Gladiator Titan Extreme review
Gladiator has gone all-out this month to show us what ‘ultimate PC’ really means. The basis of the Titan Extreme is Asetek’s VapoChill Extreme Edition XE II case with built-in phase-change cooling, which lets Gladiator overclock the brand-new, super-fast AMD FX-57 by a hefty 600MHz.
It’s easy to be sceptical about overclocking. We rarely see significant speed improvements, and running components faster means they get hotter, creating more noise and potentially shortening their lifespan. However, there are no longevity worries here. The refrigeration unit uses liquids with boiling points of -48C, so when these liquids evaporate at the cooling site on the CPU it can negate 180W worth of heat while maintaining a cooling site temperature of -10C. The gas is then sucked up into the condenser unit, cooled back into a liquid through the radiator at the front of the case and pumped back to the cooling site. Even under extreme duress, we didn’t see the CPU temperature rise above 0C.
And this duress test yielded impressive scores. The overall score of 3.95 is unprecedented. We were also amazed at how quickly applications installed and ran. This is partly due to the striped array of enormous 500GB Hitachi Deskstar disks (providing 931GB of usable storage), 1GB of overclocked (450 rather than 400MHz) Mushkin RAM and the fast-spinning, slot-loading Plextor DVD writer.
There’s a downside to the Titan Extreme, though. The FX-57 has only one processing core, so multitasking can still get the better of the system. For example, while running Far Cry and wanting to Alt-Tab out to check driver settings, we were kept waiting. Part of the FX series’ appeal to enthusiasts is the unlocked multiplier. But even when that’s exploited to the extreme, this extra speed will become eclipsed by dual-core processors, which still have a second core waiting to be utilised by the next generation of multithreaded software. In our 3ds max rendering test, the Titan Extreme took one minute, 50 seconds to render a scene rather than one minute, 18 seconds from a stock Athlon X2 4800+. And while you could replace the processor in this system, it isn’t a job for the faint-hearted.
There’s no dispute elsewhere though. Two new GeForce 7800 GTX cards sit in SLI on the DFI LanParty UT nF4 SLI-D motherboard – the fastest arrangement currently available. These very impressive GPUs possess the rendering equivalent of two 6800 Ultras each, and Gladiator has overclocked them as well.
In conjunction with the overclocked FX-57, the Titan Extreme is without doubt the fastest gaming rig we’ve seen. At our baseline 1,280 x 1,024 with 4x antialiasing (AA) and 8x anisotropic filtering (AF), Half-Life 2 ran at 139fps, Far Cry at 97fps, and Doom 3 at 107fps. Scores still universally exceeded 60fps with all the detail and image enhancements we could find at 1,600 x 1,200. Even Far Cry running with the hugely demanding High Dynamic Range mode (HDR) averaged at 43fps at 1,600 x 1,200 with 8x AF. At a ridiculous 2,048 x 1,536 with maximum detail settings on, Half-Life 2 still ran at 96fps.
Gaming is improved by the Logitech MX1000 mouse with its laser optical sensor for improved control over your crosshair. It’s comfortable in the hand too. Opinion is divided over the CoolerMaster Q Alloy keyboard. While some liked the metal surface and minimalist appearance, others found typing on the notebook-style keys annoying.
Audio is provided by the Creative Audigy 4 Pro sound card, which feeds the 5.1 Creative i-Trigue 5600 speakers. These are both visually and aurally pleasing. In games, the subwoofer gives gunfire and engine sounds a rumbling punch, while the satellites produce loud and reasonably crisp surround sound. Movies benefit too, although the high range is a touch lacking when listening to music. Steinberg’s capable Cubase LE recording software is also bundled.