Vadim Custom Fusion 775G2-SLI review
Given the clear headroom for overclockability of the Core 2 architecture, it’s no surprise that enthusiast PC manufacturers have been quick to seize the opportunity afforded by the new Core 2 range. A new name in PC Pro, Vadim’s first effort is encouraging in its build quality and amazingly fast.
Both the processor itself and the twin GPUs of the 7950 GX2 graphics are water cooled, although the north bridge – which can get very hot on 975-chipset systems – remains air cooled by two fans. Not satisfied with a single large radiator unit taking up the entire bottom part of the double-sectioned Lian Li V2000 case, the Custom Fusion is fitted with another in the main section, along with a large reservoir cylinder.
The build is truly ostentatious and includes a transparent side panel through which you can see the insides in all their gaudy glory. All the cabling and tubing has been immaculately laid out and secured, and the bling factor is sent off the scale by a couple of UV lights and the addition of UV-sensitive water tubing, cables, cable wrapping and even UV-sensitive cable ties. The final push over the cliff of bad taste is provided by a blue fluorescent tube mounted on the underside of the case to enhance that souped-up Vauxhall Nova look.
Joking aside, this is a highly specified system at heart. Alongside the overclocked Core 2, there’s a full 2GB of RAM in the form of two 800MHz sticks, plus no fewer than three hard disks: two 320GB Seagate 7200.10 drives in a RAID0 array and a single 250GB Western Digital Caviar for backup and extra storage. That’s almost 1TB of fast storage in total. The drives are installed in rubberised vibration-reducing mounts, which will reduce irritating clattering, although it’s unlikely to reduce the sound level of the system as a whole. The reason for that is simple: not counting the power supply, there are five 120mm fans in the system (with three on the main water-cooling radiator alone). Then there are two 80mm rear exhaust fans, a 92mm unit blowing over the motherboard and the two small north bridge coolers too. With the efficiency of the water cooling, the fans don’t need to run fast, but the sheer number of them adds up to quite a hum.
A second downside of all the cooling is that there’s no room for extra drives, although with the three hard disks, a floppy drive and both a DVD-ROM and dual-layer DVD writer already fitted you’re unlikely to need it.
We were expecting that the Custom Fusion would be fitted with a Core 2 Extreme processor, but in fact underneath the water-cooling block there’s an E6700. Our review system came overclocked from the standard 2.66GHz up to 3.33GHz, achieved by setting the front-side bus speed on the Intel 975XBX motherboard to 1,333MHz from the standard 1,066MHz. If you’re confused about the fact that only the Extreme Edition CPUs should allow this sort of tweaking, Vadim uses an Intel tool to expose frequency settings and overclock the machine, but only in the factory before it gets to the customer. That means if you buy a Custom Fusion you won’t be able to tinker with the overclocking settings unless you subsequently buy a clock-unlocked CPU. If the machine loses its settings, though, Vadim can supply a program that will automatically change it back to its originally overclocked state.
And now for the really good part: benchmark results. Remember that despite not being an official Extreme Edition processor, the E6700 is exactly the same silicon and so will perform much faster than a non-overclocked 2.93GHz Extreme Edition CPU. All this leads to a benchmark score beating anything we’ve seen to date by a considerable margin: the Custom Fusion scores a massive 1.89 in our application benchmarks. This makes it nearly twice as fast overall as our reference Pentium D system, and in fact in our Office test component it’s just over twice as fast with a score of 2.02.