Palicomp Excalibur 630OC35 review

The last Palicomp machine to appear in PC Pro, the Core i7 Ice Blitz OC4, was a heavyweight contender that made up for its lack of subtlety with raw speed. The Crewe-based firm’s latest system, the Excalibur 630OC35, looks to be a far more rounded proposition.

Its chassis is far more accomplished than the Cooler Master HAF 932 used previously. Again, it’s a Cooler Master model, but the CM Storm Scout is a vastly different proposition: a small, squat case with a carry handle that’s designed to be both portable and hard-wearing.

It certainly lives up to its billing. Its matte-black panels feel utterly rock-solid, and the handle feels strong too – easily enough to take the weight of both the case and its components. If this PC was a car it would be a Land Rover.

Practical touches abound. The top offers four USB ports, a pair of audio outputs, an eSATA port and a button to deactivate the modest red lighting. The rear provides eight more USB sockets alongside PS/2, S/PDIF and FireWire. Three display outputs are provided, too: the usual DVI-I and HDMI and an increasingly common DisplayPort output.

The chassis is smaller than its rivals; it isn’t large enough to accommodate a full length, full-power graphics card – but Palicomp has done an excellent job of making the most of what it has. Cables are bunched together tidily and anchored to the sides of the chassis, with excess wiring banished to the cavity behind the motherboard tray.

It’s just as well as there’s plenty of space for upgrades. A pair of PCI sockets, three PCI Express x1 slots and two DIMM sockets are left free, plus there’s room for three extra hard disks and optical drives.

Palicomp Excalibur 630OC35

The Excalibur is the first desktop machine we’ve seen to include an AMD processor since October, and Palicomp has overclocked its Athlon II X4 630 from 2.8GHz to 3.5GHz. This boost results in an impressive 2D benchmark score of 1.91, which brings the Excalibur in line with Intel’s Core i5-750 processor running at stock speeds.

There are no worries about overheating either. Despite the overclock the system’s Akasa X4 CPU cooler did a fine job of chilling the processor, keeping it running at or below 44 degrees, even when pushed.

Graphical grunt is provided by an ATI Radeon HD 5770, scoring 104fps and 66fps in our Low and Medium quality tests (at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,280 x 1,024), 42fps in the High quality benchmark (at 1,600 x 1,200) and a near-playable 26fps in the Very High quality test (2,560 x 1,600).

Finally, there’s a terabyte of storage, provided by two Western Digital Caviar Blue hard disks running in RAID0, plus 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM and a DVD writer are also included.

So far, so good, but there is one major blot on the Excalibur’s copy book: the graphics card’s fan is too noisy. When pushed, we found it increased the system’s noise level from a quiet hum to an intrusive drone.

That could prove annoying, but it’s countered by such superb performance and comes in at such a tempting price that for many it will be a compromise worth making.

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