- Review Price: £1199.00
In these times of economic difficulty, getting good value for money is more important than ever. The one entertainment sector that is still seeing substantial growth is gaming, so we figured you might want to join us as we take a look at a water-cooled PC on which to play all those games. In particular, we have the CyberPower Gamer Ultra Perseus, available for a pound shy of £1200.
One of the things that is most noteworthy about this PC is that it is the first we’ve had through the TR offices using one of the brand new AMD Phenom II processors, specifically the multiplier-unlocked Black Edition X3 720, which nabbed itself one of our coveted Recommended awards.
The Gamer Ultra Perseus uses Antec’s Twelve Hundred gaming case which, at almost 60cm high, towers over most other… well, towers. The main chassis is made of strong steel, which is covered both inside and out with a matte black finish while the top part of the case is made from thick moulded plastic, with matching pillars running up the front to either side of the mesh drive bays.
On the outside, the Twelve Hundred has some distinctive features such as the huge top-mounted 200mm fan, which together with the other five 120mm fans is illuminated by blue LEDs.
Also adding to the lightshow is a transparent reservoir for the water cooling system mounted in the top two 5.25in drive bays. Two bright blue LEDs are mounted either side of it, presumably with the intention of lighting up the swirling liquid inside the reservoir. In actual fact they just shine straight out the front of the case where they annoyingly catch your eye every time you walk past it. Incidentally, you’d better like all this lighting, since with the exception of the top fan you can’t turn any of it off.
Below the reservoir is the optical drive, which you’re unlikely to need to upgrade anytime soon since it’s an LG Blu-ray and HD-DVD combi-drive that of course also acts as a DVD-Rewriter. All told this leaves nine further bays free, though using them will require the removal of one of the three front-mounted 120mm fans.
While you can’t control the lights, thankfully each of the aforementioned fans has its own individual speed control on the outside of the case. The three front ones are controlled by small analogue dials that protrude slightly out of the meshwork of the front drive bays, while the top and rear fans are controlled with high/medium/low switches at the machine’s rear.
The Twelve Hundred also features a large Perspex window in the left panel, allowing you to see into the interior – which in the case of the Gamer Ultra Perseus is definitely a good thing as this is one PC whose insides are worth showing off. The thick tubing from the water-cooling system is filled with blue UV-reactive fluid, smartly lit by two UV lamps to either side of the drive cages. Cyberpower has even thrown in some transparent UV-reactive SATA cables, all of which is brought out even more by the motherboard’s black PCB.
In terms of connectivity, the Twelve Hundred offers twin USB slots spaced far enough apart to fit most conventional USB devices, an eSATA port, two metal 3.5mm audio jacks, with reset and power buttons to either side. All are left unmarked leaving you to work out which is the microphone and which is the headphone socket. It’s a very plain, minimalist approach we rather like, further amplified by the tiny and subtle blue hard drive indicator light.
Courtesy of the Asus M4A78T-E motherboard, around the back there are further connections including a single PS2 port, six USB 2.0s Ethernet, FireWire and eSATA ports. The DVI, VGA and HDMI connections from the Radeon HD3300 integrated graphics are all made redundant by the discrete graphics card which offers all these in addition to the ever more prevalent DisplayPort. Likewise the onboard audio connections will go unused as a discrete sound card takes care of audio duties.
Finally then, it’s time to open this CyberPower up and see what’s inside. Both of the Antec’s side panels are easily removed after unscrewing two thumbscrews per panel. Internal layout is really tidy, mostly thanks to the Antec case allowing cables to be routed under the raised motherboard tray which extends the case’s full length. Where this was not sufficient, cable ties have been used. The Cooler Master 700W Silent Pro PSU also helps to keep things neat as it’s a modular model with cables that continue the black theme.
As mentioned before, the motherboard used is Asus’ M4A78T-E, which is an AM3 board based on the 790GX chipset with support for DDR3 memory. Much like Antec with cases, Asus’ motherboards have a good reputation, offering reliability, overclocking potential and cutting-edge features in an attractive package. The latter is certainly the case here, as the black PCB is joined by metallic blue heatsinks. Not only do these look good, but the passive cooling ensures the motherboard doesn’t add to the PC’s noise level.
Of course the highlight of the Gamer Ultra Perseus is the water-cooled AM3 Phenom II X3 720 Black Edition processor. While not normally the best-performing CPU on the market (that honour remains with Intel), thanks to the CPU’s unlocked multiplier and CyberPower’s water-cooling system this chip has been overclocked from its original 2.8GHz to a heady 3.7GHz. Though Ed managed an overclock close to this on just air, the water cooling means that even under load the CPU never goes above a relatively frosty 40 degrees.
In CPU-intensive PCMark Vantage tests, the near-1GHz overclock occasionally allows the Gamer Ultra Perseus to come within touching distance of the Alienware Area 51‘s Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 processor, a chip still costing only about £200 less than this entire PC! For this kind of performance, the £110 required for the watercooling kit seems very reasonable, especially since it also adds a lot to the visual appeal of the PC.
The kit’s thick tubing (1.5cm diameter) with UV reactive liquid hooks up to the low-profile CPU block, reservoir at the front and a large radiator at the PC’s back which covers the two 120mm fan exhausts. Unfortunately the water-cooling does not extend to the graphics card, which with most games is far more crucial than the CPU and is also the single noisiest component in the Gamer Ultra Perseus. That said, the thermal output of a graphics card at full tilt is so enormous you’d need a colossal water cooling system to cope.
Speaking of noise, with all the case’s fans active and that of the graphics card thrown in, this is not a silent PC – sorry to disappoint those of you who were hoping otherwise. To be fair though, CyberPower’s machine doesn’t get louder than an audible hum, most of which can be attributed to the graphics card while gaming. And as long as you make sure everything stays well-ventilated you could always risk disconnecting one or even two of the front 120mm fans to knock the total volume down further.
Back to components, the graphics card in question is the Editor’s Choice-winning ATI Radeon 4870, equipped here with the full 1GB of fast DDR5 RAM. Not only is this card a great performer on its own, but since the Asus motherboard supports CrossFire X you can always add a second one for a major performance boost later on. Though due to the board only having 16PCIe lanes in total each slot will receive just eight in CrossFire mode.
The 4GB of OCZ 1666MHz DDR3 RAM used looks almost as impressive as the CPU cooling, with each stick sporting its own massive black heatsink plus heatpipes. The amount of memory, meanwhile, strikes just the right balance between price and performance – and since CyberPower’s PCs are fully customizable you can always add more when configuring the system.
Your gaming explosions and other sound effects, meanwhile, are in the very capable hands of a Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi Xtreme Audio card, which is still one of the best choices for gamers because it sports the latest version of Creative’s own EAX (Environmental Audio Effects).
Last but not least is a 750GB Samsung hard drive for storing all those game installs. This is also the one area where I would definitely recommend an upgrade, since for only £10 extra you can get a 1TB (1000GB) drive instead. Of course, it depends if you’re the type who likes to have 50 games installed at once or just plays them one by one getting rid of the old ones, but either way there is a generous amount of storage on offer here.
Also worth mention is CyberPower’s bundle, which contains spare drive bay covers, video cables and adapters, SATA and power cables, manuals, and essentially all the bits and bobs that came with the components used in the PC.
In terms of installed software there’s just the bare essentials, but then that’s the way many gamers prefer it. As with most high-end machines passing through our labs these days, the Gamer Ultra Perseus comes with the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Premium. Sensibly, the free productivity suite Open Office 3.0 is preinstalled for all your working needs. AMD OverDrive is also installed, which you can use to overclock the CPU without needing to access the BIOS, monitor system temperature and control fans speeds. Finishing the software off is CoreTemp 0.99, which appears to be somewhat redundant as it just shows some of the same information that OverDrive shows but in a less fancy manner.
Finally then, the bit you’ve all been dying to get to I’m sure: does CyberPower’s latest beast put in good performance for the money? Despite being more than a year old, Crysis is still one of the better benchmarks of performance, since it can still bring many systems to their knees. Though it only has a single graphics card, the CyberPower Gamer Ultra Perseus still managed a very playable 35FPS (frames per second) average and 23FPS minimum on Very High Detail at 1920 x 1080.
As you can see in our Crysis performance results, the Perseus comfortably beats both the Wired2Fire Diablo MaxCore and Mesh Xtreme GTX300, but the former was only £830 while the latter was a complete system with monitor, 5.1 speakers and peripherals and still came in £80 cheaper.
Ironically, the CyberPower’s biggest potential competitor is another CyberPower system: specifically the Gamer Infinity Crossfire HD we reviewed over half a year ago. This system outpaces the Perseus by a large margin in intensive gaming thanks mainly to its twin Radeon 4870s in CrossFire, all for £200 less. However, the win is not as clear-cut as it might at first seem.
For one thing, the Gamer Ultra Perseus offers not only better gaming audio through its dedicated X-Fi soundcard and a Blu-ray drive (not to mention a more expensive case and power supply), but also a far more future-proof platform since it supports AM3 and DDR3 memory. Obviously the single biggest differentiator is the water-cooling of this system, which allows its overclocked CPU to run cool, quiet and stable whereas the Infinity experienced stability issues. It doesn’t come cheap when compared to a decent air cooler but is relatively affordable compared to some water cooled systems we’ve seen.
While not as much of a bargain as the previous CyberPower system that came through our labs, the Gamer Ultra Perseus presents good value for a well-built, water-cooled and pre-overclocked AM3 system. However, though the water cooling is quieter than a conventional air cooler it still isn’t truly silent, and if you actually want the best bang for your buck when it comes to gaming performance you’d be better off dropping the water cooling for a second graphics card.
”’Addendum: ”’To get the same XXX overclock as on our review system for the £1,199 price, please quote ‘TRUSTEDREVIEWS’ as referral when ordering the Gamer Ultra Perseus from CyberPower.
Score in detail
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