There are plenty of options for anyone looking to spend less than $1500 on a rig. These entry-level gaming PCs offer up a good foundation for future upgrades but also mean you don’t miss out on playing the newest games like Elden Ring at decent settings.
Personally, I think these PCs are often more interesting to check out than your $4,000 bruiser that’ll play any game at 4K and beyond. While those are fun to mess around with, the reality is most people don’t have that kind of scratch sitting in their bank accounts. The real challenge for system builders is providing a solid gaming experience, with the right components, for those without limitless funds.
Named after the Egyptian God of War, the $1500 ($1,494 to be exact) CLX Set gaming PC is looking to place at the top of the pack in a crowded field of PCs all looking for space on your desktop. This compact gaming PC makes a good first impression out of the box, but much like the Egyptian Gods of Old, they can be fickle deities.
The build I’ve received is from the CLX Set series desktops in a small form factor, micro ATX case. There’s a pretty in-depth PC configurator on the website that lets you decide pretty much every component down to closed loop liquid cooling options.
There are little boxes that tell you what sort of frame rate to expect from a handful of games. I would have liked to have seen some more contemporary games used in these sorts of part picker features on system builder sites. I’m sure GTA V is still very popular, but it’s also almost a decade old.
I was able to make a duplicate of the Set PC I was sent on the configurator to see what sort of lead time I’d get, which worked out at roughly two weeks. There doesn’t seem to be much of a markup on components, either. Hell, even the GPUs seem reasonably priced which is becoming more and more of a welcome sight.
CLX does also offer ready-to-ship PCs they can get out to you in a matter of days, though those can not be customized, which is a pretty common practice.
Inside this PC are neatly packed components ensuring that no space is wasted within the white CLX Mini-ITX chassis, with the requisite tempered glass side panel. Between the RAM and 120mm fans, the RGB-laden components provide a hell of a light show in the tight quarters, which are themselves controlled by software, or the LED button on the front panel.
Speaking of components, an AMD Ryzen 5 5600X, 16GB RAM, and an RTX 3060 GPU are powering the Set. We’ve seen how well the GeForce RTX 3060 performs as a lower-budget GPU on these systems and this time is no different. The Ryzen 5 CPU on the other hand didn’t really perform up to the task, as you’ll see shortly.
Despite the lack of space, CLX still manages to pack in a full RTX 3060 GPU with some room to spare. It’s a strange reversal from the system Redux sent, which had a motherboard and components sized for a much smaller case, despite sitting in a mid-sized chassis leaving an unusual amount of empty space within the PC.
As you can see from the benchmarks, the Set’s closest rivals are the aforementioned Redux ‘Good’ PC and the NZXT Streaming PC in performance. Surprisingly, the Set’s CPU benchmark scores lag a bit behind its slightly cheaper competitors. It was strange seeing it score less than the NZXT Streaming PC (which has the same CPU). The Set ran hotter than the others by a few degrees which could explain some of its disappointing performance.
Thankfully, the Set performed slightly better on our gaming benchmarks, pretty much going neck-and-neck with the Redux and NZXT’s PCs (both with RTX 3060 GPUs). The only game where it seemed to shine was Hitman 3, which had nearly a dozen frames on average over the competition. Everything else was a couple of frames above or below its commonly priced foes.
Where I did see the system struggle was running F1 2021. For some reason, the CLX crashed every time I tried running the benchmark, and even trying to start a quick race resulted in a crash of the software kind, not the car kind. Usually, when I have trouble with a PC, it’s usually Metro Exodus which is the pain point; that ran well with no issues.
Hitman 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn didn’t see any of these issues either. Though, if you’re thinking about 1440p gaming, the Set’s performance wasn’t all that great. So, stick to 1080p, which is the resolution where the RTX 3060 does its best work, and the only place where you can consistently hit over 60 fps on medium to high settings in most modern games.
Despite having identical hardware to the Omen 45L, the Scarab maintains a lead in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Red Dead Redemption 2. I should note, however, that the Neuron and 45L were tested a few months ago on older drivers, which could have given an advantage to the Scarab. But even if that’s the case, we’re talking about a few more frames, not an extra 10 or 20 for the other desktops. The Scarab is clearly a bit faster here, or at worst, tied for first place.
One thing to note is that these are 4K, max quality settings benchmarks, and the Scarab only dipped below 60 frames per second (fps) in Cyberpunk 2077. It’s not shocking that it’s getting 220 fps in Civilization VI, but its performance in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Red Dead Redemption 2 is definitely impressive, and for people who prefer better visual fidelity, the frame rate is high enough.
If you were to aim for really high frame rates like 240fps or more, you shouldn’t have any problems with the Core i9-12900K, one of the fastest gaming CPUs. You could also choose a configuration using the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which is just as fast in games while costing significantly less than the 12900K.
In 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark, we see basically the same thing we saw in gaming benchmarks. With over a 2,000 point lead, the Scarab is about 10% faster than the 45L, which is pretty impressive given they use the same CPU and GPU. Cooling is really important, and while I think nine fans is overkill, they’re certainly proving their worth.
Given the Scarab’s price, it’s good that it’s at the top of the charts (and it kind of needs to be). This is definitely one of the fastest PCs we’ve ever tested, and CLX has done an admirable job making sure the 3090 has the thermal headroom to perform the best it can. (via digital trend)
I was happy to see a 1TB SSD for storage; recently the systems we’ve been sent at this price range only offered 500GB SSDs, which frankly isn’t enough for a current gamer’s library of games and media. It’s always our recommendation when we review anything less than 1TB to immediately upgrade the storage when you’re trying to price out a system for yourself.
One big concern is the noise level on the Set, which it’s safe to say is not whisper quiet. The tiny system is surprisingly loud even when it’s sitting idle. There was a constant loud hum of the five 120mm case fans working overtime. It’s one thing to hear some noise during a demanding game, but just watching Netflix? That may be a deal breaker for some. For me, it was the noise bleeding into my game chats and work calls that rubbed me the wrong way.
Another common downside to these recent $1,500 builds we have been reviewing has been the lack of USB Type-C ports on the front and back panels. A place where the NZXT Streaming PC stood out. Considering that USB Type-C is the best way to get the most out of devices like external SSDs, webcams, and microphones, it’s always a shocker not to see them. But hey, I get trying to keep costs low and motherboards can be pricey.
CLX’s Set Scarab is a nice-looking micro ATX system, with decent 1080p gaming performance, for $1,500. The system’s noise levels and underwhelming CPU showing, however, don’t make a really compelling case for the machine considering what else is available out there for the same price
Should you buy it?
Yes, but only if you choose top-end parts like the Core i9-12900K or the RTX 3090. The Scarab is too expensive if you configure it as a midrange PC and can cost over a thousand dollars more than value-oriented gaming desktops with the same components.