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Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC review

Ardjuna Seghers

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC
  • Wired2Fire HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC

Summary

Our Score:

8

Laptops might be taking over from desktops for most consumers, but for gaming you still can't beat good old clunky towers. Especially not in the case of Wired2Fire's HellSpawn ALC Gaming PC, which is driven by a water-cooled Core i7 processor overclocked to an impressive 3.8GHz - that's 600MHz faster than the Core i7 965 Extreme which costs almost £900 on its own! Wired2Fire complements this blazing CPU with a decent 6GB of DDR3 RAM and a Radeon HD4890, so there ought to be very few games this monster can't chew up and spit out into the eternal abyss.

Not that you'd think this PC anything special from the outside, mind you. Antec's Three Hundred might be a very good case in the budget arena, but it's not exactly one that shows off a PC's innards and is seriously low on the bling factor many gamers crave.

There's nothing wrong with a more understated approach - in fact it's one I prefer myself - but the problem here is that the case's lack of a side-window means you have to remove a panel to be able to read the water-cooling system's LCD display. You see, CoolIT's Domino A.L.C. features a rather nice 3in black-on-blue screen that shows handy information such as fan speed, pump speed and coolant temperature. Quite aside from wanting to show it off to friends this is genuinely useful information, especially if you tend to indulge in a bit of dynamic overclocking (though to be fair the CPU is probably already clocked as high as it will safely go).

Thankfully Wired2Fire allows you to upgrade individual components before ordering, so an extra £41 will set you up with an Antec Nine Hundred instead (which has more in common with the Twelve Hundred) featuring a windowed side panel that should show off the display nicely. An additional advantage is that its 200mm top fan offers better noise and cooling performance than the 140mm model found on the Three Hundred.

Getting back to the case our review sample came in, in every other regard the Three Hundred is more than adequate. It's a mostly steel construction with plastic 'pillars' on either side of the mesh metal front, and is finished in a durable matte black.

It offers three external 5.25in drive bays, the top one of which is filled with an LG GGC-HL20 combined Blu-ray and HD DVD drive which will of course also write to DVDs and CDs. Below the drive bays are twin 120mm fans with washable air filters that can be easily removed by un-clipping the front of the case.

Above the optical drive reside neat power and reset buttons, two USB ports plus headphone and microphone jacks. Unfortunately, there's no sign of an eSATA connector here, which nowadays is a bit stingy and yet another reason to upgrade to the Nine Hundred, though the Three hundred is more compact at just 45.8 x 46.5 x 20.5cm (H x D x W).

At the HellSpawn ALC's rear you'll find two PS2 ports, optical and coaxial digital outputs, standard and mini FireWire ports, eight USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet connector and six analogue 3.5mm audio jacks, all courtesy of Gigabyte's EX58-UDR3 motherboard which we'll examine in a bit more detail later on. Notice a striking absentee on the above list? Again there's no sign of an eSATA connector, meaning that this powerful and not exactly cheap Core i7 PC built towards the latter half of 2009 has no external SATA connectivity at all, which is a very sorry state of affairs. However, for some it won't be an issue, and you can always buy an eSATA bracket or, as mentioned before, upgrade the case.

Ed 3

July 29, 2009, 5:21 am

Finally a gamer pc review! Been waiting ages for one like this..wish there were more though!

Ben

July 29, 2009, 3:32 pm

I enjoyed it, too, I like the gaming machine ones :D Quite hard to get excited about the product itself, but it does seem like great value. Especially when I think about how much I spend on Apple stuff :D

William Smith

July 30, 2009, 1:15 am

I would definitely reconsider giving this PC a recommended given the water cooling it uses. The Domino ALC has been slated by other technology sites as fiddly, bad quality and prone to breaking and if I may link to another site check out this review of the unit here http://www.bit-tech.net/hardwa...





I think it is one corner too many cut in my opinion.

PB

July 30, 2009, 2:38 am

Great review thanks Ardjuna, would really like more details on how noisy it is though, what is it like when you're not gaming? A video review demonstrating the noise levels would be ideal.





I haven't bought a new PC since our family one which is an old P4 pentium and it HOWLS.

TechVegan

July 30, 2009, 5:38 pm

Glad you like it guys!





@Ed:


Hopefully we'll get some more in soon.





@William Smith:


True enough, but you'll notice most of the problems are when installing and overclocking yourself, neither of which is the case with this PC. To quote the article you're linking to: "CoolIT has made a good product for system integrators. Clearly its excellence in making units for high end Dell PCs has rubbed off here".





In our tests the CoolIT installed in this PC performed better than any air-cooled setup we've had through the office, and since there's only a small price-premium it offers good value.





@PB:


It's not the quietest system when not gaming, but all it produces is a slight hum. Also, let me qualify the former statement by saying it IS the quietest PC with this level of hardware performance we've had through the office. However, to make it truly unobtrusive you'd need to install a quieter cooler for the video card.

Pbryanw

July 30, 2009, 6:50 pm

Considering the graphics card is the noisiest component in this PC, it's a shame (as mentioned in the article) that Wired2Fire don't offer Nvidia GPU's as options. Especially, since the GTX 275 is supposed to be quieter then the 4890, from what I've read.

Luan Bach

July 30, 2009, 7:35 pm

Is it true that you will need to occasionally top up the water level for these cooling systems ?

TechVegan

July 30, 2009, 9:22 pm

@Pbryanw:


Indeed, though noise levels vary depending on whether you're gaming or 'idle'.





@Luan Bach:


You shouldn't need to as it's a pre-assembled, closed system.

Tom 9

October 29, 2009, 4:24 pm

the case is horrible.

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