PC Specialist Vortex 860GTX review

Price when reviewed

PCs used to be mocked for their “big beige box” tradition, but these days it’s the big black box school of design that dominates. PC Specialist’s latest system conforms to that in a sense, but its Cooler Master HAF 922 chassis could never be accused of being dull.

In fact, the brash design makes it one of the most outlandish cases we’ve come across. The lower half of the front is decorated by a huge 200mm fan drawing air inwards, beneath angled bezels and mesh panels, and the sides are similarly adorned. The roof boasts a further 200mm outward fan, alongside a small area for storing peripherals. At least cooling shouldn’t be an issue.

It has its practical benefits as well as aesthetic touches. The interior is spacious enough to ease upgrading and tweaking, and PC Specialist’s meticulous cable tidying helps. Excess cables are tucked behind the motherboard, and vital wires are routed underneath graphics cards and around various struts to ensure they’re unobtrusive.

PC Specialist Vortex 860GTX

Aside from the lack of empty DIMM sockets, there’s also plenty of room for component upgrades. There’s a decent selection of ports, with 11 USB, two eSATA, FireWire, HDMI and a well-appointed card reader, all divided between the backplate and the front of the case.

We were also relieved to note that the PC Specialist isn’t a particularly loud machine. While it’s far from silent – the pair of 200mm case fans emits a constant low hum – we’ve certainly heard worse, not least from the Cooler Master’s bigger brother, the huge HAF 932.

PC Specialist has crammed the spacious case with plenty of impressive components. Intel’s 2.8GHz Core i7-860 processor powered to an impressive score of 1.98 in our application benchmarks, ensuring that even demanding software won’t tax the CPU too heavily.

The Vortex also sports an Nvidia GeForce GTX 275 which, in the face of ATI dominance, is one of the only Nvidia parts that’s regularly seen in the PC Pro Labs at the moment. It’s a good GPU too, brushing our low and medium-quality Crysis benchmarks aside with ease and running through our 1,600 x 1,200 high-quality test at a playable 45fps. Only at very high graphical settings did the GTX 275 fall below 30fps.

These results may mean every modern title will be playable but, with new cards from ATI and Nvidia either already released or just around the corner, it’s worth asking PC Specialist about upgrades should you choose to take the plunge. The Mesh Matrix II 5870XT, for instance, included ATI’s new Radeon HD 5870 card, and ran through the 1,920 x 1,200 very high quality benchmark 12fps faster than the PC Specialist.

Elsewhere, 8GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 RAM is double the amount we’re used to seeing in most desktop systems, and should make mincemeat of intensive photo editing applications. The 1TB hard disk offers enough storage for all but the largest of media collections, and the Blu-ray drive should also endear the system to movie fans.

Unfortunately, though, while the £912 Vortex may sport a competent chassis and return decent benchmark scores across the board, it can’t quite match other similarly priced machines. The Mesh Matrix II 5870XT, for instance, is a little faster in our 2D tests and a lot faster in games, and comes with a monitor, keyboard and mouse – all for the same amount of cash.

The Vortex does a lot right, but the all-round package just isn’t quite there: if you’re looking to put together a full system you can get better deals for less cash. While the case is certainly interesting, there just isn’t the value in this PC Specialist to stand out from a very competitive crowd.


Warranty1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity1,000
RAM capacity8.00GB
Screen sizeN/A


CPU familyIntel Core i7
CPU nominal frequency2.80GHz
CPU overclocked frequencyN/A
Processor socketLGA 1156


MotherboardAsus P7P55D PRO
Conventional PCI slots free1
Conventional PCI slots total2
PCI-E x16 slots free2
PCI-E x16 slots total3
PCI-E x8 slots free0
PCI-E x8 slots total0
PCI-E x4 slots free0
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots free2
PCI-E x1 slots total2
Internal SATA connectors6
Internal SAS connectors2
Internal PATA connectors1
Internal floppy connectors1
Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec


Memory typeDDR3
Memory sockets free0
Memory sockets total4

Graphics card

Graphics cardNvidia GeForce GTX 275
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?no
3D performance settingHigh
Graphics chipsetNvidia GeForce GTX 275
Graphics card RAM896MB
DVI-I outputs2
HDMI outputs1
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
DisplayPort outputs0
Number of graphics cards1

Hard disk

Hard disk usable capacity931GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Cache size16MB
Hard disk 2 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speedN/A
Hard disk 2 cache sizeN/A
Hard disk 3 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 4 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacityN/A


Optical disc technologyBlu-ray reader
Optical disk 2 make and modelN/A
Optical disk 3 make and modelN/A


Monitor make and modelN/A
Resolution screen horizontalN/A
Resolution screen verticalN/A
ResolutionN/A x N/A
Pixel response timeN/A
Contrast ratioN/A
Screen brightnessN/A
DVI inputsN/A
HDMI inputsN/A
VGA inputsN/A
DisplayPort inputsN/A

Additional Peripherals

Speaker typeN/A
Sound cardAsus HD Audio


ChassisCooler Master HAF 922
Case formatFull tower
Dimensions252 x 558 x 503mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays4

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)11
FireWire ports1
eSATA ports2
PS/2 mouse portyes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports1
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports1
3.5mm audio jacks6

Front ports

Front panel USB ports3
Front panel eSATA ports1
Front panel memory card readeryes

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardN/A

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodWindows disc

Noise and power

Idle power consumption102W
Peak power consumption254W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score1.98
Office application benchmark score1.69
2D graphics application benchmark score2.12
Encoding application benchmark score1.72
Multitasking application benchmark score2.39
3D performance (crysis) low settings45fps
3D performance settingHigh

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos