A fabulous machine but needs a little tweaking to deliver decent value
The fastest PC ever
Intel SSD is a very nice touch
Quality through and through
Not exactly cheap!
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The amazing £4,000 beast you see here has been configured with one simple purpose in mind: to break the world record in the benchmark that many consider to be the de facto metric of overall CPU performance, SPEC CPU2006.
And has it pulled it off? Your bet your ass it has – it's officially the fastest desktop PC ever built, and it's absolutely jaw dropping.
To pull this off it requires no less than 1GB of system memory for each logical CPU.
You may not be surprised to learn then, that the £1,000 Core i7-965 Extreme Edition (reviewed here) forms the beating heart of the Fi7epower MLK1610. Thanks to Core i7's HyperThreading feature, that means a minimum of 8GB of extremely pricey high performance DDR3 memory is required.
And due to the novel triple-channel layout, the system actually packs 2GB plus 1GB per channel for a grand total of 9GB of Corsair memory. Just the CPU and memory alone have a face value of nearly £2,000.
Elsewhere, it's a similar story of best-in-class components. There's the obligatory HIS Radeon HD 4870 X2 graphics card, complete with two of AMD's awesome RV770 GPUs and 2GB of ultra-fast GDDR5 memory, as well as a terabyte of spinning-disk storage from Samsung.
Rock solid performance
But the CPU aside, the Fi7epower's snazziest feature is the £400 Intel X25-M solid-state drive. Granted, it's only 80GB.
But that's just about enough for a boot and application drive and it's so much better than a conventional rotating hard drive, it's not even funny. It's absolutely silent, it barely uses any power and it boasts ridiculously fast read speeds. Once you've gone SSD, you won't want to go back.
Another highlight is the Asus P6T motherboard. It's our first look at a third-party take on Intel's new X58 Express chipset.
For the most part, it has all the usual polish we've come to expect from Asus boards. For starters, this is the first desktop motherboard we've seen that supports both Nvidia's SLI and AMD's Crossfire multi-GPU graphics platforms, though Yoyotech has gone for a single card solution in this case.
You also get the ExpressGate quick-booting embedded OS. It's basically a cut-down Linux distro that boots in about five seconds and supports web browsing, instant messaging, photo browsing and all that jazz.
In practice, it's arguable how much use it really is. If nothing else, it makes the boot process a bit classier and Apple-esque.
Of more practical use is the Asus ScreenDuo, a small monochrome LCD display unit that connects via USB. Firstly it supports Vista's Sideshow auxiliary interface, allowing you to track emails and other updates without waking up the PC.
More importantly, it doubles as a handy overclocking controller, giving you the freedom to adjust operating frequencies on the fly.
That brings us neatly to the question of the P6T's overclocking prowess. Given the X58 chipset's shiny newness, we've yet to build a frame of reference for its outright overclocking potential.
But what we can say for now is that the P6T's BIOS needs a little work. Currently, it lacks options to individually adjust the CPU multiplier for each core and hence robs you of full control over the Core i7's turbo mode.
Also missing are options to adjust the TDC and TDP operating envelopes. These control the thermal and electrical current limits and are new for Core i7.
Asus assures us that future BIOS updates will add support for all of the Core i7's overclocking features. That's nice to know, but we'd certainly recommend you check the status of those updates before you buy.
Of course, Fi7epower comes kitted with all the latest drivers, so that's not an immediate issue. Nor does it have an impact on the performance of this PC, which frankly, is little short of sickening.
Fastest consumer CPU ever
Perhaps that is nothing less than you would expect for a factory overclocked Core i7 PC running at 3.73GHz. But we still didn't expect the utter decimation of the competition it doles out in the SPEC CPU2006 benchmark for which it was purpose-built.
Before the Fi7epower came along, the fastest system on the planet was powered by an exotic eight-core UltraSPARC processor that scored 85.5 points in the peak integer rate test. The half-priced Yoyotech blows it away with a phenomenal score of 130.
It also breaks the record for the peak floating point rate test with a score of 88.3. The fact that the SPEC CPU2006 test takes no less than three days to complete also speaks volumes about the stability of this PC.
As for our regular benchmarks, it's a similar story of devastating speed. In our X264 video encoding benchmark, for instance, it's not far off twice as fast as a stock-clocked system running Intel's previous £1,000 CPU, the Core 2 QX9770 Extreme Edition.
Fast as this rig is, however, that massive sticker price is hard to justify. We'd recommend knocking the memory down to 6GB for starters. It won't make any difference to real world performance and will save you a few hundred quid.
Of course, this is a Yoyotech PC, so you can tweak the specification to suit your every whim - most importantly your sense of value. Everything from the beastly Coolermaster chassis downwards is essentially an option.
The added extras...
One of the only significant shortcomings of Intel's Core 2 chips compared to AMD's processors is the old school memory controller located on the motherboard northbridge chip. With the Core i7, Intel has shot straight past AMD by not only shifting the memory controller onto the CPU die, but also adding a third channel. The result is speeds of 18GB per second and miles more bandwidth than any other PC platform.
Thanks to a change of policy from Nvidia, the X58 is the first non-Nvidia chipset to support the SLi multi-GPU platform. However, individual motherboards do have to be licensed by Nvidia, which is why the Yoyotech's Asus P6T board is SLi compliant but Intel's own X58 offering is not. For what it's worth the P6T is the first motherboard to support both SLi and AMD's competing Crossfire tech.
Intel's Core i7 processor is a massive performer, so it's no surprise to find it sitting in a big new CPU socket. Of course, the requirement for the new LGA 1,366 socket is more about supporting architectural changes including the on-die memory controller and Quick Path Interconnect. But the sheer physical heft of both the socket and the CPU package is a nice reminder of the raw engineering that Intel has put into its new platform.
Not exactly a northbridge
Although Core i7 has many more on-die features than Intel's existing Core 2 processors, remnants of the northbridge chip remain. The X58 chipset retains an input/output hub chip that links the CPU to PCI Express graphics cards and also southbridge peripherals courtesy of Intel's new 25.6GB/s Quick Path Interconnect. Mainstream versions of Core i7 due next year get a new chipset that ditches the northbridge altogether.
Along with the fabulous Core i7 processor, Yoyotech has packed the Fi7epower MLK1610 with pretty much the finest components on the planet. Intel's peerless X25-M drive provides awesome storage performance. Meanwhile, AMD's awesome Radeon HD 4870 X2 handles the 3D rendering duties. But it's the attention to detail with quality peripherals like the modular Coolermaster PSU that really marks out a Yoyotech PC.
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