Introduction, Specifications, Configurations, Pricing
We're getting to take a look at our first PC from Ironside Computers today. Ironside is a system integrator and builds highly customizable gaming desktops. We've got a fairly well-spec'd Cyclone PC from Ironside in our lab to check out.
It's worth noting that because of the high degree of customization, your Cyclone system could look radically different than the one pictured above and throughout this review. Ironside allows you to select a platform-in this case, Ivy Bridge-and then select a case and components that make use of that platform.
Please note that PCMark 7 has been updated to the latest version, causing previous benchmark results to not be comparable. We have archived these results. Unfortunately, this means there are fewer systems to compare to.
Without further ado, let's dive into the meat of this review and see what the Cyclone is made of.
Specifications, Configurations and Pricing
Ironside Computers equipped our Cyclone gaming desktop review sample system with Intel's Ivy Bridge-powered i5-3570K. One of the main differences between the 3570K and the 3770K is the inclusion of HyperThreading. For gaming, HyperThreading is a mostly useless technology. The 3570K retains Turbo Boost, which allows it to jump from 3.4GHz to 3.8GHz when one or two cores are loaded.
Cooling is provided by Ironside's Level 2 Iron Tundra liquid cooling set up. It makes use of a 240mm radiator combined with an XSPC 5.25-inch reservoir and pump combo and an XSPC waterblock for the CPU. This should ideally perform better than an integrated all-in-one water cooler that seems to be in fashion.
The 3570K is slotted into an ASRock Z77 Extreme 4. This motherboard features support for CrossFire and SLI, making it the perfect base for a gaming PC. It features on-board USB 3.0 and SATA 3 6Gbps. There are definitely better motherboards out there, but this one is no slouch.
Two 8GB DDR3 DIMMs are slotted into the motherboard's RAM slots, leaving two slots open for easy expansion to 32GB in the future. They are clocked at 1600MHz, which should provide good performance for gaming.
Graphics are provided by an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 video card. The NVIDIA GTX 670 is quite a capable video card, though the Cyclone can be configured with SLI'd GTX Titans, one of the fastest video card configurations currently on the market. All of these components are housed inside a Corsair Vengeance Series C70 Gunmetal mid-tower case.
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit is the operating system pre-installed on a Corsair Neutron GTX 120GB SSD. Users can customize the Cyclone to come with various 64-bit versions of Windows 7 or Windows 8 Pro 64-bit. Storage is provided by a 7,200RPM 1TB drive.
The cost for a system like this is $1,948.37, give or take a few dollars for sales and other discounts. Configuration is endless, thanks in part to the case. Ironside Computers offers a high degree of customization. Individual components can be selected from different manufacturers for most of the major components in the system.
Packaging, Bundle and System Pictures
We're introducing unboxing videos so that you can see exactly what it is like getting a new PC from Ironside Computers.
The system was packaged inside the Corsair Vengeance case's box. This box was then placed inside of a larger box, which was filled with packing peanuts. The internals of the system were protected with the normal vacuum-formed foam.
The following pictures are of the system:
Left side of the system
Right side of the system
Beautiful cable management
Benchmarks and Testing Methodology
- CPU Tests
Cinebench R11.5 starts off our tests. The multi-threaded rendering test is ran and the score reported. wPrime is ran for both the 32M calculation and 1024M calculation with the number of threads available on the system.
- Storage Tests
CrystalDiskMark is run to put a number on how well the system hard disk drive / SSD runs. It measures five different metrics, of which higher is better for all. The higher the numbers, the snappier the operating system will feel, especially if the "4K" number is high, as most operating system files are small files.
HD Tune is run on any storage drives installed in the system. Maximum, minimum and average read and write speeds are reported in the charts.
- System Tests
PCMark 7 is run to get an overall idea of how the system performs as a whole. It tests all aspects of the PC and puts a score on how well it performs overall. In this test, a low scoring area can affect the overall score, so it's important to read the analysis. A higher score is better.
- Gaming Tests
3DMark Vantage is ran on the Extreme preset to get a feel for how the computer would manage gaming. The CPU, GPU and combined scores are reported. A higher overall score is the best and a high GPU or CPU score shows particular prowess with tasks that use that part of the computer.
3DMark 11 is run on the Extreme preset and the Physics, GPU and combined scores are reported. This test is only run if the system supports DirectX 11. A higher overall score is the target, though a high individual result shows prowess in a particular area.
3DMark- Fire Strike Extreme Test is run on the system to measure DirectX 11 performance and CPU performance. 3DMark is the latest version of Futuremark's widely used gaming benchmarking software. The combined, GPU, and Physics scores are all reported in the charts.
Battlefield 3 is run at 1920 x 1080 resolution with the graphics preset set to "Ultra." The test is ran three times due to higher variability than the other benchmarks. FRAPS is used to record 60 seconds worth of FPS data and recording starts when the character first picks up the gun at the start of the campaign and usually finishes shortly after the train explosion. The game is played in a similar manner each time.
Crysis 3 is run at 1920 x 1080 resolution with the graphics specifications set to "Very High." No anti-aliasing is used. See picture on actual test page to see full details. The test is ran three times due to higher variability than the other benchmarks. FRAPS is used to record 60 seconds worth of FPS data and recording starts at the start of the campaign and finishes most of the way up the tower. The game is played in a similar manner each time.
- Heat, Noise, and Power Consumption
The system is fully loaded using Furmark and Prime 95. Component temperatures are recorded using CoreTemp and Furmark. Noise is recorded in front of the system, midway up, six inches from the machine using a decibel reader.
Idle power consumption is system consumption while sitting at the desktop, as recorded by a Kill-a-watt style meter. Loaded consumption is recorded during the load of Prime 95 and Furmark using the same meter.
Version and / or Patch Used: R11.5 build CB25720DEMO
Developer Homepage: http://www.maxon.net
Product Homepage: http://www.maxon.net/products/cinebench/overview.html
CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. 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.
The Cyclone didn't really stand a chance as all the rest of the systems are equipped with faster CPUs that have HyperThreading, which is useful for rendering. If you're going to be rendering with your system, you'll definitely want to make sure you go with an i7 CPU.
Version and / or Patch Used: 2.09
Developer Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/
Product Homepage: http://www.wprime.net/
wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with 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.
Continuing the trend seen above, tasks that are highly multi-threaded benefit from the HyperThreading technology in Core i7 CPUs. The Cyclone comes in last place, but this test doesn't show how it will perform in gaming.
Version and / or Patch Used: 3.0 Technical Preview
Developer Homepage: http://www.crystalmark.info
Product Homepage: http://crystalmark.info/software/CrystalDiskMark/index-e.html
Download here: http://crystaldew.info/category/software/crystaldiskmark
CrystalDiskMark is a disk benchmark software that allows us to benchmark 4K and 4K queue depths with accuracy.
* Sequential reads/writes
* Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
* Text copy
* Change dialog design
* internationalization (i18n)
Note: Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 Technical Preview was used for these tests since it offers the ability to measure native command queuing at 4 and 32.
Interestingly, the Cyclone's SSD, which is the same included in some of the other comparison systems, performs quite poorly in terms of read speed. It produces a max sequential read of just 273.8MB/s. While still quite a bit better than a traditional HDD, it pales in comparison to what modern SSDs are capable of.
With a bit of digging, I was able to discover why this was the case. All three SATA connectors-SSD, HDD, and CD drive-were utilizing SATA2 ports, leaving all the SATA3 ports unused. The Corsair Neutron GTX should be capable of higher speeds, but would need to be plugged into the SATA3 port. Since this is likely how you would receive your system from Ironside, we left things as is.
Write speeds aren't hampered as much by the SATA2 interface. While still a bit slower than some of the other review systems, it managed to outpace both iBUYPOWER systems in our charts with a sequential write speed of 263.1MB/s.
Version and / or Patch Used: 5.00
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 Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.
The Cyclone's mass storage drive produced an average read speed of 113.7MB/s, placing it squarely in the middle of the pack.
In terms of mass storage write performance, the Cyclone managed 111.6MB/s average write speed. This puts it towards the end of the pack, but still ahead of the Digital Storm ODE.
Version and / or Patch Used: 18.104.22.168
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com/benchmarks/
PCMark 7 is a great utility for testing a PC's all-around capabilities. It tests all aspects of the computer, from graphics performance to hard disk performance and attempts to put a score on it, which is not an easy task.
Due to updating PCMark 7 to its latest version, we've had to archive our previous results as they are incompatible with the new version.
A PCMark7 score of 5667 is mainly shows that this system features a weaker CPU and that the SSD is plugged into the wrong SATA port. It's still a respectable score though.
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmarkvantage
3DMark Vantage tests both processor and graphics performance and is a good indication of how systems compare. The results are generally more repeatable and consistent than other forms of benchmarking. Vantage uses DirectX 10 and can handle multi-core CPUs.
The Cyclone produced a decent Vantage score, receiving 17,380 Marks. Individually, the GPU scored 17,268, which is about what we would expect. The CPU is shown to be weaker, receiving a score of 19,813.
Version and / or Patch Used: 22.214.171.124
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
Diving into the 3DMark11 benchmark, we see that the Cyclone can hang with some of the best systems we've had in for review. It falls in just behind the Haswell-powered ODE with a score of 4,154. Individual scores show that the CPU is the weakest out of those we've tested, but the GPU does quite well, performing near the level of the GTX 780.
3DMark - Fire Strike Extreme
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/3dmark
Fire Strike is a new test that is designed for powerful gaming desktops. We have checked the "Extreme" test option to make it that much more torturing on the system. Overall, CPU, and GPU scores are reported.
The newest 3DMark does a little bit better job of separating the men from the boys. The Cyclone falls further behind the ODE and even drops below the SFF Revolt. Part of this would be due to the weaker CPU, but the GPU also falls slightly behind the Revolt.
Developer Homepage: http://www.dice.se/
Product Homepage: http://www.battlefield.com/battlefield3
Battlefield 3 is one of the most requested benchmarks, so we have finally added it. Frame rates are recorded for 60 seconds starting in the first part of campaign when the character picks up the gun and is played through until just after the train explodes. The game is played three times in that manner with the results being averaged together and reported.
Settings are 1920x1080 for the resolution with the "Graphics Quality" set to Ultra.
Now that we're into real-world testing, you can see that the weaker CPU isn't that important. The Cyclone provides an average frame rate of 79.2 FPS, which is respectable and enough to play Battlefield 3 without any issues.
Developer Homepage: http://crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.crysis.com/us/crysis-3
Crysis 3 is run at 1920 x 1080 resolution with the graphics specifications set to "Very High." No anti-aliasing is used. See picture above for full details. The test is ran three times due to higher variability than the other benchmarks. FRAPS is used to record 60 seconds worth of FPS data and recording starts at the start of the campaign and finishes most of the way up the tower. The game is played in a similar manner each time.
Once again, the Cyclone proves itself as a capable gaming machine by providing an average frame rate of 36.7 FPS. It still is falling in between the Revolt and Bolt, both of which are SFF gaming machines.
Temperatures, Noise, and Power Consumption
Temperatures, Cooling, Noise
The system is fully loaded using Furmark and Prime 95, similar to our laptop testing. The sound recordings are made in front of the machine, about 6 inches from the center of the tower. Temperatures are reported as recorded by CoreTemp and Furmark.
Ironside Computers' watercooling setup worked quite well. Not only was the system quiet, but it kept the CPU temperatures to a minimum. The i5-3570K managed to reach a max temperature of 61 degrees Celsius, well within the limits of the chip.
On the GPU side of things, the GTX 670 also performed quite well. It reached a maximum temperature of 76 degrees Celsius, well within GPU temperature limits.
The Cyclone ties with the Digital Storm Bolt for being the quietest desktop system that we have ever tested. It produced just 49 decibels of sound.
Power consumption is measured while the system is loaded for the temperature test and while sitting idle at the desktop. Measurement is taken at the wall, so it includes everything running in the system, not including the monitor.
At idle, the machine draws 98 watts. This means it's about the same as leaving two incandescent light bulbs running. During a full load, system energy draw spikes to 289 watts, which is towards the bottom of all the systems we've tested. Good temperatures help keep energy draw down.
Now that we've gone through the hard numbers, let's take a look at some of the more subjective qualities of the system.
The case, which is custom-airbrushed by Ironside Computers, features both our logo and Ironside's logo on the side. The airbrushing is pretty good, though for $25-$50 there is a limit to just how great the airbrushing is going to be.
The wire management is top-notch. The extent to which they routed cables meets a bar just a bit higher than I've seen from other companies. They went so far as to bundle the cables neatly behind the motherboard tray, despite it being highly unlikely that anyone would see the cables.
The case, which is built by Corsair, is quite the case. It's an excellent choice for heading to LAN parties as it features built-in handles on the top. The handles make it extremely easy to move about, despite the system weighing a fair amount.
The review wasn't all roses, however. For instance, our Battlefield 3 benchmark did not want to play nicely with the system. It turns out that LucidLogix's Virtu MVP software has compatibility issues with Battlefield 3. It's a bit of a problem when one of the most popular games can't be played straight out of the box. We're sure that Virtu MVP does help in some situations, but it should be an option as to whether or not the system features it pre-installed. Ironside should really provide the choice to the customer during purchase.
Another issue, as noted during the Storage tests, is that the SSD was plugged into a SATA2 port. Modern SSDs are capable of maxing out SATA2 and it needed to be plugged into a SATA3 port. It's a minor detail, but it's these minor details that set systems apart.
We're pleased with the customization options presented by Ironside Computers. We're also pleased by the custom airbrushing that they do. In the end, we're pretty happy with the system, barring the issues discovered and noted above, but thankfully they weren't too serious.
Ironside Computers is currently hosting a giveaway for a high-end gaming PC: