- Review Price: £2899.00
To give the latest generation of graphics cards a run for their money, we asked Evesham to build us the fastest PC it could. What Evesham came up with is this – the Evolution Extreme. This is the fastest, and most expensive PC ever to make its way into the TrustedReviews Labs.
Driving the Evolution Extreme is a 3.4GHz Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, which is currently the fastest processor in the Intel stable. Supporting the CPU is 1GB of PC3200 memory, supplied in the form of two 512MB modules for dual channel operation. Although there’s nothing wrong with the memory, it would have been nice to see some high-end modules from a company like Corsair, OCZ or GeIL to go with the super-fast CPU. The storage complement is made up of two 74GB Western Digital S-ATA Raptor hard disks. These disks are very fast and combine a 10,000rpm spindle speed with 8MB of data cache. But Evesham has pushed the storage performance even further by configuring the two Raptors in a RAID 0 array.
The screen is a stunning 20.1in TFT unit from ViewSonic – the VP201s. This screen would be a great addition to any system – with a native resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 you have masses of desktop real estate. With a high resolution screen like this, there’s no problem having multiple windows and applications open concurrently. But obviously this machine is aimed at the hardcore gamer, so it’s a good thing that the ViewSonic VP201s also has a low 16ms response time. This means that when playing fast moving games, you shouldn’t get any smearing problems.
ViewSonic’s VP range of monitors also has the best stand configuration that we’ve seen on a TFT. The screen is mounted on a central column which has a full range of dampened vertical movement. You can also easily twist the screen from side to side and if you’re looking at a particularly long document, you can pivot the screen into portrait mode. There are both DVI and D-SUB inputs and both cables are supplied in the box.
The Evesham case is a black and silver affair and matches the black and silver monitor very well. There are four 5.25in drive bays and the top two are filled with a DVD writer and a DVD-ROM drive. The former is a Sony DW-U18A which will write DVD+/-R discs at eight-speed and DVD+/-RW discs at four-speed. Considering the recent price drops, I’d expect to see a DVD writer in a modestly priced PC, so it’s a necessity in a machine like this. Evesham has also been thoughtful enough to make sure that both optical drives are black to match the case.
Two of the five PCI slots are occupied – the very bottom slot holds a V92 56K modem, while the next one up is filled by a Creative Labs Audigy 2 ZS sound card. The latter is a good inclusion and will please both gamers and movie buffs. Unfortunately this is the OEM version of the Audigy 2 ZS so you don’t get the front mounted media bay that comes with the full retail card. Complementing the Audigy card is a set of Creative Inspire T7700 7.1-channel speakers. If you have the space and the inclination to set all these speakers up in the right configuration, you should be greeted with an impressively immersive audio experience when gaming.
The keyboard and mouse are finished in black and silver and complement the rest of the system. They’re both wireless Microsoft units and performed with expected aplomb.
So, the only major component that we haven’t mentioned is the graphics card, and there’s a very good reason for that. Although this machine is specced and priced with an ATI Radeon X800 Pro, Evesham will offer it with any graphics card you like. So, with this in mind, we tested the 3D performance of the Evolution Extreme with an ATI Radeon X800 Pro, a Radeon X800 XT and an nVidia GeForce 6800 Ultra. Obviously the price will increase accordingly if you choose one of the higher-spec graphics cards, but if you want the best, you’re going to have to pay for it.
So, let’s look at the Radeon X800 Pro. This is based on ATI’s latest core and sports 12 pixel pipelines and six vertex pipelines. You get 256MB of GDDR3 memory running at 900MHz, while the VPU ticks along at 475MHz. This is a pretty amazing card, but if you want to squeeze more power out of this system you might want to go for the Radeon X800 XT which has 16 pixel pipelines, 256MB of GDDR3 memory running at 1.12GHz and a core VPU speed of 520MHz. Or, if you want to go down the nVidia route, the GeForce 6800 Ultra will produce some blinding frame rates with 16 pixel pipelines, 256MB of GDDR3 memory clocked at 1.1GHz and a core GPU speed 450MHz.
Of course I can quote specs until the cows come home, but how does this machine actually perform with all this super-high-end componentry? Well to be honest, when it arrived it wasn’t fast at all. We ran loads of different benchmarks, but the results were all disappointing and in no way indicative of the components inside. After much head scratching we discovered that the CPU temperature was over 90 degrees celsius! Unfortunately, the heatsink/fan that Evesham had used was just not up to the job of cooling a CPU as extreme as this one – the result was a very hot processor that was throttling back and not running at full speed. We replaced the heatsink/fan with a Scythe Samurai CPU cooler (a full review of this cooler will be up soon) and instantly the temperature dropped and the performance rose.
I only ran the 2D benchmarks using the Radeon X800 Pro that Evesham specced with the machine, since you’ll see little variance here between graphics cards. The SYSmark 2004 score was the best we’ve ever seen and at 221 it even beat the Mesh Matrix64 3700+ Pro reviewed last week by a healthy 25 points.
But it was the 3D scores that were really of interest and here this machine just flew through the benchmarks. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to run Far Cry or 3Dmark 2001 on the GeForce 6800 Ultra before it had to go back, but all the other results are comparable over all three cards. The results are quite interesting.
Looking at 3DMark03 you can see that with the X800 Pro installed you’re getting great performance, but things step up a couple of gears with the X800 XT, but sliding the GeForce 6800 Ultra into the AGP slot resulted in even more performance. Again, running X2 at 1,024 x 768 with no FSAA or AF, the X800 Pro turned in a healthy score of 88fps, while the X800 XT soared to 97.1fps, but the 6800 Ultra broke the 100fps barrier.
The Tomb Raider benchmark showed ATI getting its own back – at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x FSAA and 4x AF the X800 Pro managed 51.4fps while the GeForce 6800 Ultra raised the stakes to 62.2fps, but the X800 XT came up trumps with 67.3fps. But moving onto Halo we see that the GeForce card edges ahead of its ATI rivals once more.
It’s a shame that we didn’t get a chance to run the Far Cry benchmark with the GeForce 6800 Ultra, since that’s the real stress test for graphics at the moment. But I imagine it would be a close call with the X800 XT.
However, if you’re reading this and thinking that you’re going to get Evesham to slap a GeForce 6800 Ultra in the AGP slot, you’re also going to have to invest in a better power supply. Evesham supplied the Evolution Extreme to us with a 300W power supply, which lasted about a minute once we put the 6800 Ultra card in. Once we replaced the PSU with a 460W unit everything was fine. Now, although Evesham didn’t spec this machine with a GeForce 6800 Ultra in it, we would still have liked to have seen a higher wattage PSU, especially considering the high price and high spec of the rest of the system.
So, Evesham has produced the fastest PC we have ever seen, and you can choose the level of performance you want by choosing the graphics card to go in it. The price quoted in this review is for the X800 Pro, so if you want either of the other two graphics cards we tested with you’re probably going to have to dig a bit deeper. Also bear in mind that if you go down the GeForce 6800 Ultra route you’re going to have to fork out for a higher-spec PSU, but if you want the ultimate performance configuration it looks like that’s the way to go.
Of course all these cutting edge components come at a staggeringly high price, and at £2,899 including VAT you’re going to need a massive bank balance to be able to afford one. That said, this is the fastest machine we’ve ever seen, and you’d be hard pushed to find a game that could even make it break a sweat.
The Evolution Extreme is an incredibly fast machine made up of top notch components and you wouldn’t be disappointed no matter which of the three graphics cards you chose. It was therefore disappointing to find that Evesham had skimped on the power supply and CPU cooler. If however, both of those components are addressed, the Evolution Extreme will be a performance PC to die for.
After this review was published we where contacted by Evesham and they promised us that the issues that we experienced will be corrected on retail machines. The CPU cooler will be swapped for a more suitable model and the PSU will be changed depending on the graphics card fitted to the machine.
Score in detail