Hi-Grade Ultis Tachyon QX6700 review

£1829
Price when reviewed

Hi-Grade has taken Intel’s new Extreme quad-core CPU as the starting point for an all-round power system, choosing high-end components throughout. The result is an incredible benchmark score of 1.97 – a feat matched only by Apple’s Mac Pro workstation. Unless you find yourself regularly rendering a 90-minute animated film, you’ll almost never see the egg-timer or even have time to finish a reasonably complex sentence before the Ultis finishes whatever task you’ve asked of it.

Hi-Grade Ultis Tachyon QX6700 review

The 2GB of RAM keeps Windows ticking over beautifully, but it’s the Core 2 Extreme Quad QX6700 that puts the system up with the record-breakers. The CPU has a core speed of 2.66GHz and a huge 8MB of cache (4MB per dual-core package). The drawback is the heat generated: the QX6700 has a TDP of 130W, on a par with the bad old days of Pentium 4 systems. A combination of two case fans, CPU cooler and two small fans on the graphics card mean you’ll have to accept increased noise in return for the performance boost. The Ultis makes more of a low growl than a whine, but this extra noise and heat are the principal drawbacks of a system like this.

It isn’t just the CPU that has multiple cores either. Hi-Grade has installed Nvidia’s top-end 7-series graphics card, the Nvidia 7950 GX2. It’s actually a double-height card, comprising a pair of PCBs, with a GPU on each. These both have their own fans contributing to the overall noise, although in return you do get a PC that will run any current game at outlandish resolutions. Our hardest standard tests, Far Cry and Call of Duty 2 at 1,600 x 1,200, ran at 76fps and 48fps respectively. Increasing the settings to 8x anti-aliasing, 16x anisotropic filtering and turning on supersampled transparency anti-aliasing, Far Cry still ran at 75fps and Call of Duty 2 at 32fps. The machine only showed signs of stress when we upped the resolution to 2,048 x 1,536 – Call of Duty 2 ran at 22fps, while Far Cry continued to run happily at 50fps. Our only caveat is that the GX2 inevitably looks underwhelming when you compare it to the DirectX 10-capable GeForce 8800 GTX, which Mesh manages to supply with its own take on a quad-core system. Hi-Grade will upgrade to the 8800 GTX for £60 exc VAT.

The primary drive is a 150GB Western Digital Raptor, which has consistently proved itself one of the fastest performers on the market. A spin speed of 10,000rpm and a massive 16MB cache mean disk-intensive operations won’t prove so much of a bottleneck. It also accounts for the Hi-Grade’s higher benchmark score than either the Mesh or Evesham machines. The secondary drive (which you can have installed in a quick-remove bay for an extra £45) is a 500GB Western Digital Caviar. The optical drives are hidden behind flaps, which fold down when ejecting a tray, and both are dual-layer DVD writers, writing to all formats except DVD-RAM.

Below the optical drives is a memory card reader, complete with a spare USB port and compatible with Memory Sticks, CompactFlash, SD and MMC cards, as well as SmartMedia cards.

Open the side of the Tachyon and you’ll be greeted with a fairly tidy interior. There’s a cluster of electrical wiring at the top of the case, but access to the PCI slots and RAM sockets is unfettered. Internal upgrade options are good: two spare internal 3.5in bays, one external (one 3.5in bay is taken up by the card reader) and two free 5.25in bays mean you can add virtually anything you want. The front of the machine is populated by four USB 2 ports and one FireWire, while the back plays host to four more USB 2 ports, another FireWire port and the outlets for the Tachyon’s 7.1 surround sound chip, although note that no speakers are included.

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