Smooth Creations is a company I've only heard of recently. They first popped up in some e-mail correspondence and then I begun to hear more about them once QuakeCon 2008 fired up. The company works in conjunction with CSX (which is a subsidiary of Cooler Master) to create some absolutely unbelievable looking cases.
Today, we're not just looking at one of Smooth Creations' pimped out cases, but a complete system from them which includes everything from CPU to DVD-ROM. This is actually my first system review, so there isn't really any set procedure; I am just winging it a bit at the moment.
The first thing we'll be doing is looking at the outside of the case to see what's going on with the paint job along with the particular case Smooth Creations decided to use. From there, we will take the panel off and dive inside the case to see what we've got as far as components go.
Once that's all done, we'll fire the system up and see how it goes in performance land against our humble graphics card testbed. Let's not ramble anymore and get stuck into the case to see what exactly Smooth Creations has going on.
Opening up the giant box like I'm 8 years old and it's Christmas day, we find ourselves greeted by another box; talk about an anti-climax! - So, removing that box out of the other box and ripping it open, you'll find yourself greeted by something that resembles a case which has a giant sheet over the top of it.
At this point in time I don't feel like I'm ever going to see this thing. So, with the case out of the box and the sheet covering it from head to toe, I take the time to slowly undress it. Bit by bit I see more parts of its sexy exterior until I eventually see this staring me straight in the face :-
That wasn't the half of it, though; spinning the case around to look at the other side, we find ourselves looking at this :-
You simply feel yourself in awe of the system and the detail that has gone into the paint job. The effect of the mural on the side of the case is just simply stunning. It wasn't 'till I actually took a photo of the mural that I noticed the green glitter-like design going on in the background, which can be seen below.
Moving back to the front of the case and looking at the case features across the top, we have two USB ports, a microphone and headset port alongside a FireWire port.
Moving a little higher and looking on top of the case, we can see the paint job continues. Here we also find two more USB ports along with the power and reset button and a HDD activity LED.
Opening the front door up, we're greeted by a load of bays. At the very top we have a black DVD-ROM drive sitting there. Below that we have eight spare bays just waiting for more drives to be inserted.
Moving back to the left hand side of the case, we have a window that takes up the majority of the side panel. Looking through the window, we can see some of the hardware installed in the system along with the very nice cabling job Smooth Creations has done.
While we're on the side, if we just take a look down in the corner we can see the huge amount of detail that has gone into the case along with the overall quality.
Finally, moving around to the back of the case we see the back of the power supply up the top, a single 120mm fan sitting next to the I/O ports and below that, our two DVI ports from our graphics card. As you can see, this is where the painting has finished; it does seem kind of pointless to paint the back of the case as no one will ever see it.
Taking the side panel off, we initially don't see anything that we haven't already seen, thanks to the massive side window being installed. What we can do is take a closer look at the components we have in the system.
The motherboard of choice is a Foxconn P45A motherboard; not the most beautiful looking thing we've seen before, but a solid board that has some decent BIOS options and enough SATA ports and expansion slots to keep any gamer happy.
The graphics side of things is provided by a lovely Diamond HD 4870 XOC Black Edition card which sports the standard cooler along with two Dual-Link DVI connectors. It follows the reference design as far as looks go, so there isn't much to say there. Clocks on the other hand are a different story with the core and memory coming in at 800MHz and 1100MHz respectively, which is up from the stock 700MHz / 900MHz configuration. We see the default 512MB of GDDR5 memory present on this model as well.
Inserted below the Zalman CPU cooler is an Intel QX9650 which runs at its default 3GHz speed. 4GB of memory is provided with a 2 x 2GB kit of G.Skill DDR2, which runs at 800MHz 6-6-6-18; quite relaxed.
Running off the motherboard, we have an IDE DVD-ROM drive that sits up the top while a 150GB Western Digital Raptor runs off a SATA port at the bottom of the system. The whole system is powered by an 1100 Watt power supply which offers us plenty of connectivity.
Test System Setup and 3DMark06
- TweakTown Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 3GHz (333MHz x 9)
Motherboard(s): GIGABYTE X48-DQ6 (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Memory: 2 X 1GB Kingston PC6400 DDR-2 3-3-3-10 (KHX6400D2ULK2/2G) (Supplied by Kingston)
Hard Disk(s): Seagate 250GB 7200RPM SATA-2 7200.10 (Supplied by Seagate)
Graphics Card(s): Sapphire HD 4870 (Supplied by Sapphire)
- Smooth Creations Test System Setup
Processor(s): Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650
Motherboard(s): Foxconn P45-A
Memory: 2 X 2GB G.Skill MQ 6-6-6-18
Hard Disk(s): Western Digital Raptor 150GB
Graphics Card(s): Diamond HD 4870 XOC Black Edition
Operating System: Windows Vista SP1
Drivers: Catalyst 8.7
What we'll be doing today is having a look at the Smooth Creations Asylum against our humble TweakTown testbed, which is always running at a solid 3GHz. To keep it fair, we've installed a Sapphire HD 4870 into our test system.
We'll be running the normal line-up of Vista tests along with a few extra tests that let us know the performance of the hard drive, CPU and RAM. Without further ado, let's just get stuck straight into it.
Version and / or Patch Used: Build 110
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmark06/
Buy It Here
3DMark06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests.
3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.
Straight away we can see that the SC system gets a good jump on our testbed. Overclocking the processor to 3.9GHz really yields a massive performance increase as well.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
While our testbed gets just over 8000 marks, the SC system crosses the 9000 mark barrier. Adding the OC into the mix gives us another slight boost in performance.
Benchmarks - PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea
Version and / or Patch Used: Benchmark Demo
Developer Homepage: http://en.akella.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.pt-boats.net/
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a naval action simulator that places gamers in charge of a mosquito fleet of the Allied Forces, Russia or Germany during the height of World War II.
Using the latest Direct X 10 technology PT Boards - Knights of the Sea manages to apply a lot of stress to the components of today which in turn gives us quite an intensive benchmark.
We again see the SC system performing better than our testbed. Overclocking the CPU on the SC system shows performance going through the roof.
Benchmarks - CINEBENCH R10
Version and / or Patch Used: Release 10
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer's performace capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based).
We can see out of the box the SC once again has the jump on our testbed. Overclocking yields some impressive performance gains, too.
Benchmarks - World in Conflict
World in Conflict
Version and / or Patch Used: 184.108.40.206
Timedemo or Level Used: Built-in Test
Developer Homepage: http://www.massive.se
Product Homepage: http://www.worldinconflict.com
World in Conflict is a real-time strategy video game by Massive Entertainment and to be published by Sierra Entertainment for Windows (DX9 and DX10) and the Xbox 360.
The game is set in 1989 where economic troubles cripple the Soviet Union and threaten to dissolve it. However, the title pursues a "what if" scenario where, in this case, the Soviet Union does not collapse and instead pursues a course of war to remain in power. It is an intensive new game is sure to put plenty of stress on even the latest graphics cards and we use the built-in benchmarking for our testing.
We continue to see the SC system have no problem out-performing our testbed. Again, when overclocking it yields some impressive performance gains.
Benchmarks - Unreal Tournament 3
Unreal Tournament 3
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used:
Developer Homepage: http://www.epicgames.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.unrealtournament3.com/
Buy It Here
Following the formulae that made Unreal Tournament so great the third installment to the series has hit us recently with better than ever graphics. The games uses the latest Unreal Engine which like most modern day games when maxed out puts the pressure on our lineup of graphics cards.
Like we've seen all along, the SC system really has a leg up on our testbed. Overclocking continues to add only more performance into the mix.
Benchmarks - High Quality AA and AF
High Quality AA and AF
Our high quality tests let us separate the men from the boys and the ladies from the girls. If the cards weren't struggling before they will start to now.
Cranking up the AA and the AF, we see the SC continue to shine. Moving to 3.9GHz takes us over the 14k mark.
World In Conflict
For some reason our testbed managed to score better under these settings. It's the only time we've seen the SC come in behind, but at these intensive settings the HD 4870 just isn't strong enough anyway.
Benchmarks - wPrime
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.62
Developer Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/
wPrime uses a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.
At the same clock speeds we can see that the QX 9650 out performs the Q6600 at 3GHz, but OC the CPU and performance becomes significantly faster again.
Benchmarks - Everest
Version and / or Patch Used: Ultimate Edition 4.5
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com/products/overview.php?pid=3&ps=UE&lang=en
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC.
Again, the overclocked system gives us a massive boost. At default the SC system writes quicker while our testbed reads quicker.
Benchmarks - HD Tune Pro
Version and / or Patch Used: PRO 3.1
Developer Homepage: http://www.efdsoftware.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com/>
HD Tune is a Hard Disk utility which has the following functions:
Benchmark: measures the performance
Info: shows detailed information
Health: checks the health status by using SMART
Error Scan: scans the surface for errors
HD Tune may also work with other storage devices such as memory cards, USB sticks, iPods, etc.
In raw transfer speeds our 7200.10 comes out slightly ahead of the WD Raptor, but looking at the access time we can see the WD drive is considerably better.
Power Consumption Tests
Using our new PROVA Power Analyzer WM-01 or "Power Thingy" as it has become quickly known as to our readers, we are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
At stock the SC systems power draw is below our testbed. Overclocked at idle shows it's still below and under load it's just 2 watts higher.
Whenever I find myself venturing into a new area, I always find myself reviewing the best of the best kind of item as my first one, which sets the bar incredibly high. Here is no different with the Smooth Creation Asylum system today. This thing is a beast; there's no denying it. Accompany it with a 28" monitor that's out putting 1920 x 1200 and you have an absolute dream machine.
Don't even get me started on the paint job; I still find myself a week after receiving the system in awe of the quality and overall design. The only thing that had me worried about the whole system was the price. Since I didn't get one before receiving the sample, I had to e-mail Smooth Creations and ask. I was worried it was going to be one of those price tags where if you have to ask how much it is, you can't afford it.
Getting an e-mail back with a price tag of $3100US including the paint job and shipping was kind of shocking. Considering it's also packing a QX series processor under that custom painted chassis, there isn't a whole lot you could complain about. Throw the nicely overclocked Diamond HD 4870 XOC Black Edition into the mix and you've got a very mean gaming system that any gamer would be happy to have sitting on their desk.
So much detail has been put into the system, from component choice to paint job to cable management. When I first opened the system up, the only thing I didn't really agree with was the choice to use a Foxconn motherboard. While we've been happy with them in the past, I've never used one personally and tend to stick to companies like GIGABYTE or ASUS. Once discovering the processor was also of the QX variety, I thought that the board was going to limit some of the fun we could have. It didn't, though; it ran like an absolute dream at stock and overclocked settings while performing like we couldn't even imagine.
There aren't many companies I would trust building a system for myself. I could whole heartedly say, though, that Smooth Creations would be one of them. They have no doubt done a fantastic job and hopefully we'll be seeing more from them in the future.
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