- Review Price: £2800.00
We’ve been looking at a few budget gaming PCs recently, like the £600 CyberPower Infinity i5 Hercules SE and £700 Scan 3XS i3 OC. But for those with cash to spare looking for a machine that performs at the bleeding edge, the disappointing £2,750 Fujitsu Celsius ULTRA Gaming Workstation has been the only recent entrant, so can CyberPower’s Infinity i7 Phoenix Gaming PC live up to its £2,800 price tag?
Well, to begin with specifications are certainly damn impressive, and going by these alone it should thoroughly trounce the Fujitsu in every way. First off we have an Intel Core i7 920 processor. This might not sound too impressive as it’s the cheapest, lowest-clocked offering in the i7 9xx line-up, but CyberPower has added watercooling to push this CPU up to a stable 4GHz – that’s significantly faster than the slightly overclocked Core i7 975 Extreme Edition found in the Celsius ULTRA. The Phoenix also doubles that machine’s already prodigious memory capacity, coming with an incredible 24GB(!) of DDR3 RAM. Other highlights include an AMD ATI Radeon 5970 (the fastest graphics card money can buy) and 80GB Intel X25 SSD main drive.
Like CyberPower’s previous high-end Ultra Perseus, the Phoenix comes in Antec’s Twelve Hundred gaming case. At 60cm high, this makes it an imposing beast, and like its predecessor it’s generously provisioned with blue LED lighting. With blue-backlit fans, a backlit water-cooling reservoir (which takes up two of the case’s prodigious twelve 5.25in drive bays), and transparent reactive blue water pipes (visible through the large side window) this is certainly a machine that grabs the attention.
Size aside, the Twelve Hundred is a very well-built and impressively-featured case – though it lacks the tool-free options of many competitors. It’s constructed from thick steel, painted matte black inside and out, and without a sharp edge in sight. Physical speed switches are provided for all case fans, which include five 120mm ones and a huge top-mounted 200mm fan. All intake fans also sport removable dust filters.
Connectivity is strong as well. In addition to the usual twin USB ports and headphone and microphone jacks found at the case’s front, there’s an eSATA port – a great addition, especially as the Antec Twelve Hundred’s build allows you to securely place an external hard drive on its top.
CyberPower has added a 3.5in card reader below the optical drive. This provides a third USB 2.0 port and can read every memory card available – even SIM cards! Speaking of the optical drive, as you would expect at this price point the company has included a Blu-ray rewriter, specifically LG’s BH08LS20 sporting an attractive fascia with silver trim. This drive offers 8 x BD, 8 x BD-R and 2 x BD-RE speeds.
At the machine’s back, motherboard connectivity is relatively sparse. There are a further six USB ports, one FireWire and one eSATA port, a single Gigabit Ethernet connection and good old PS2 mouse and keyboard inputs. A nice selection of analogue and digital audio connections are also on hand from the board’s integrated audio, though these are made redundant by those found on the installed Creative X-Fi Gamer sound card.
Opening up the Twelve Hundred is a simple case of removing two thumb-screws. Inside, the Infinity i7 Phoenix is a tidy affair, with all cables neatly tied away. The interior is dominated by the CyberPower liquid cooling system, which combines the reservoir and pump at the front with a radiator cooled by no less than four 120mm fans in a push-pull configuration at the back, all hooked up to an XSPC Delta V3 waterblock. This results in the CPU remaining very cool (below 50 degrees under load) despite its heavy overclock, but it also means this is a noisy beast. Even with all the case fans turned to their slowest setting, the Phoenix is audible from quite a distance, and very distracting close to.
For some reason, turning the fans down to their minimum speeds for a slightly quieter experience resulted in the overclock regularly failing, requiring a cold boot. Since the CPU remained within operating temperatures, we can only assume some other component was getting overheated, and this may be an issue unique to our specific system. While on the topic of noise, it’s also worth noting that the 850W CoolerMaster modular PSU used in this system developed an irritating whine after a while. However, given CoolerMaster’s good reputation and usual quality, we hope it’s a once-off fault.
The system is based on Asus’ socket LGA1366 X58 P6T motherboard, which is apparently a popular choice among system assemblers as it’s also used in the PC Specialist Vortex i950. That’s hardly surprising though, as this is essentially the same board as the P6T-SE we reviewed and gave an eight out of 10 last year. While not quite as fancy as what we would expect given the Phoenix’s price, it’s reliable and provides all the basic features you need.
Asus’ board plays host to the CPU, which thanks to its low-profile water block doesn’t require an enormous obtrusive heatsink. As already mentioned, it’s an Intel Core i7 920 overclocked to 4GHz, which can handle anything you’d care to throw at it with consummate ease. It’s backed up by a ridiculously high-end 24GB of 1,333MHz DDR3 RAM, provided by six unadorned Kingston 4GB modules. This is pretty much the most memory you will find in any non-server or high-performance PC, and it’s a large factor in the machine’s price. To be honest, aside from the obvious bragging rights we think it’s a waste of money and pure overkill, as there’s almost nothing out there that a home user would run which will make full use of this. On the other hand, if you have the money then why not? At least you’ll never need to upgrade your memory in the PC’s lifetime.
As you’ll see later, the killer combo of the super-fast CPU combined with the vast quantity of RAM already means the CyberPower Infinity i7 Phoenix is a screamer, but one of the most significant factors in its overall speed is its humble primary hard drive – or in this case, the not so humble 80GB Intel X25 SSD, which still just about retains its title as fastest overall SSD we’ve yet tested. General performance is improved over PCs based on moving parts hard drives and more importantly for the gaming crowd, in most cases game and level loading times are reduced too. For those who need a little more capacity, fear not, as CyberPower has included a secondary 1TB Samsung SpinPoint F3 ‘traditional’ hard drive for your multimedia collection.
We usually leave the PCMark Vantage results chart till after the review, but we’re making an exception here as… well, just look at them!
Admittedly this is a synthetic benchmark and none of the other PCs have SSDs, but it’s certainly indicative of the kind of performance you can expect CyberPower’s uber-PC to churn out in a variety of non-gaming tasks and applications. To put it simply, this is one lightning-quick machine, and the most powerful PC we’ve yet seen in our labs.
As for gaming, here the CyberPower Infinity i7 Phoenix also lives up to its price tag, as it simply annihilates everything we’ve reviewed before. On the audio side of things, the Creative X-Fi Gamer sound card brings EAX 5.0 HD for the best sound effects in games without placing much additional load on the CPU. Though a discrete sound card is no longer the necessity it once was in terms of features, they still greatly surpass onboard solutions for sheer quality.
As ever though, graphics is the most important part of any gaming setup and the AMD/ATI Radeon 5970 doesn’t disappoint. If you want all the details on this card it’s worth reading our review, but basically it puts two 5870 chips with slightly lower clock speeds on a single board using an internal CrossFire interface.
Only in Call of Duty does the quad-SLI graphics setup of the £2750 Fujitsu Celsius ULTRA even stand a chance, and then only as long as anti-aliasing (AA) is not applied. With AA on, the Radeon HD 5970 again comfortably pulls ahead of its rival’s twin nVidia GeForce 295GTxs. Of course in DirectX 11-compatible titles the 5970 has no competition.
In the more complex and demanding Crysis running on DirectX 10, CyberPower’s system also wins the day. Again we’ll show you the chart here as it not only demonstrates this computer’s lead over the ULTRA but also the perfectly stepped performance of the Radeon HD 5970 over the Dino PC’s 5870, the Wired2Fire’s 5850 and the Scan’s 5750; basically the top four Radeon cards in AMD’s lineup.
Crysis runs at a fairly smooth 33.6fps average on Very High Detail with the resolution set to 1,920 x 1,200, while even owners of 30in monitors can run the game on High Quality at 2,560 x 1,600 and maintain a reasonable 31fps.
When it comes to software, CyberPower has left us with a very clean PC in every regard: there is no excess software and the wallpaper is plain, with only shortcuts for the CyberPower UK Steam Game Clan and forums on the desktop. Naturally a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Pro is installed to take advantage of all that memory, but aside from some Creative apps that’s pretty much it.
Overall then, is the £2,800 Infinity i7 Phoenix worth all that money? The only comparably-priced machine we’ve looked at recently is Fujitsu’s Celsius ULTRA Gaming Workstation, and comparing these two the answer is a resounding yes. The Phoenix is better-built, has a faster, water-cooled CPU; more connectivity and features; a graphics setup that’s quieter, more frugal and yet offers better performance; double the RAM; a far faster primary hard drive, and the list goes on. It is simply a superior machine in every way.
So is this the gaming PC to go for if you have a spare £3,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Well, despite actually representing good value for what you get (compared to the competition) we can’t say that it is. Unless you do computational calculations or high definition content creation (or multitask more than any human rightly should) there is simply no need for 24GB of RAM – now or in the foreseeable future. Thankfully CyberPower’s configurations are very flexible, and you can go for a ‘mere’ 12GB instead, shaving £386 off the price straight away. Alternatively you could join the rest of us mortals with a still plentiful 6GB and save £455.
Of course, this system is not about saving money, and a more significant concern is its noise. The six 120mm and single 200mm case fans are simply too loud for comfort at their shipped settings, especially when combined with those of the graphics card and power supply. While you might have better luck than we did at finding a balance with the fans at their lower settings without affecting the overclock, at defaults few will want to pay this much for a machine that you can hear from the other side of a sizeable room.
The Infinity i7 Phoenix is the fastest PC we’ve reviewed by a long stretch, and a good indication of what spending £2,800 on a gaming machine can get you. CyberPower has cleverly combined components to give you close to the best of everything. We might have recommended this system – with a little less RAM – to anyone who could afford it, if it weren’t for the Phoenix’s high noise level, which will be off-putting no matter how deep your pockets.
Score in detail
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