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PC Specialist Vortex i950 Gaming PC
No prize for guessing what PC Specialist makes. Before us today we have one of its more powerful gaming PCs, the £1699 Vortex i950. Sporting such highlights as one of the new Intel Core i7 950 processors with its own dedicated CoolIT water-cooling system and an nVidia GeForce GTX295 dual-chip graphics card, all tucked into a massive CoolerMaster HAF 932 case, this machine has the potential to be the best performer we've had through the labs yet. Let's find out how it holds up.
Starting off with the case, it's an impressive beast. CoolerMaster has a well-deserved reputation for making excellent enclosures for your components, and the industrial-looking HAF 932 seems to do that reputation justice.
The removable front fascia is constructed using thick, rugged plastic with metal mesh insets. There are five 5.25in drive bays, with one taken up by an LG LightScribe DVD-Rewriter. To be honest we would have expected a Blu-ray drive on a PC at this price point, but the PC game on Blu-ray disc has yet to come out, and you can always select a Blu-ray drive as an upgrade from PC Specialist's website when ordering the PC.
A potential sixth 5.25in bay holds a 3.5in adapter which PC Specialist has populated with a generic memory card reader featuring a single USB port. Unfortunately, due to the 'screwless' mounting mechanism of the HAF 932 only securing drives on the left side, the reader moves about when you insert cards or cables. This is a problem that would be repeated on the CD drive were it not for the fact PC Specialist has sensibly used screws to secure the right hand side.
Above the bays is a brushed aluminium panel which houses power and hard drive indicators as well as the case's generous native front connections, offering a very nice selection of four USBs, FireWire and eSATA ports, and headphone plus microphone jacks.
Set into a plastic mould just above these is a tray with a removable rubberized base, which is very handy for temporarily storing stuff. There's a large round hole - or Filliport as CoolerMaster calls it - under the rubber flap, which can be used to refill a water reservoir, though it's not something this system takes advantage of as the CoolIT water-cooler is a closed system.
Both of the HAF 932's side panels are removable after undoing two thumb screws per panel. However, trying to open the case's right side - admittedly something that most buyers are never likely to do - led to the discovery of another small issue. The panel was very difficult to unscrew, and literally sprang open because the cables beneath it were routed all over each other and over the CoolIT control box, exceeding the width of the case. Essentially the panel had been forced on by PC Specialist, not a healthy solution since it put a lot of pressure on the case's side and motherboard mounting plate.
On the flip side, since all the cables are routed behind the motherboard plate and drive cages the interior of the case is neat and spacious, ensuring excellent airflow.