go with a see-through front panel. Instead, the solid black front has two angled RGB strips built-in that give it a sleek look. Instead of placing the fans directly behind the front panel, there are 3 120mm fans positioned at the front of the right-side panel. A fourth 120mm fan is located in the usual position at the top of the back panel. There is also a top vent that can accommodate two more 120mm fans right above the motherboard.
All four of the existing fans are plugged into an RGB controller located on the back of the motherboard tray and can be synced up with the front panel strips. The included ASRock lighting software covers all of the basic lighting patterns like strobes and waves but more advanced programming isn’t available. Fortunately, there is an All Off option in the lighting if you aren’t a fan of RGB.
The tempered glass side panel has a 1” plastic bezel on the interior side of the glass that holds it in place. Two ears secure it on the bottom and two grommets snap it into place on top. A single screw on the back panel locks it into place if you need to move the case, but the ears and grommets are enough to hold it in place without any vibration during normal use.
The metal panel on the tray side of the motherboard is held in place by two screws, and once they are removed it is easily slid back and then pulled away from the case. Taking off the side panel reveals two 2 ½” SSD bays, one of which is already occupied. The cabling on the backside is secured and is neatly run along the case. The power supply isn’t a modular design, though, so there is a lot of extra cabling shoved into the back of the power supply shroud.
The 9310 uses a Micro ATX motherboard so the case is actually larger than necessary. Inside, the larger case gives a more open look than a Mini case would, with all the RGB lighting it up to good effect. The motherboard is made of black PCB and has white accents which help catch the light put off by the fans. A black power supply shroud and use of black cables help finish off the crisp, clean interior, making the system worthy of a place on your desk as opposed to under it.
When it comes to ventilation, the Trace 4 is designed to adequately cool the 9310. There are vents cut out on the right panel that provides ample airflow to the three front fans; more than many of the front tempered glass designs have. Adding a couple of exhaust fans to the top of the case would complement the single rear fan, but even without a balanced airflow, the components stay cool during use.
The front and top vents (as well as the vent on the bottom of the case for the power supply) all have removable filters to help reduce dust entering the case. The top filter is held in place with magnets while the side and bottom filter have a plastic frame. The bottom filter slides in and out easily for cleaning, and although you have to open the side panel to gain access, the side filter is also removable.
As far as connectivity goes, the Trace 4 case is fairly standard. Along with the power button on the top of the case you’ll find 2 USB 3.0 ports and a set of 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks. It is nice to see that both of the front ports are of the 3.0 variety instead of slower 2.0 ports.
The back of the case is more of the same. On the motherboard input/output plate there are 4 more USB 3.0 and 2 USB 2.0 ports available. There is also an old PS2 style mouse/keyboard connector on the off chance you would need one. The backplate also has another microphone jack along with two audio jacks for surround sound. Rounding out the backplate is the unused HDMI port (only used for CPUs with integrated graphics) along with the Wi-Fi antenna connectors and an ethernet port.
The last items of note on the back of the case are the graphic card’s outputs. There is a single HDMI 2.0b port alongside 3 DisplayPort v1.3. Although this amount of connectors is standard, you’ll probably only be using one of the ports given the rendering power of the card.
For anyone who wants a quick answer to whether the Trace 4 9310 is a decent gaming rig, the easy answer is definitively, yes! I am going to throw down a bunch of gaming benchmarks here to give an idea of what type of performance you can expect in your games, but suffice it to say that if you’re looking for 1080p, 60 frames per seconds, with medium to high settings, iBuyPower has you covered. If that’s all you need to know, feel free to skip the graphs and blah blah blah that I’m about to go through and head straight to the next section.
For anyone still interested, all of these tests were completed using the default Ultra, High, and Medium settings for each game. The only settings that were changed was turning V-Sync and any frame limiters off. Benchmarks were run three times at each setting with the average frames per second displayed here.
As you can see, Ultra settings varied greatly. Two games, Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs, crashing multiple times at Ultra settings, probably due to a lack of VRAM. Most games were able to hit the 60 fps standard at high settings, with a few needing to be dropped down to medium to reach it. Frame rates were horrible in Godfall at any setting but, given the 9310 doesn’t meet the minimum specs for that game, it should be expected.
Call of Duty: Warzone doesn’t have a benchmark mode. Since it’s so popular right now I did spin it up and play a few matches. With the default Ultra settings, I was seeing frame rates consistently in the 90+ range. I did notice dips down into the 70s, but that was still plenty fast to give me stutter-free gameplay. Given the high results on Ultra, I didn’t even try it on High or Medium. All of this was done very unscientifically which is why it isn’t on the graph above. It should still serve well enough to conclude CoD: Warzone playable at any setting.
Passing grades in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider
I also ran some synthetic benchmarks to see how the 9310 does in general computing. Overall, it ranked well above the midpoint in both Passmark and PCMark 10. For anyone interested, the graphs will be shown further down in the review.
The Hardware - Tough Choices
With a $700 budget, even a do-it-yourselfer is going to have to make choices when building a computer. You simply can't get everything you want at that price. So, even with their bulk buying power, it's no surprise that iBuyPower had to make sacrifices as well. The benefit of a prebuilt is that the manufacturer takes on the task of finding balanced components that work well together. For the most part, iBuyPower did their due diligence when picking components and most everything they have put together makes sense.
For the CPU, they went with the AMD Ryzen 5 3600, a solid choice for even a mid-tier rig. Going with the 3600X or stepping up to a 3700 (for the extra cores) would add more cost than the slight bump in processing speed is worth. The 3600 is by no means future proof but it's plenty strong for today's games, especially when you target 1080p. For anyone making the move from console gaming to PC, the Ryzen 5 3600 is sure to blow them away.
An unassuming graphics card that performs better than it looks.
Picking a Radeon RX 5500 XT graphics card is also a great choice for 1080p gaming. Truth be told, even though marketing buzzwords like 1440p, 4K gaming, and ray tracing all sound great, you’re not going to find the type of hardware needed for that performance anywhere in this price range. Anyone wanting to play at 4K resolution or have ray tracing at an acceptable level is going to be spending as much or more than this complete system costs on their video card alone. 1080p resolution is the only realistic target at this price range, so giving you a more powerful video card than the 5500 XT is a waste of money.
The mini ATX motherboard comes with some trade-offs but fits this build perfectly. Due to the compact design of the board, there is only enough room for the single full-sized PCIe slot that holds the graphics card. Having extra full-size slots for future expansion isn't as important as it used to be though. Another slot for a second graphics card is no longer necessary since SLI support is practically gone now, and most anything else that required an expansion slot is built into the motherboard. That includes the rear audio jacks for 7.1 surround sound and both an ethernet port and 802.11ac WiFi for hooking up to your home network and internet. Should you have a need for an internal card of some sort, there is one available PCIe 2.0 x1 slot.
The same principle applies to having just two RAM slots instead of the four that full-size boards offer. AMD CPU performance is nearly identical whether two or four sticks are used, so most users don’t ever add more than two sticks to their system. And two slots is still enough to hit 32gb of RAM, which should be enough to future proof the Trace for several years.
Doing better than 66% of the world in Passmark testing.
Then we get to storage. A small hard drive is like a studio apartment. It gets the job done but any time you want to bring in something new you have to figure out what to get rid of. In a similar fashion, the Adata SU360 SSD is not very big, coming in at just 240GB. Windows 10 Home Edition and the ASRock RGB software are the only programs installed at the factory, leaving about 190GB of that precious drive space for games, productivity software, and miscellaneous files like videos or pictures. With many AAA games these days requiring well over 50GB to install you'll be lucky to pack three, possibly four games onto the hard drive at any one time. If you prefer smaller indie titles that 190GB will feel much roomier.
I have to pause for a moment to commend iBuyPower for not adding in Bloatware. All of the extra software some companies throw into their systems simply isn’t necessary and is a pain in the butt to get rid of. Many consumers won’t even realize they are getting popups about antivirus or other software from the preloaded junk, and won’t know to delete it to regain the space it is taking up on their hard drive. Thank you iBuyPower for giving as much space as possible on the hard drive and letting the consumer make their own software choices.
Ok, back to the hard drive. The SSD size is an inconvenience but I have to admit that, no matter how much drive space you have, sooner or later you will fill it up. When you decide it’s time to add more storage, there is plenty of room for additional drives inside the Trace 4 case. There is a single M.2 slot on the motherboard that could hold a super fast NVMe drive. Another option would be to slap a second solid state drive next to the SU360 that's already in the computer, giving you great performance at a more reasonable price compared to an NVMe drive. Lastly, for anyone who doesn’t want to store files in the Cloud, there is room to fit two mechanical hard drives in front of the power supply shroud. Unfortunately, for anyone who hasn’t gone fully digital yet and still uses disks, there isn’t any access to the internal drive bays so your only option here is to go with an external Blu-Ray player.
Like the hard drive, iBuyPower made sacrifices with RAM, equipping the 9310 with a single 8GB stick. 8GB is considered to be the absolute minimum for a PC these days and most people, including myself, would recommend 16GB for any serious gamer playing AAA titles. Less RAM will result in longer load times and can cause stuttering during gameplay as data is moved back and forth between RAM and the hard drive. You will also notice a slowdown in performance if you have multiple programs running or when doing memory intensive activities like video editing.
PCMark 10 mirrors the results from the Passmark test.
When it comes to RAM, size matters but it's not the only thing to consider. RAM also has speed ratings. The two ratings that matter here are data rate, often seen as 2666 MHz, 3200 MHz, or even higher, and latency timings. The RAM in the 9310 is rated at 2666 MHz with CL19 timings. Both of these are relatively slow these days and will have an impact on CPU performance. This performance bottleneck is amplified by only having one stick of RAM, effectively halving the data rate to 1333 MHz. When you combine all three aspects - RAM amount, data rate, and timings - iBuyPower’s choice of RAM is a weak link.
While the CPU and GPU aren’t top of the line models, they hold their own in 1080p gaming. The Ryzen 3600 has been regarded as the sweet spot for low and mid-tier gaming machines, swinging well above its weight class when price is a factor. The RX5500 XT is also a great choice for gaming, though the 4GB of VRAM is a limiting factor, as shown by Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla crashing more times than not at Ultra settings. It does perform well across the spectrum of games at high and/or medium settings, exactly where I would expect a sub $1000 computer to perform.
As I’ve already stated, the hard drive and RAM were where iBuyPower made the tough choice to cut costs. Now, every cloud has a silver lining, and iBuyPower’s choices are no different. Both RAM and SSD drives are relatively cheap when compared to CPUs and GPUs, so skimping on the former makes much more sense than the latter as far as I’m concerned. RAM should be your first stop on the upgrade path and a matching stick can be found on Amazon for around $40. I would suggest grabbing a pair of no-frills (aka no RGB) 8GB 3200MHz sticks for $60 to $70 to resolve all of the issues the ADATA stick causes. And when you decide you need more hard drive space, the ADATA SU630 will still serve as a capable boot drive to hold Windows and a few other pieces of software, with whatever you decide to add in acting as your primary gaming storage.
Peripherals And A Few Extras
Like the hardware performance, I was pleased with the extras that the Trace 4 9310 packed in. I already mentioned how the system comes with a small but speedy solid-state drive instead of a larger, slower mechanical drive. There’s also the inclusion of on-board Wi-Fi, something that isn’t always included in this price range. Wi-Fi is a great add-in if this isn’t your main PC and alleviates the need to run cables all over the house to hook into to your home network. And although it isn’t listed as a feature of the Trace 4 9310, the ASRock motherboard that came in this loaner also has Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity. One of the downsides to choosing a prebuilt system instead of buying a much more expensive custom-built PC is the manufacturer doesn’t always use the exact same components on each system due to the availability of each piece. They will always choose similar components that meet the listed minimum specs and sometimes you will get lucky and get bonus functionality that you didn’t expect, as was the case here.
Enough about the hardware, let’s get into what else you are getting with a Trace 4 9310. When it comes to peripherals I would expect a low-quality mouse and keyboard to be included. At first touch, the plastic iBuyPower branded keyboard feels light and flimsy. It is easily twisted if held on each end but not to the point where it would be any concern during regular use. Typing on the membrane keys is quiet compared to clicky tactile keys on a mechanical keyboard, a plus in my book. Unlike many membrane keyboards, key activation requires a firm press and gives a decent amount of tactile feedback; no squishy feeling or accidental keypresses here. Another positive is an additional row of keys and a dial knob along the top of the board to handle multimedia control and general Windows shortcuts (email, internet, calculator, and web browser). The only real negative to the key layout is the lack of a Windows key on the left side of the bottom row of keys, something that is fairly standard on most keyboard layouts.
The Aries M2 mouse, like the keyboard, is very light and has a cheap plastic feel. Along with the typical two buttons and wheel, there are also two thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse. In practical use, it works just fine. It slides smoothly across my mouse pad and I haven’t had any misclicks or other issues.
Both peripherals have RGB lighting with very basic options. The RGB software included with the computer does not control the mouse or keyboard, nor is there any documentation included noting how to adjust the lighting. After trial and error, I learned that I could cycle through the limited options on the keyboard with multiple presses of the function and scroll lock key. As for the mouse, the only options I have been able to get are switching between a rainbow cycle and a solid red pulse by holding down one of the buttons directly behind the mouse wheel.
The keyboard and mouse are far from high quality, but I honestly can't say that I would expect anything better in a pre-built system at this price point. In fact, they function as well or better than the $30 to $40 combo sets I have purchased in the past, and the inclusion of RGB is a nice touch.
Looking To The Future
In the PC world, new hardware is coming out all the time. Even with that, the life of a gaming PC is longer now than it’s ever been. Mid range components will never give you the power of a $2000+ computer but in the sub $1000 market we’re looking for a decent gaming rig that will last a little while before needing to be upgraded. On that front, the benchmarks above show the 9310 performs well enough to handle most any game out there today. It should continue to do so for quite a while.
If and when you do get the upgrade itch everything about the 9310 says it will be able to handle it. The best thing about the choices iBuyPower made is they give a clear path to follow in terms of upgrading. As I already mentioned above, your first upgrades will probably be more storage and RAM. The easy to open case makes these additions quick and easy. They are also the cheapest upgrades so getting more performance out of the 9310 won’t break the bank.
When you’re ready to start shelling out the cash, your next stop would be the graphics card. If consistent frame rates on Ultra settings is your goal then you’re going to need something with more than the 4GB of VRAM the current card has.
A huge plus about the 9310’s upgrade path is the CPU won’t have to be fiddled with for quite a while. In every gaming benchmark, the GPU was the limiting factor, and the Ryzen 3600 will keep that edge at 1080p unless you throw in an ultra-powerful graphics card. And as you move into 1440p or 4k gaming the CPU will still hold its own as the graphics card starts to strain under the increased load.
The expected longevity of the Ryzen 3600 also means that you won’t have to change out the motherboard any time soon. The A320M chipset can hold up to 32GB of RAM, enough to handle anything a typical user would throw at it. The NVMe slot gives you the option to add in some super-fast storage as well and upgrading to get PCIe Gen 4 slots isn’t really worth it for gaming. The Trace 4 case is big enough to hold a regular ATX motherboard but, honestly, by the time you need a motherboard upgrade you’re probably ready to start a DIY project anyway.
So Who Wants One?
Ok, I have to admit that before touching the iBuyPower Trace 4 9310 I expected to be underwhelmed by its performance. Now, after spending the last few weeks with it, my mind has been changed. This unit was only a loaner, but I would gladly keep it as an upgrade to the kiddo's computer. She agrees, saying that, “Keeping it would be SWEEEET!” I’ll take that as a 12-year-old’s stamp of approval on the 9310.
Nothing about the 9310 screams cutting edge but the components used in this build provide a solid, well-balanced gaming machine capable of running modern AAA titles with acceptable performance. Even the weak points found in the RAM and hard drive are about size and not quality. There are plenty of manufacturers out there that put PCs together with the cheapest components they can find to increase profits, and that isn’t the case here.
So what about going the DIY route instead? According to all those YouTube videos out there you should be able to build a good computer for $700, right? Well, their builds don’t include peripherals or an operating system, something our pre-built here does. They also use a wide assortment of hardware, some older than what we have in the 9310, and many end up with lower results than I found with the 9310.
To try and get as close a comparison between a DIY build and the 9310 I did a quick mock-up of the system on PCPartPicker using as many of the actual components as possible. When I couldn’t find the exact part I picked something with comparable specs. For the case and peripherals, I chose the cheapest options with a similar style.
The build I created on PCPartPicker would cost $751.04. And that was before adding in a copy of Windows 10! Even going bare-bones on the case and fans only dropped the price a little bit. Even if you could whittle the price down to within a few dollars of the 9310, you still have to put your DIY build together. All in all, this shows the convenience and value of going prebuilt.
Overall, the Trace 4 9310 is a nice looking, well-balanced system that doesn't break the bank. I honestly don't think I could do any better putting a system together myself. If you are looking for a 1080p gaming system and can accept that not every title will be able to run at Ultra settings, then the Trace 4 9310 would be perfect for you. It would fit right at home as a primary gaming rig or under your desk in your home office. It would be great as a second computer to get the kids off of your own gaming PC and would work great for their virtual classroom as well. And if you happen to be a console gamer that hasn’t been able to hunt down a next-gen console, maybe this is the time to dig deep and pay the difference to move up to the wonderful world of PC gaming. You’ll never go back.The product discussed in this review was sent on loan from iBuyPower and will be returned following publication.