You know things have changed in the components world when you start to see machines like the Scan 3XS Cyclone, where it's the graphics card that's getting the water-cooled loving and not the CPU.
In this latest of Scan's 3XS systems it's the Asus GTX 480 graphics card that has all the custom modifications in order to cope with the factory overclock, while the pre-overclocked CPU is more than happy to keep ticking over on air-cooling alone.
It's testament to the Intel architecture that even with a 50 per cent overclock slapped onto it's Core i7-920 it can cope purely on air-cooling, and even then without sounding like a wind turbine at full load.
We're all aware of just how hot the Fermi GTX 480 cards from Nvidia are on the other hand. The massive, monolithic chip beating away at the heart of it is more than capable of quickly overheating if you try cranking up the clocks, and even at stock speeds it will chow through flesh quicker than a case of necrotising fasciitis [Ed – NomNomNom].
So, water-cooled it is then, with this chunky GPU running a little over 20 per cent higher than its stock speeds. And that extra clockspeed means that this Cyclone is nipping at the heels of competitor Overclockers UK's Titan Viper.
That was a similarly specced rig, with the Core i7 920 ramped up to the now standard 4GHz, but the Viper retained a twin-GPU HD 5970 to look after the graphical duties.
Scan's switch to the GTX 480 – even an overclocked, custom water-cooled one – means that with the option to avoid the SSD question, the Cyclone is cheaper than the Overclockers rig by well over £100. Maybe Scan isn't sold on SSDs yet, but the choice of a SATA 6Gbps HDD with a full 1TB seems like a very good compromise to us.
A matter of frames
And even if it takes a wee while longer to load your games they're still going to be running blisteringly fast. The overclocked GTX 480 here is only fractions off the pace set by the Titan Viper's HD 5970.
It drops 2fps in Far Cry 2 and only 1fps in DiRT 2; not bad for a much cheaper, single-GPU card.
The brilliant Asus P6X58D-E motherboard coddling the cooked i7 920 also helps to keep the Cyclone's CPU performance ahead of the competing Overclockers' machine. Against Gigabyte's UD3R bargain X58 board the Asus mobo has definitely got the edge.
Both machines are rated at 4GHz, but the P6X58D-E has just got that little extra in the locker to push things a wee bit quicker.
There's also that spectre of warranty issues that surrounds the pre-overclocked machines from Overclockers. Update your BIOS and the warranty's invalidated – not so with Scan. It understands most of the people looking to spend this sort of cash are likely to want their rig up to date and don't punish you for staying current.
So the Cyclone is, in practical terms, just as lightening fast as the Titan Viper, but doesn't have to make do with the ball-ache of multi-GPU driver sets or those awkward warranty issues. And for a ton less cash. Easy win for Mr. Scan then.
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