Now that we’ve covered all the hardware, software, and how the whole lot is set up, it’s time to see how the HellSpawn ALC performs in what it was created for: games. Initial impressions were certainly favourable, with the 64-bit DirectX 10 version of Crysis never dipping below 30 frames per second (fps) at 1,920 x 1,200 with two samples of anti-aliasing on High detail. However, notching the settings up to Very High caused the system trouble, and especially during large shootouts it would plod along at around 20fps.
Keeping in mind that Crysis is still one of the most graphically demanding games out there, the HellSpawn ALC should be able to run most games at high detail without breaking a sweat (over 100fps in Call of Duty 4 at 1,920 x 1,200 on maximum detail). But the Crysis results at maximum detail do show again that once you have a reasonable processor – any dual or quad core CPU running at more than 2.5GHz – the real bottle neck for gaming is graphics.
Nothing demonstrates this better than Cyberpower’s Gamer Infinity Crossfire. Even though we reviewed it over a year ago and it uses both a CPU and GPUs that are a whole generation older, it beats the Wired2Fire system in every single high-resolution gaming benchmark thanks to its dual Radeon 4870s and despite only having a dual core CPU – though this being overclocked to 4GHz obviously helps. Just to rub salt in the wound it was cheaper when it came out too.
Of course this comparison isn’t exactly fair. As you can see in the PCMark Vantage results, the overclocked Core i7 outperforms Cyberpower’s overclocked Core 2 Duo in almost every other scenario, and if you do more than game with your PC it’s already the undisputed winner here – especially since it’s quieter, cooler and less power-hungry into the bargain.
To truly make Wired2Fire’s HellSpawn ALC into the gaming monster its title suggests though, you’ll need to either configure that second Radeon 4890 when ordering or add one after you’ve bought the PC, which should set you back about £150.
For those who think the water-cooling means a quiet PC, just as with the CyberPower Gamer Ultra Perseus you’ll be disappointed as the HellSpawn can get slightly noisy when under stress. This is mainly due to the video card, and there’s no obvious way to avoid it since Wired2Fire doesn’t offer a card without the stock AMD/ATI cooler. Noise is a problem with most high-performance gaming PCs that aren’t completely water-cooled though, and thus hardly something to be held against the HellSpawn ALC.
Finally in terms of value £1070 is a great price for what you’re getting. Though the HellSpawn ALC’s mix of components (including the Domino water-cooling) can be found for around the same money elsewhere, this doesn’t include the guaranteed overclock which lets the Wired2Fire’s processor outperform a Core i7 965 Extreme.
Even factoring in our recommended upgrade to the better Antec Nine Hundred case (which would bring the price up to £1111) and second graphics card (£1263) it’s still an enticing deal. However, if you don’t demand the future-proofing of Core i7 (which isn’t completely foolproof with socket 1156 and new Core iX CPUs on the horizon anyway) you can get a far cheaper Core 2 Quad system that will give you similar performance in most games.
The all-conquering performance of the HellSpawn ALC’s water-cooled, overclocked Core i7 CPU isn’t matched by its single Radeon 4890 graphics card, but its excellent value means that even with a few upgrades such as a second 4890 it’s still a great deal.