£1,400 is a lot to pay for a gaming PC but the Palicomp Hydro-780 provides you with a decent platform with a great upgrade path.
Good upgrading capabilities, Best processor available
Brilliant graphics card
A tad expensive
SSD reliability still unknown
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Palicomp has pulled off a bit of a coup here. This Haswell Hydro-780 packs the most advanced processor silicon available in the consumer space as well as one hell of a fine graphics card. And if you hadn't guessed from the title, it's also throwing some liquid around its innards too. What's impressive is that Palicomp is offering all this for a penny less than £1,400.
The Haswell Core i7-4770K has been overclocked up to 4.4GHz, which makes it rattle along at a fair rate of knots in our assembled processor benchmarking suite, and keeps the similarly overclocked Palit GTX 780 fed with data. The Z87-Pro is an effective mobo, housing all the SATA 6Gbps connections and USB 3.0 ports your little heart could desire.
On the storage side it's rocking a decently capacious 240GB Corsair SSD, but it is of the Force LS variety. That means it's a pretty middling drive using the relatively unknown Phison memory controller. It's not going to rival the likes of Crucial, Intel or Samsung at the high end, but it ought to be a capable choice if super-speedy storage isn't a primary concern. We didn't notice any particular problems in terms of general operating speed, so it doesn't seem too much of a sacrificial component choice.
That's also balanced out with a huge data storage drive. The traditional spinning platters of Palicomp's chosen Toshiba hard drive may not win any speed awards, but with a full 3TB of storage space on board, you aren't likely to run out of room for a while.
So then we come to that overclocked Palit GTX 780. With an extra 200MHz tagged on to the clockspeed of the GK110 GPU, it manages to out-perform the Scan 3XS Vengeance 780 that's been our benchmark for high-end PCs since summer 2013. We've looked at the long-term value of buying an expensive PC in one go it's interesting to see that the specs for a high-end PC haven't changed in almost a year. Still, the best bet for a £1,500 PC is to go for the combination of a Core i7-4770K and Nvidia GTX 780.
What has changed in the intervening time is the price. The Palicomp build is still a bit cheaper than Scan's excellent 3XS Vengeance 780, even though its price has dropped. The build quality is there too; it's been built tidily into that ammo box-styled Corsair C70 chassis with extraneous cabling squirrelled away out of sight of the Perspex window.
So the only concern with this machine then is the slightly unknown quantity of the Corsair Force LS SSD. I only mention that because there's nothing else I can say that is in any way negative. The Hydro-780 performs exactly as it should – namely incredibly well. It will let you game at the top settings on high-resolution screens, and will likely do so for years to come. At £1,400 it's a lot of money to spend, but in the long run this is a gaming rig that will just keep on going.
CPU rendering performance
Cinebench R11.5: index score: higher is better
Palicomp Hydro-780: 9.58
3XS Vengeance 780: 9.59
Aria Gaming Infinite: 9.21
DirectX 11 synthetic high-res performance
Heaven 4.0: (Min) Avg fps: higher is better
Palicomp Hydro-780: (24) 42
3XS Vengeance 780: (26) 40
Aria Gaming Infinite: (7) 26
DirectX 11 gaming performance
Metro Last Light: (Min) Avg fps: higher is better
Palicomp Hydro-780: (26) 52
3XS Vengeance 780: (19) 48
Aria Gaming Infinite: (12) 36
In gaming terms, the Hydro-780's overclocked Nvidia card beats all-comers. At £1,400 this is a pricey gaming PC but one that's worth the expense. A great gaming rig, with no downsides, if you can afford the asking price and are willing to take a chance on the SSD.