Review: The MicroFlex 47B delivers outstanding Haswell-powered performance at a reasonable price

Credit: ROBERT CARDIN
At a Glance
  • Micro Express MicroFlex 47B

    PCWorld Rating

    Excellent performance at a reasonable price make the Flex 47B a superb, if unassuming, desktop for power users.

The desktop PC gets a bad rap. It’s cheap, dependable, and oh so customizable. It’s just just not sexy enough to keep the eye of HP, Sony, and the industry’s other big players from straying to the lucrative mobile market. Even Intel’s new line of processors, the highly-anticipated fourth-generation Core chips so boringly codenamed Haswell, are designed with notebooks and tablets top of mind. But we’ll forgive Intel for that, because these new parts are faster, they’re more efficient, and they feature better integrated graphics performance than any of their Ivy Bridge predecessors.

Hold the phone! Two of those three enhancements are meaningless to desktop PC buyers. Who cares how much power your PC sucks down? And if you outgrow your video card, you just save up the cash for an upgrade, right? Right. Performance today and easy upgrades when you need them are what’s really important. That must be why Micro Express chose this flat-black megalith of a case and filled it with the delicious components that make up the surprisingly affordable MicroFlex 47B.

The MicroFlex 47B has the distinction of being the first Haswell-equipped desktop PC to come through the PCWorld test lab. It boasts a 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-4770K, 16GB of DDR3/1600 memory, and an Nvidia GeForce FTX 680 discrete graphics card with its own 2GB. Those components reside in an Asus Z87-Pro motherboard. The operating system resides on a 512GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD, and there’s a 1TB, 7200-rpm mechanical drive for storing all your data.

With specs like those, it should come as no surprise that the MicroFlex tore through our Desktop Worldbench 8.1 benchmark suite, settling with a score of 421. That makes it four times faster than the relatively tame Acer Aspire U desktop machine we’ve established as our 100-point reference. (It's also faster than the Intel reference motherboard with desktop Core i7-4770K that we benchmarked). What we did find remarkable about this monster is how quietly it went about humiliating the competition, even while playing the latest PC games with all the quality settings turned up to maximum.

Click here to get the whole scoop on Intel's 4th-generation Core processors.

The system was able to churn out BioShock Infinite at 1080p resolution, with its visual quality settings at Ultra, at 78 frames per second. And when we cranked up the game’s resolution to our 30-inch monitor’s native resolution of 2560 by 1600 resolution, the Flex still delivered a respectably rock-solid 46 frames per second.

The MicroFlex’s oversized Cooler Master case is easy to get into: Just remove two screws and pull the handle. There’s plenty of room inside, and on the motherboard, for storage or expansion. The front of the case is crowned by a rewritable Blu-Ray drive, a multiformat card reader, four USB ports (two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0), and microphone and headphone jacks.

The rear panel sports six more USB 3.0 ports, VGA and DVI out for the Core i7-4770K’s integrated graphics processor (plus DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs on the discrete video card), eSATA, gigabit Ethernet ports, six optical jacks for various flavors of audio input/output, and a pair of antennas for the onboard wireless 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi adapter. And of course, you can’t forget about the GTX 680’s HDMI and DVI ports.

You won’t get a lot of gonzo features on the Flex 47B. There’s no plastic tubing filled with exotic coolants coursing over the components, for instance, and there’s no custom paint job. What you do get is quietly phenomenal performance for a very reasonable price tag.

Get the whole scoop on Intel's 4th-generation Core launch right here.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Excellent performance at a reasonable price make the Flex 47B a superb, if unassuming, desktop for power users.

    Pros

    • 4th-gen Core i7 processor delivers excellent performance
    • Neatly organized case leaves plenty of room for expansion
    • Stays whisper-quiet while playing demanding PC games

    Cons

    • 650-watt power supply is ill-prepared for multi-GPU upgrades
    • Ugly black megalith of a case
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