We waited nigh on a year for any PC innovation and then three things came along at once: Quad Core, the G80, and Vista. Hi-Grade's high-end box doesn't quite reach to the lofty heights of the Greatest Graphics Card Ever, plumping instead for a more-than-capable 7950 GX2 toting a frankly unnecessary 1GB of video RAM, but everything else is present and correct.
Let's start with the traditional Vista pre-release mantra. Yes, we're reviewing this before the official release of Vista. Yes, the drivers aren't quite ready and the performance isn't exactly what we would expect. And yes, we're a bit worried this is the state that Vista is going to be in when it launches proper. It won't be this bad, we trust, but that initial batch of buggy Vista-clad PCs could well upset a few buyers.
Take this one: our first firing of the 1GB 7950 outside of the confines of the Aero desktop consisted of an artefact-covered screen flashing and jerking wildly. While the latest graphics drivers ironed out the bugs we found, there's no guarantee that more bugs won't pop up, and the speed is still way off XP's mark.
We can't test this with every game, every intricate manipulator of polygons, but we at least hope Vista ends up with some decent OpenGL support. Early adopters beware.
Aside from its graphical flaws, the Tachyon is a sturdy workhorse of a machine. It does offer some measure of validation to the strength of quadcore processing, for a start. We used SuperPi, a benchmarking app which tests the time taken to generate Pi to a given number of places (in this case 32M places, 24 times), to tax the 2.66MHz chip.
This predictably gave us Vista's finest SuperPi result yet. While we're sure the results would have been quicker under XP (notice the recurring theme?) they would have been quicker still under 2000, and absolutely blistering under 98. There's no point in complaining about the fact that bloated software eats performance any more. When the next OS comes along, we'll only have to start the cycle again.
It's strange, because the Tachyon's Vista performance is pretty paradoxical. When combined with the super-swift 10,000rpm Raptor that houses the operating system - along with the generous 2GB RAM - that processor certainly makes for some fast-loading programs. Navigating through Explorer, using Vista's way more advanced indexing system, is a series of instantaneous tasks, a far cry from the sluggishness that XP often displayed.
Looking past the operating system, the rest of the Tachyon should serve you well. The heavyweight chassis - with four easily accessible drive bays with built-in covers - shouldn't be sniffed at in terms of expandability.
Perhaps it's not the prettiest machine in the world either, but the tower case ranks high above many examples we've seen, and shouldn't look out of place in any office. It might not be so easily hidden in your living room, but the setup doesn't really suit such use anyway. There's no TV-out support, for a start.
This is a package best suited to upgraders. There's the customary inclusion of a keyboard and mouse - a ropey pair at that - but no sign of a monitor. This is a good choice if you've recently purchased a fl at panel but don't quite have the sort of machine that will handle Vista's processing needs.
There's room to breathe, you see. The Tachyon has space enough to store whatever you might accumulate on its 750GB total hard drive space, a graphics card that will keep up for at least another year and a half, enough RAM to cope for at least half an hour - well, perhaps a bit longer - and one of the best processors out there today.
It remains to be seen how much extra muscle the quad-core proper would provide, considering that this is the Extreme, Intel's cobbled together dual-dual-core affair, but we defy anyone to be disappointed. It's not futureproof, but only because futureproofing is an impossibility. But for a high-end system, this should stay up there for a while. If you can afford it.