Opening the PC up is simple: just remove two thumbscrews and the panel twists out. The inside is roomy with no sharp edges, but there’s no sign of tool-free installation or any other extras, with even the hard drive being screwed in using plain old screws – no grommets or fancy noise-absorbing suspension here.
As mentioned before, the motherboard is Gigabyte’s EX58-UDR3, which looks pretty good with its blue PCB and fancy metallic blue heat-sinks. However, despite its good looks it resides at the ‘budget’ end of the socket-1366 motherboard spectrum, and another cost-cutting limitation to complement its lack of eSATA is that this board only sports four memory slots.
What this means for you is that – while the provided 6GB of triple channel RAM (in three sticks of two) may be enough to last as long as the rest of the system – if you ever did want to upgrade you couldn’t just throw in an extra 6GB as with most six-slot Core i7 motherboards. Instead you would need to replace the installed DIMMs with 4GB ones to bring the total to 12. Wired2Fire doesn’t offer the chance to configure more than 6GB either, though as mentioned that’s already more than most gamers will need. Our system came with three DIMMs of Corsair’s XMS 3 running at 1333MHz and sporting attractive silver heatsinks.
More permanent storage is provided by a Samsung 1TB (1,000GB) 7,200rpm SpinPoint F1 hard drive with 32MB of cache. You can upgrade this to a 2TB WD Caviar Green drive, but the outrageous £196 Wired2Fire demands for the privilege is considerably more than buying a standalone drive would cost you, so you’re better off sticking with the 1TB option and upgrading yourself later on.
The HellSpawn’s PSU is a modular Thermaltake Toughpower, which provides up to 600W of power to the system: plenty to handle all the components with enough left over for a second graphics card. Power supplies with higher wattages are overkill for most consumers, unless you’re planning on building a quad-GPU monster which with the EX58-UDR3’s twin 16x PCIe slots is not an option anyway.
As any tech-savvy gamer will know the most important part of any gaming rig is the graphics card, and Wired2Fire has chosen to go with a Sapphire AMD/ATI Radeon HD 4890 with 1GB of DDR5 RAM. Like the CPU, the GPU has been overclocked, but since we’re dealing with the card’s stock cooler here rather than an advanced water-cooled one the increases are fairly modest.
Core clock will be up from its original 850MHz to 930MHz, while memory should be at 1050MHz – an improvement of 150Hz. We say will and should because results may vary when the Wire2Fire team are setting up your machine. You may in fact get even higher overclocks on the machine you receive. Keep in mind that this kind of overclock can easily be achieved with a single button press in ATI’s Catalyst driver so it’s nothing to get excited about, but it’s still a nice touch for less tech-savvy consumers and means you won’t have to waste time on stability testing that could be spent gaming instead.
Despite the overclock a 4890 is a slightly disappointing choice considering the amazing CPU processing power it’s being paired with, but aside from value considerations it’s worth keeping in mind that Wired2Fire offers a second 4890 card option (at a very reasonable £152) so you can opt for a seriously impressive CrossFire setup. Still, I can’t help but wish the company had included some nVidia options like the top-end GeForce GTX 295 – after all, more choice is never a bad thing.