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
Gigabit ethernet
2x USB 2.0
Speaker, mic, line-in, and surround jacks for 7.1 sound
2x DVI-D
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.

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  • HangFire - Thursday, June 9, 2011 - link

    Folks get so obsessed about the performance difference between Phenom II and i7 that they forget the biggest bottleneck in any system is spinning rust. For gaming systems this might be tolerated in lieu of a bigger video card, but if you want a balanced system and a responsive computer for all purposes, a small SSD makes a lot of sense.

    At home my personal/primary box is a 550BE unlocked/overclocked, but the real performance boost is when I put a 64GB C300 in as the Gentoo boot disk and moved the HDD to storage duties. It boots in seconds and builds packages in half the time. I have portage on HDD but do builds on ramdisk.

    The difference in this system before & after is amazing, all for $99 (Shell Shocker special).

    Also, no problems here with G.Skill.
  • Termie - Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - link

    I'm curious why Dustin criticized the choice of G.Skill memory, instead of Corsair, Crucial, or Kingston. In my experience, G.Skill makes excellent RAM at competitive prices. My G.Skill has way more overclocking headroom than my similarly-rated Corsair, as well as better designed (shorter) heatsinks. At the same price, I'd always go G.Skill over Corsair, and wouldn't even consider Crucial or Kingston.

    Based on forum posts, I think most people would agree that G.Skill is a good choice.
  • Arbie - Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - link

    We've got years of info and experience with these and they remain the high water mark in more than one way.

    Also, FYI, the correct saying is "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

    Thanks for an interesting review. I often wonder what I could get off the rack for right around this price point, in particular how well it would game and how hot & noisy it might be at low loads.

    In comparison, the top-end boutique boxes are of little interest, because at those levels I would always build rather than buy. I usually don't even skim through such reviews.
  • L. - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Let's see, I just built a system for a guy, charged him 150 euros for config and tweaking (including OC'ing to max on air), and the result is 50 fps average in Metro (anand settings), 41 in Heaven Unigine, etc.

    And still, his machine cost him less than a grand, service included.

    Oh and by the way, if you live in Europe where shipping is not too expensive, I can do it for you too -- think I got an account on them anandtech forums - name "morg."

    This piece of crap should not exist, it costs a lot, it's made from the crappiest parts, come on a gtx 460 ? why not put an integrated Intel GMA ? - in all seriousness the build-makers there should've taken a 6870 or a 6950 -- hell that'd have made huge savings on the PSU/cooling side of things.

    And COME ON, who the fuck wants to buy an AMD CPU today ???
    There's that i5-2500k which Oc's (for me so far anyway) pretty easily to 5Ghz on air, it costs 280 bucks for mobo+cpu ... why would you go to that phenomcrap which is barely cheaper and totally underpowered (Ok, it's not an SLI you don't really need the horsepower -- until you're using the cpu for real).

    DDR3-1333 ? hello ? we're in 2011 ?
    The case is an ok-choice if you like toy-like pc's - otherwise antec 100 does exactly the same job while not looking like kiddie stuff.

    Then let's see ... optical drive ?? I hate optical, but I have to admit this one is an ultra failure, when combo blu-ray readers /dvd writers cost 50 bucks ... lol

    Oh and look at how cute they are, they put in an SSD !!! woot ... a goddamn 100 bucks SSD in a config where they wouldn't shell 175 bucks for a CPU or 200 bucks for a GPU ??

    Seriously... and those people talk to gamers -- my ass.

    Now I like your conclusion Mr. "IwroteTheArticle", but in all seriousness it's friggin off.
    You said 250bucks on parts ? I can get an I5-2500k, all gigabyte, HD6950, etc. for 811 bucks. And this is not it, this is old crappy tech that just came out of the depths of their garage, the cpu is almost end-of-life, the ram is 2 years old...

    But the most important is the following :
    Between the reasonably smart component choices, the solid build quality, and the generally good value, I see no reason not to give the WarFactory Sentinel our recommendation.

    Seriously, I know you don't know enough about hardware to do excellent reviews, and I really don't mind as you take into account other persons' sensibilities to price / pre-made and that stuff.

    But honestly, the component choices is all shit except the box, nowhere close to an optimal perf/dollar build by any stretch.

    I see every friggin reason to say this out loud : This build is a failure and a waste of money, it costs 300 bucks more than parts for my i5-2500k standard build, which I sell around 950 and which much more importantly, has two times the horsepower in CPU or GPU tasks -> yes I do get 50 fps avg in Metro2033 bench with your settings.

    Said it before, will say it again, you want solid advice and conclusions, just ask me, but please stop spreading nonsense on a "respectable" informative website --
  • L. - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Oh and I forgot one thing, wanna spice up the deal ?
    For that same Target Price as the box here and say a 200 bucks service fee, I can give you another unlocked+Oc'd HD6950 to put in there ... you know have a setup that kills almost every boutique build except some extremely rare 5Ghz+ with OC gtx580 sli's in anything beyond 2560* -

    And that's for the same price as the phenom-460-attic-build piece of crap presented here ...
  • molecriket - Friday, June 10, 2011 - link

    Although Amd is behind the intel stuff there are reasons to go AMD. The first is the price, Amd beats all Intel prices. What do you want your computer to do? Probably no more than AMD does, so mabye you can save money.
    I always use Amd and my customers always thank me, I save 30 to 50% and it runs like a top and lasts longer.
    We are at the point of price and not 10 ms. faster, not to mention reliability which AMD rules and I wait for Bulldozer.
  • Lasthitlarry - Sunday, June 12, 2011 - link

    I've been looking around and I could be wrong, but there seems to be a misprint or something for the processor.

    AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition
    (spec: 4x3.2GHz, 45nm, 6MB L3, 95W)

    should either be the 945 with 3.0GHz cores or it should be pulling 125W, not 95W

    I'm gonna lean towards 125W since the PSU is so beefy.

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