PC Specialist Vortex i950 Gaming PC Review - PC Specialist Vortex i950 Gaming PC Review

CoolerMaster’s HAF 932 originally features three 230mm fans at the front, side and top and a 140mm one at the back by default. Unfortunately CoolIT’s water-cooling system has necessitated the removal of the side fan, and the 140mm one at the back has been replaced by the radiator’s own 120mm model (which at the settings on this system wasn’t the quietest around).

To make up for it, PC Specialist has added a generic 120mm fan at the case’s bottom, but this is cause for some grumbles. In an assault on good taste reminiscent of the Hyundai’s BlueH Monitor, PC Specialist has paired the HAF’s red LED lighting with blue LEDs on this extra fan. Another (albeit minor) issue is that the pointed ends of the screws used to attach this fourth fan stick out, though you would almost have to make a conscious effort to hurt your finger on them.

As already mentioned, CoolerMaster’s tool-free push-button clips for the case’s 5.25in bays don’t really hold drives securely, but fortunately the plastic clips for the hard drive cage (rotated 90 degrees for convenient access) work like a charm. The plastic 3.5in ‘rail-caddies’ slide out easily, clip around the hard drive in a snap, and the rubber grommets integrated into the mounts help reduce vibration and thus noise.

The motherboard tray is not removable, but there’s plenty of space around it for an easy install, and the plate has abundant holes for cable-routing, as well as a cut-out under the CPU area to make installing custom coolers easier. Also worth mention are the HAF’s tool-free expansion-card retention clips, which spring out with a simple press yet hold cards in securely when closed.

Enough about the Vortex i950’s case: let’s see what the components stowed inside it are like. Attached to the case’s 120mm back fan is CoolIT’s Freezone Elite CPU Chiller, an impressive-looking liquid-cooling set worth around £230 on its own. This closed-loop system consists of a copper-alloy CPU heatsink cooled by several Thermoelectric Cooling (TEC) units linked to a pump and radiator by tubing (protected by spring-sheaths), with the whole lot controlled and monitored by CoolIT’s Multiple TEC (MTEC) Control Centre box.

Considering this is the bigger, meaner brother of CoolIT’s impressively-performing Domino A.L.C., which when we came across it in Wired2Fire’s HellSpawn ALC was keeping a Core i7 overclocked to 3.8GHz happily humming along at a maximum of 50 degrees, it ought to do fairly well.

However, not only has PC Specialist not even overclocked the socket 1366 Intel Core i7 950, which is running at its (admittedly not inconsiderable) stock speed of 3.06GHz, the CoolIT system doesn’t keep the CPU much colder than a good conventional air cooler could. The whole point of a TEC cooler is it can bring the temperatures down below room temperature, yet with the Vortex i950 the CPU still reached 45 degrees Celsius. In a case with such excellent airflow, we really have to wonder why PC Specialist has bothered, especially as this is such an expensive addition.

Mind you, thanks to Intel’s new D0 stepping the 950 should overclock higher than the previous Core i7 920 champion, and the fancy cooler could still prove its worth when really pushed. At stock voltages we achieved an easy and painless overclock to around 3.4GHz (up from the default of 3.06GHz) which pushed the maximum CPU temperature up by a mere 10 degrees (from 45 to 55), which isn’t bad going.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.