Cube247 Nova ST3 review
It’s true that performance and upgradability aren’t everything, especially when there are fantastic machines such as HP’s Slimline s3040.uk around. But if you’re determined to live at the cutting edge, there’s no alternative to parting with some serious cash on the latest hardware and leaving yourself with room for manoeuvre.
Running the just-released Call of Juarez benchmark on the Cube247 Nova ST3 is a case in point: even taking this punishing example of DirectX 10 to its extreme of 1,680 x 1,050, we still managed to wring 18fps from it – a score the Slimline would struggle to manage in much lesser titles. So, although the Cube costs more than twice as much, it’s obvious where the extra cash goes, and it’s tempting to spend it.
The Nova ST3 comes with a monitor for a start. The Mirai DML-522W100 (web ID: 104803) is a great-value panel, although not perfect – as we highlighted in the Mesh Elite Storm Pro review. However, the 5ms response time means you’ll be as happy gaming as you’ll be editing photos or browsing the internet.
And gaming is something the Nova naturally specialises in. The ATi Radeon HD 2900 XT is a double-height monster of a card and, although it accounts for a fair proportion of the system’s considerable noise output, the payback is extraordinary performance. Aside from that stunning Call of Juarez result, Call of Duty 2 ran at just under 40fps at its highest settings, which means there’s plenty of headroom for upcoming games, as well as the latest titles.
Cube247 has been similarly uncompromising in terms of raw CPU performance. The Core 2 Quad Q6600 has four cores running at 2.4GHz each. Backed up with a hefty 4GB of 667MHz RAM, our system tore through our benchmarks, landing on a final score of 1.52.
The compromise-free list of specifications continues with the storage: two 500GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 drives are installed in a RAID array for a huge, 1TB single-partition configuration.
Plenty of thought has been put into other areas of the system, too. There are 12 USB ports, for instance, and the motherboard offers plenty of extras, such as 7.1 audio, complete with 3.5mm jacks for the included Creative 6100 5.1 speakers, and optical and co-axial S/PDIF ports for more advanced setups. There’s also a handy eSATA port.
But, for all that, the Nova doesn’t come through entirely unscathed. Like its vehicular namesake, it’s a bit cramped inside. Judicious use of cable ties keeps clutter down, but upgrading could be frustrating. The cooler on the CPU is simply a stock Intel cooler, which does the job, albeit rather loudly. Noise is further exacerbated by the graphics card, plus a pair of hot-running, fast-spinning hard disks. That, and the fact that the chassis itself is nothing special, left us feeling slightly disappointed. But the list of internal components and their excellent performance more than makes up for it. So much so that it knocks the Evesham Solar Visto Creation (web ID: 102220) off the A List as our alternative system of choice – the Cube247 offers a quad-core CPU to the Evesham’s dual-core processor, twice the RAM, three times the hard disk storage, and even twice the number of USB ports. You also get 7.1 audio from the Cube247 and the same size of monitor, all for the same price.
The Nova isn’t the last word in terms of value, and those willing to sacrifice a little performance can save £200 by buying the Mesh Elite Storm Pro, which is more than capable, if not quite as luxurious.
Aside from the less than spectacular warranty, there’s just one potentially critical caveat: Cube247 installs Vista Home Premium x64 on the Nova ST3. While this allows you to make full use of that luxurious 4GB of RAM, x64’s need for signed drivers is something you’ll need to consider when adding hardware or software to the system in the future.