Vadim Cepheus G80 review
The joy of a Windows-based PC is that you’re free to fiddle around with the hardware as much as you want – something Vadim has taken advantage of with its latest creation.
Last month, Mesh submitted the first quad-core Core 2 Extreme QX6700 PC we’d seen, but that ran at the stock speed of 2.66GHz. Vadim has taken the same CPU and pushed it to run at Pentium 4-like speeds – a massive 3.55GHz. No prizes for guessing that this is the fastest PC we’ve ever seen, with scores like 3.10 for our usually stressful multitasking test. This PC is, in demonstrable terms, up to three times faster than a top-end PC of a year ago. Granted, it costs about three times as much, but this is performance the like of which we won’t see for some time from off-the-shelf systems. This is, of course, the main point of overclocking: to get something now that you’d otherwise have to wait ages for.
This philosophy extends to the graphics cards too. Without the chunky heatsinks, you might not recognise them as two GeForce 8800 GTXs, which Nvidia is currently forbidding graphics card makers to sell overclocked. The water-cooling lets Vadim take the core clock from 575MHz to 665MHz. The 128 stream processors inside are locked at 1.35GHz though, so overclocking the core only affects sub-units such as the thread despatch engine, basic setup engines and the ROPs (Render Output Pipelines, which govern how many pixels can be output to graphics memory per clock, among other tasks). The RAM is fitted with mini-heatsinks, too, which lets Vadim take the 768MB up from 900MHz to 950MHz. Even the RAMDACs have dedicated cooling, with a south bridge heatsink and fan on each.
With CPU limitations significantly raised, the scores from our test games were astronomic. In our highest standard tests, the Cepheus G80 scored 190fps and 100fps in Far Cry and Call of Duty 2 respectively, up from 108fps and 64fps of the single-card Mesh. Our Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion test broke the 100fps barrier to the 60fps of the Mesh, and the Company of Heroes benchmark returned a score of 159fps to the Mesh’s 90fps. On average, the Cepheus G80 proved 70% faster. Even upping the resolution to 2,048 x 1,536, applying 16x AA and 16x AF and forcing every extra effect possible didn’t cause Oblivion to run at less than 100fps.
Part of the multi-application speed comes from the striped pair of 150GB Western Digital Raptor X hard disks. If the 300GB total storage seems too skinny, you can always add a hefty storage disk from the Vadim online configurator. You might also want to convert the two-year, return-to-base warranty to an on-site policy (add £120 per year).
The two Raptors not only have their own cooling fan, but their own heatsinks. There are six 120mm radiators to cool the liquid flowing through the UV-reactive tubes, five in the lower section and one exhausting from the main compartment. The overclocked RAM gets its own 120mm fan too, while a quiet 80mm fan mounted behind the optical drives gives the graphics card heatsinks some airflow. The noise is kept to a minimum, as there’s a dedicated T-Balancer bigNG fan controller. When idle, the fans hum fairly unobtrusively, and extended gaming sessions only raise this to a slightly louder level. Not bad, considering the system draws 416W when idle and 630W under full load; not a PC for the environmentally conscious. And while the tubing might look chaotic, it’s beautifully put together.
With all the customisation kit used, this is a shining example of the freedom that PC hardware gives. It isn’t for everyone, with many turning their noses up at the garish colours, the case style, the power draw and, of course, the price. But putting a value for money score on the G80 is like putting a price on a Faberge egg; you can’t buy this anywhere else. And as for a performance score, it’s a shame we can’t go up to seven stars.