Whatever happened to that 1950s science-fiction dream of computers as huge cabinets stacked wall-to-wall, with thousands of blinking lights and adjustable dials?

All those optimistic scientists would probably be quite depressed to see what computers have become: mostly dull-grey, metal boxes with a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

Asus is obviously planning to set the record straight with the EAH3850 OCgear, which features - a knob. A lovely, shiny, round knob, and we'll stop before we go down a route that wouldn't fit this review at all.

Control your graphics

The knob itself sits on a 5.25-inch panel on the front of your PC, and connects to the internal USB headers on your motherboard.

It's quite possibly the handiest thing ever, enabling control of the graphics card's core, memory and fan speeds, as well as volume control for system sound.

We can't remember the last time we used a dial to adjust volume, but by great Zeus' beard, it feels mighty fine. No more squinting at millimetre adjustments of a little slidey thing in the taskbar, just proper, tactile volume adjustment.

The display also lights up and handily shows the current frame rate of your system, as well as the temperature of the graphics card's core. It's all together a great idea, and one that's very simple to set up and easy to use.

Importantly, it also seems to work as it was intended: during a game we pushed up the core and memory, and experienced a noticeable rise in the game's frame rates, but we were able to also drop them when errors occurred.

Disappointing performance

I have to admit that the card itself is a bit of a let down in comparison. It's a 3850, so you can't really expect hugely satisfying performance.

However, results in Crysis and Company of Heroes were solid, if unspectacular, and that overclocking knob definitely works. Asus have got a real winner on their hands with the OCgear front panel, it puts all the features you want in one easy-to-use format.

It's just a shame they haven't matched it to a decent graphics card. Once Asus release the all-encompassing notebook version though - the XGStation - we may see improved support on the OCGear.