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

Being the fastest non-Extreme (i.e. affordable) Core i7 processor around, the 950 offers stunning performance even without an overclock, but as every savvy gamer knows it’s the graphics power that really make or break a gaming system. It’s a good thing then that PC Specialist has included the single most powerful graphics card available, nVidia’s GeForce GTX 295.

It’s well worth reading our review of this beast, but for the rest of you the GTX 295 is essentially two GTX 280 chips combined into a single card and linked through SLI, though with the core and memory clock speeds of a GTX 260. The Gainward card used here is the older dual-PCB design, but while this means the card itself will get hotter, it also vents more heat out the back instead of into the case.

As usual with Core i7 machines, this setup is backed by 6GBs of DDR3 memory in the guise of Corsair’s XMS3 (running at 1,333MHz) with good-looking silver heat-spreaders. This should be plenty for the foreseeable future, but if it’s not, Asus’ excellent P6T motherboard offers a total of six slots so you can easily upgrade, or you can select up to 12GB of 1600MHz Corsair memory direct from PC Specialist (though keep in mind that only filling the three primary memory slots should theoretically give better extreme overclocking potential).

While we’re on the subject of upgrades via the company’s website, we’d like to mention a particularly annoying omission. Unlike the configuration pages of most manufacturers or systems assemblers that let you customise your rig, PC Specialist doesn’t show you the price of most individual component upgrades, or even a changing price on the page. Instead, after selecting what you want, you have to go to the “tell me the price” button, which then loads a new page.

On the plus side though, the company’s configuration tips are brutally and refreshingly honest. About CPUs, for example, it offers the following: “Do you need the fastest processor? A slightly slower processor may save you hundreds of pounds, and (…) you will probably be better off (financially)”. It’s a stark yet welcome contrast to the usual sales lines which try to convince you that you need the best (or rather, most expensive) of everything.

Getting back to the motherboard, despite its simple name Asus’ passively-cooled P6T isn’t short on features. With its black PCB and metallic-blue heatsinks it’s certainly attractive, and matches the CoolIT system and graphics card nicely. It offers two free SATA ports, two PCI slots and two PCI-Express slots, and PC Specialist will let you add another GTX 295 in one of the latter if you’re rich enough for some over-the-top quad-SLI action.

It also offers comprehensive connectivity around the back, including six USB ports, two PS2 connectors, eSATA and FireWire, a Gigabit Ethernet port and co-axial plus optical digital audio outputs in addition to the usual six analogue 3.5mm ones. The video card, meanwhile, offers dual DVI and HDMI video outputs.

Storage is in the hands of twin Hitachi hard drives: a standard 500GB (8MB cache, 7,200rpm) install drive and secondary 1TB (16MB cache, 7,200rpm) model. It’s worth noting that though it’s nice to have a separate drive for the OS, you can save £24 by just going for a single 1.5TB drive, or you can of course opt for a different configuration on the company’s website, with up to four 2TB hard drives in RAID 1 or 0 on offer.

The whole lot is powered by a non-modular 800W Epsilon PSU from FSP Group, known for unremarkable yet solid units. It’s finished in glossy blue, which goes fairly well with the rest of the case’s internals.

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