- Review Price: £1999.99
As most of you will probably know by now, Intel and AMD have just released new six-core (or hexa-core) processors. Although Intel has been dominating the PC gaming scene for quite a while, it’s actually a six-core AMD machine that first arrived at our office, and what a machine it is! The DinoPC 6th Sense packs in the titular Phenom II X6 1090T CPU, a pair of ATI Radeon 5870 graphics cards and a 120GB SSD, and houses it all in one of the most innovative cases we’ve ever seen. Let’s see if it’s actually worth your hard earned pennies.
Undoubtedly, more than its CPU or other components, this PC lives and dies by its case. The Silverstone Raven RV01 has a unique angular design that we rather like, though we’re sure many of you will disagree. However, while its form may seem to be its standout feature, it’s actually this case’s function that sets it apart. By turning the motherboard mount 90 degrees clockwise, Silverstone has completely changed the internal and external layout of the PC. All the inputs and outputs now protrude from the top where they’re hidden under a removable panel – a very neat touch – and the overall airflow is now from bottom to top rather than front to back, which of course given that hot air rises is arguably a more sensible layout.
What hasn’t changed, however, is the features you find at the front of the case, though Silverstone has again thrown a bit of innovation into the mix. Behind a vertical sliding panel you’ll find the 5.25in external drive bays, and below these (internally) are the hard drive bays. The Power and Reset buttons are located at the top edge. Unfortunately they’re both large and right next to each other, so it’s disconcertingly easy to press the wrong one.
The sliding drive bay cover is quite a neat feature. You pull it down and it locks into place at the bottom, then at a push it slowly springs back into place. It is, however, rather stiff and noisy in operation, and is arguably a waste of space – though certainly less so than the hinged doors of alternative cases. Also, it’s somewhat of a pity that this movable door hides a plain old LG DVD-Rewriter instead of at least a Blu-ray reader as we would expect to find on a system costing two grand. On the up-side, at least a BDR drive is a reasonable £45.30 upgrade.
Our last moan targets the small panel on the top that hides the ‘front’ connectivity. It provides a FireWire port, two USB 2.0 connectors (set too close together) and jacks for headphone and microphone. Again this hinged panel looks cool and seems sturdy enough but its sharp edges could catch wayward fingers when inserting or removing cables, dongles or memory sticks. We would also have liked to see an eSATA port here, and a card-reader in one of the bays wouldn’t have gone amiss either.
Looking in more detail at this case’s thermal performance, it’s testament to how effective the its design is that it only requires two fans above and beyond the CPU cooler and graphics cards to keep its innards cool. These consist of a large 180mm (700rpm) one mounted above the power supply, blowing up towards the graphics cards and CPU, and a 120mm (950rpm) one that sits above the CPU exhausting air out the top of the PC. These, along with the CPU cooler, run so slowly that they are barely audible. This leaves the video cards as the noisiest part of the DinoPC 6th Sense, making it one of the quietest high-end rigs we’ve reviewed!
With both of the case’s benefits taken together, the perpendicular motherboard is one of those brilliant and obvious ideas that you wonder why no-one has thought of before.
Thanks to the use of Asus’ brand-new Republic of Gamers (ROG) Crosshair IV motherboard, connectivity on the DinoPC 6th Sense is as good as it gets. Six USB 2.0 ports (seven if counting the ROG Connect port, for more information on which see our recent Asus ROG Maximus III Gene review) are joined by two USB 3.0 ports. There’s also a single PS2 port joined by FireWire and eSATA connections, supporting nearly every single data connection out there.
Audio comes courtesy of the motherboard’s integrated Creative SupremeFX X-Fi chip, which supports EAX 4.0 effects for games and provides 7.1 surround sound over digital optical or six analogue jacks. A Gigabit Ethernet connection takes care of networking, while video outputs are handled by the twin Radeon 5870s, meaning you get HDMI, DisplayPort and two DVI outputs. As you get two of these cards in CrossFire, you can use six connections to give you simultaneous six-monitor gaming!
Both of the 6th Sense’s side panels are easily removable, though getting them to go back on is a bit of a hassle. One of these has a large Perspex window offering a nice view of the motherboard, but unfortunately DinoPC hasn’t fitted any interior lighting to take advantage of this. All you’ll get is a few lit-up buttons from the ROG board.
Inside, DinoPC has done an even better job than with its previous i7-Osaurus, as every cable is neatly tucked away mostly out of sight – something that is helped in no small measure by the Raven’s extensive cable-routing provisions. The messiest element is the non-modular Corsair 950W power supply, the spare cables from which are crammed into the corner underneath the hard drive bays.
The case is completely tool-free, with easy push-locks for each of the five 5.25in drive bays and removable caddies for the six vertically-oriented 3.25 drive bays (which include rubber grommets for each drive and a 2.5in adapter for SSDs). An innovative expansion-card holding system that actually works well completes this excellent setup.
Getting to components, the headline-grabber here is of course the 6th Sense’s titular AMD Phenom II X6 1090T processor, which – though it won’t grant the power to see dead people – does provide you with six cores. AMD has also introduced Turbo CORE with this CPU, meaning that it can auto-overclock up to 3.6GHz (from a stock 3.2GHz) on up to three cores under lightly threaded applications.
However, that’s not particularly relevant here as DinoPC has heavily overclocked the processor to ensure all six of its cores run at a minimum of 4.2GHz. This is essential since – unfortunately for gamers – most games are barely taking advantage of four cores, let alone six. By upping its clock speed the company has insured that the CPU won’t be a bottle-neck for games, allowing you to take full advantage of the ridiculously powerful graphics setup. It’s cooled by an Arctic Cooling Freezer Xtreme CPU cooler, which is so quiet for a while we thought it might be passive. What’s more, it kept temperatures surprisingly low.
Storage is pretty high-end too – at least in that you get a relatively high-capacity 120GB SSD boot drive combined with a secondary 1TB hard drive. Neither are enthusiast parts: for example, the SSD is a member of OCZ’s value Solid 2 Series. However, the 120GB version still retails for over £220 and, as it’s based on an Indilinx controller (with TRIM support for Windows 7), will still give excellent performance.
The same can’t necessarily be said for the 3.5in hard drive, which is a Samsung EcoGreen model spinning at a lowly 5,400rpm. Mind you, with all the essentials installed on the SSD it shouldn’t have a negative impact, and keeps both noise and energy consumption down.
RAM is definitely worth a mention, if only for the massive black ribbed heatsinks that fit in perfectly with the case’s aesthetics. There’s 4GB of Corsair DDR3 memory installed, running at 1,600MHz default but here given a slight overclock to give the CPU some leeway. Arguably for such a high-end machine 8GB would be a more appropriate amount of RAM, though frankly we’ve never found 4GB a limitation ourselves (and you can of course specifiy more if you want).
Which brings us to the most important part of any gaming machine: its graphics card setup. In this case it’s almost as good as it gets, since the DinoPC 6th Sense sports no less than two ATI Radeon 5870s in a CrossFireX setup, allowed full 16x/16x bandwidth by the Crosshair motherboard. Considering the 5870 trades places with the GTX 480 for the best-performing single-chip card around, two of them will be able to handle any game with consummate ease – especially since the cards used here have been overclocked from their standard 1,200MHz memory and 850MHz engine clock speeds to 1,320MHz and 930MHz respectively.
This is reflected in the scores (though not as much as we would have liked; it only starts really coming into its own at resolutions above 1,920 x 1,200), as DinoPC’s latest is the second-most powerful PC we’ve ever reviewed. It comes in just behind the £2,800 CyberPower Infinity i7 Phoenix, which currently holds every one of our PC performance records (doubtless helped by its 24GB of triple-channel memory and Intel X-25 SSD).
Nevertheless, DinoPC’s 6th Sense is one of the few machines able to comfortably run Crysis on maximum detail at 1,920 x 1,200, providing a consistent 35fps average (bettering the Cyberpower by a few frames per second thanks to its overclocked graphics setup).
Unfortunately, the gap in most other benchmarks is in the Cyberpower’s favour, but don’t worry as this AMD-based monster will still happily handle any game available now or in the near future, and in multi-threaded applications that can use more than four cores it will have few rivals.
Despite its generally lower performance, we prefer the DinoPC 6th Sense to the CyberPower Infinity i7 Phoenix on the basis of noise alone, and of course it’s also quite a bit cheaper. If you get along with its design, the Raven RV01 case offers unique features and DinoPC has done an excellent job of stuffing it with a balanced configuration for the money – including an excellent motherboard.
Mind you, £2,000 is more than we would recommend most people spend on a PC in the first place (although you can downgrade a few components, certain ones like the CPU are fixed so no matter what you do, it’s a bit expensive). A specification like that of the £1,000 Cryo Nano will be adequate for many gamers. Of course it will probably be slightly noisier, lack USB 3.0 and the CPU will ‘only’ have four cores, so it depends on your needs. Certainly, if you do see yourself taking advantage of Hexacore computing and can afford the cash (not to mention space on or under your desk), the 6th Sense is an attractive option.
The overclocked DinoPC 6th Sense combines high-end components, good build quality and some unique features into an attractive and relatively quiet beast. But at a penny under £2,000 it’s a niche offering (despite not being bad value for what you get), and if you don’t see yourself needing six cores, there are cheaper quad-core alternatives that will perform just as well in games.
Score in detail
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