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Review unit specifications: Intel 3.33 GHz Core i7 980x CPU (water-cooled), twin ATI Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards in Crossfire, ASUSTek Rampage 3 Extreme motherboard, 6 GB Kingston HyperX DDR3 RAM at 1333 MHz, 1 TB Western Digital Caviar Black 7200 rpm SATA-II hard drive, 80 GB Intel X25-M Mainstream solid-state hard drive, Asus 12X BD-R Blu-ray optical drive (250 ms), Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OS
Price as configured: $4,525.00
Base price: $2,940.00
One of the reasons why the PC is the superior gaming platform is its flexibility. Game developers are limited by console hardware characteristics, which have changed very little (if at all) since the beginning of the current console generation. But with a PC, a developer is free to let his imagination run wild, because he knows that PC hardware is constantly evolving. The downside of all of this technology is its expense. A pre-built, mid-range gaming PC is quite an investment, and some bleeding-edge rigs can be priced higher than a decent used car.
Taking a bit of the edge off of gaming-PC sticker shock is PurePC, a new boutique system-builder based in the USA. They offer three desktop rigs (Bliss, Thrill and Power), ranging from around $1,000 to $3,000 with standard equipment. Each can be configured with substantial upgrades to their core components, including CPUs, graphics cards and storage devices. For the last week or so I’ve been putting one of their Power PCs through its paces, and the results are most impressive.
Let’s start with what the Pure Power has under the hood. For my review rig, Pure replaced the standard Intel Core i7 950 quad-core CPU with the i7 980x six-core, running at a non-overclocked 3.33 GHz. Keeping it cool is a custom water-cooler that makes the system so quiet, you barely notice it’s on (except when the case fans trigger, after which you definitely know it’s running). Gamers will appreciate the twin Radeon HD 5870 graphics cards in Crossfire mode, and the 6 GB of Kingston HyperX DDR3 RAM. System storage is handled by a smokin’-fast Intel 80 GB solid-state hard-drive, partnered with a 1 TB Western Digital Caviar SATA drive. Strangely missing from the Power’s standard equipment are a sound card and a wireless Internet device. Onboard motherboard audio has made great strides in years past, but a good sound card is usually better at bringing games to life. And in today’s media center-ready households with Internet devices in almost every room, a wireless card is almost a necessity. Both items can be added to all of Pure’s loadouts as options.
Housing all of this hardware is the very attractive NZXT Phantom full-tower case, featuring individual speed controls for up to five case fans, and more than enough room inside for today’s monstrous graphics cards. When you look inside the case, you see what is a wonder in case wiring; all of the various cables have been tucked away under the motherboard tray, making it incredibly easy to navigate inside the case. However, the Phantom also has two USB jacks placed on top. I’ve never been a fan of top-mounted USBs; if you put the tower on the floor, they’re fine, but if you put it on your desktop, wires can sometimes get in the way. Also, NZXT has replaced case feet with rubber strips, which prevent you from easily sliding the case across a desk. This forces you to lift the case to move it, which wouldn’t be so bad if the rig wasn’t so heavy, and if the front faceplate didn’t come off so easily (be careful where you grip the case before you lift it).
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