At $899, the NZXT BLD Starter PC Plus is a midtower gaming desktop from Los Angeles-based component manufacturer NZXT. One of NZXT’s well-designed cases is used for the BLD program, which is a preconfigured, ready to ship machine. Nothing about it is proprietary, and in our testing at 1080p or 1440p resolution with AMD’s Ryzen 5 2600 six-core CPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card, the Starter PC Plus performed admirably. It’s a good deal compared to Dell and Lenovo’s mainstream laptops, and it even comes with a two-year warranty. The BLD Starter PC Plus is our new favorite among value-oriented, prebuilt gaming towers thanks to its quiet cooling, good looks, and ample expansion room.
BLD Me a Thing of Worth
For $999, you get NZXT’s BLD Starter PC Plus, which comes with a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti instead of the base model’s GTX 1660 and twice the solid-state storage (1TB vs. 512GB). Yes, it’s a no-brainer to pay an additional $100 for the Plus model. The Starter PC’s 16GB of DDR4-3000 dual-channel memory and a copy of Windows 10 Home are also included in the Plus model.
It’s not always the case that mainstream PC makers have an advantage in pricing over smaller competitors. Although the Dell Inspiron Gaming Desktop (5680) tower had a GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card and a comparable Core i5-9400 processor, it included only 8GB of RAM and a less desirable storage combo of 256GB SSD/1TB HDD. If I could, I’d rather have a 1TB SSD in the Starter PC Plus, even though the total capacity is slightly less.) For $889 less than the Dell’s Legion T730 Tower, Lenovo’s T530 tower (similar to the T730 Tower we tested) performed better. To be competitive with NZXT, both Dell and the Dell need a memory upgrade (to 16GB). Modern gaming requires a minimum of 8GB of RAM, which isn’t enough for livestreaming or multitasking while playing.
These PCs come with one-year warranties from Dell and Lenovo. BLD Starter PC Plus comes with a two-year parts and labor warranty. Smaller PC manufacturers often advertise multiyear warranties, but only cover parts for the first year.
Our test configuration had components that I could build myself, so I shopped around to see if I could save money. In the end, it cost me only $50 less than the NZXT’s retail price. There is little point in building this configuration yourself if you’re just looking to save money because it’s already assembled and has a system warranty (rather than individual parts warranties, which you’d have if you built it yourself).
For $75, NZXT’s H500 mid-tower case is the basis for the BLD Starter PC Plus, which looks a lot like NZXT’s H500i we tested a while back. There’s a large tempered-glass panel on the left side of the vehicle, which provides an unobstructed view of the inside.
RGB lighting is present on some components, but the case does not. There is a pre-installed MSI Dragon Center software that lets you control the lighting on the MSI B450 Tomahawk motherboard’s top right corner and lower edge. There are also five lighting zones on each TeamGroup T-Force Delta DIMM. You’ll need Asus’ Aura Sync software in order to control this RAM’s color or pattern, but the MSI board only supports MSI’s RGB-control protocol, Mystic Light. The modules’ default color effects, though striking, will be the only ones you’ll be able to see. To my mind, they’re more than adequate.
Straight edges give the Starter PC Plus a clean, non-polarizing appearance. There is nothing out of the ordinary about the case’s dimensions (16.9 x 8.3 x 18.1 inches, HWD). NZXT provides a free white option for their test unit. The absence of bare steel on this tower is a plus for me.
The rolled-steel construction of the tower lends it a sense of stability. It is anchored to the ground by four large feet on its underside. Make sure you don’t slam into one of its corners; they’re extra-sharp in my opinion. In our test configuration, the tower weighs 20 pounds.
Easy Access to the Interior
The thumbscrew on the left-side panel must be unscrewed to gain access to the interior. To make removal easier, it leans outward.
The MSI ATX motherboard occupies the majority of the available space in the computer. When compared to the blacked-out case interior, this board has aggressive design features like branded heat shrouds. Because NZXT sells desktop RGB lighting kits as accessories, I’m surprised that this prebuilt model doesn’t include full case lighting as an option.
Ryzen 5 2600 processor is cooled by AMD Wraith Stealth air cooler.
The single M.2 Type-2280 PCI Express slot on this board is occupied by an Intel 660p 1TB SSD, which can be found directly below it.
After the motherboard, the next component is an MSI-branded GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics card, specifically the Ventus XS 6G OC model (which is slightly overclocked).
Even though the H500 case is capable of holding a full-length card, this card is slightly smaller than a typical two-slot desktop PCIe card.
Underneath the graphics card, an 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth card from MSI is installed. In order for the included antennas to work properly, they must be plugged in.
Cable management is provided by the raised metal bar to the right of the motherboard.
In this build, it wasn’t used, and it can be removed if you so choose. This side features a 120mm front fan and a 120mm rear fan.
Behind the right-side panel, which is held in place by two thumbscrews, are the traditional bays. An innovative pop-out caddie holds two 2.5-inch bays while a removable drive cage holds two 3.5-inch bays. Front fan dust filters are located in front of the cage, and another is built into the right-side panel’s right-hand edge. The power supply’s air intake is protected by an additional, removable filter on the desktop’s underside.
The BLD Starter PC Plus has a bottom-mounted power supply that is housed in its own compartment. A 500-watt rating and 80 Plus certification ensure that the components in our test setup will be adequately powered. If you ever decide to upgrade to a mid-range graphics card, this motherboard should be able to handle it. NZXT did a good job of routing and bundling the cables that were used, even though the Seasonic-brand unit in our test didn’t have modular ones.
Among the front ports are two USB Type-A 3.0 ports and a headphone and microphone jack. Next to them is where you’ll find the power button.
The BLD Starter PC Plus does not have a flash memory card reader.
However, the MSI motherboard has a lot of ports. The top of the device has two USB 2.0 ports and one PS/2 port. Nvidia graphics card has a dedicated DVI-D and HDMI video output, so those connectors are disabled just below them.
USB Type-A 3.0 and Type-C ports, an Ethernet jack, and six audio connectors complete the selection (microphone, line-in, line-out, and three surround jacks). One HDMI and three DisplayPort video outputs are provided by the GTX 1660 Ti graphics card.
Mainstream Gaming Expectations
Desktops you’ll notice are either below or above what’s included in the BLD Starter PC Plus, based on their component loadout.
While the HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop is a budget-friendly option, the more powerful Digital Storm and Origin PC desktops have more powerful processors and graphics cards. The Lenovo Legion T730 Tower is the closest match to the NZXT in this group.
Productivity and Storage
Performance suites developed by PC benchmark experts at UL have been dubbed PCMark 10 and 8. (formerly Futuremark). This test simulates various real-world productivity and content-creation workflows, which is why we use it. For tasks like word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and videoconferencing, we use it to measure overall system performance. To get a better score, the test generates a unique numerical value.
For the boot drive, we use the Storage subtest in PCMark 8 as a benchmark. Again, the higher the number, the better this score, which is also a proprietary numeric score.
The BLD Starter PC Plus scored well above the 4,000 points that we consider excellent in the PCMark 10 test, which is in line with expectations for its hardware. In PCMark 8 Storage, its value-oriented Intel 660p SSD performs well, but the HP Pavilion Gaming Desktop’s slow hard drive-based storage does not. Having a solid-state drive (SSD) is a smart investment.
Tests for Media Processing and Creation
This is followed by Maxon’s CPU-intensive Cinebench R15 test, which utilizes all of the processor’s cores and threads to the fullest extent possible. To render a complex image, Cinebench relies on the CPU rather than the GPU. In the end, the PC’s processor-intensive workload suitability is indicated by a proprietary score.
Here, the BLD Starter PC Plus performed well. The Lenovo tower beat it, but not by much. NZXT’s Ryzen 5 2600 has a TDP rating of just 65 watts compared to the 95-watt Core i7-8700TDP K’s rating. This is an impressive stat. The eight-core processors in the Digital Storm and Origin PC desktops, on the other hand, proved to be more powerful.
Additionally, we conduct a custom Photoshop image-editing test. You can apply a wide range of complex filters and effects in Photoshop using an early 2018 Creative Cloud release. In the end, we record the total execution time for each operation. It’s better to come at off-peak hours. However, most GPUs can be used to speed up filter application during the Photoshop test. As a result, systems with powerful graphics chips or cards may see a performance boost.
Due to its processor’s inability to handle this type of workload, the Starter PC Plus was unable to keep up with the Lenovo tower. In terms of photo-editing, it’s still a good option.
3DMark measures graphics power by rendering sequences of highly detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particle and lighting. 3DMark has two subtests, Sky Diver and Fire Strike, that are tailored to different types of systems. While both are DirectX 11 benchmarks, Fire Strike is more demanding and designed for high-end computers to show off their abilities. The scores are confidential.
An upgrade from a previous generation GPU makes a big difference. The GTX 1660 Ti in the BLD Starter PC Plus outperforms the Lenovo GeForce GTX 1060 in terms of gaming performance. Compared to the Digital Storm’s GeForce RTX 2070, this card isn’t nearly as powerful, but it’s a lot less expensive.
Unigine Corp.’s synthetic graphics test comes next. The Superposition test, like 3DMark, renders and pans through a detailed 3D scene and measures how the system copes with the task. An entirely different 3D workload scenario and another assessment of the machine’s graphical prowess can be found in this case, which is rendered in the company’s eponymous Unigine rendering engine.
The BLD Starter PC Plus is clearly capable of delivering more than 60 frames per second (fps) at 1080p High resolution. It should be able to handle any future games that come its way.
Gaming Tests in the Real World
3D aptitude can be assessed by using these synthetic tests, but full retail video games are the best way of assessing gaming performance. With built-in benchmarks, Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider demonstrate how a system handles real-world video games at different settings. Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider are tested at 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolutions in order to find the best balance of visuals and smooth gameplay for a given system. In addition to frames per second, the results are also presented in the form of a time stamp. DirectX 11 is used by Far Cry 5, while DirectX 12 is used by Rise of the Tomb Raider, as we demonstrate in the benchmark.
Another noticeable improvement over the Lenovo’s GTX 1060 is the BLD Starter PC Plus’ fluid numbers at 1080p and 1440p resolutions. However, playing these games at 4K/UHD resolutions isn’t easy, at least not without drastically reducing the detail settings. Only the Origin PC and its mighty RTX 2080 are capable of playing at 4K in this group of computers. However, the BLD Starter PC Plus’ total price is only about 70 percent of that of the card alone.
Cooling and Thermals
Cooling is quiet and effective in the BLD Starter PC Plus. An average temperature of 70 degrees C was reached during a half-hour gaming session in Shadow of the Tomb Raider on the MSI GTX 1660 Ti. At an average of 55 degrees Celsius, the AMD Wraith Stealth cooler kept the Ryzen 5 2600 processor cool. The temperature in the room where I tested was 72 degrees F.
The unit’s two 120mm fans (one for intake and the other for exhaust) were extremely quiet. Also nearly inaudible were the 120 mm fan in the power supply and the AMD cooler.
There is an exhaust grate on the top of the tower that can be used for another 120mm fan if desired, but this is unnecessary with the components in the Starter PC Plus because of their low power consumption. This desktop has a lot of air circulation.
Is More than a PC for Beginners
Prebuilt gaming desktops from NZXT are a great option. It has a two-year warranty because of its all-aftermarket assembly and two-year warranty. In the future, you can easily replace any part of the vehicle.
With that said, it’s an excellent value. BLD Starter PC Plus costs NZXT about the sum of what you’d pay for its components on the open market. The quality of the assembly and wiring makes it even more difficult to argue for the DIY route. As a DIY PC, but without the hassle of building it, it is essentially a well-assembled PC (or being your own tech support). In the same price range, Dell and Lenovo have similar configurations; however they don’t have this particular customization.
The NZXT BLD Starter PC is available for $899, but we think the Plus version is a better deal. For an additional $100, you can get a 1TB SSD and, more importantly, a GTX 1660 Ti graphics card with faster clock speeds. As a budget gaming desktop, it’s an excellent example of what can be achieved with the Ryzen 5 six-core processor and 16GB of RAM.