Pacstar Quad Core 8800
- Quad-core CPU, graphics card, Zalman cooler, room to upgrade, tool-free case
- Doesn't have a RAID array, minor limitations on the mid-range motherboard
Yet again, Pacstar has put together a nice gaming machine that has plenty of room for upgrades. This system will keep most gamers happy for some time and offers the possibility for even more power down the track.
Price$ 3,099.00 (AUD)
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The spacious and bulky Gigabyte 3DAurora 570 case used in the Pacstar Quad Core 8800 system hints at the tasty gaming power inside and Pacstar's decision to use this case bodes well for future upgrades.
The large, roomy interior is home to several nice pieces of hardware, including an Intel Core 2 Quad QX6700 2.66GHz CPU, 2GB of GEIL DDR2 800MHz RAM and a Palit GeForce 8800GTS 640MB graphics card. These are installed on a Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3P (rev 2.0) motherboard. Also notable within the case is the huge Zalman cooler on the CPU. Pacstar ships the machine with a 20in widescreen Samsung monitor, which has a native resolution of 1680x1050. Added to these powerful components is a media card reader that supports Secure Digital, Multimedia Card, Compact Flash, Microdrive, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro and Memory Stick Duo formats.
This quad-core-based machine will handle heavy processing tasks fairly well, but will excel at handling rendering or photo editing tasks and encoding tasks. It will also provide excellent performance during heavy multitasking. As more and more games are being coded to use two or more CPUs, the quad-core will eventually provide stellar performance in this area, too.
On the subject of gaming, the Palit 8800 GTS 640MB (see a similar card here GeForce 8800 GTS (GV-NX88S640H-RH)) is a very nice graphics card no matter what your level of gaming is. It offers some of the best performance possible on currently available DirectX 9-based games, and also offers DirectX 10 support for games that will be released later this year, such as the eagerly awaited Crysis.
In 3DMark 2006, using default settings (1280x1024 resolution with no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering), the Pacstar Quad Core 8800 scored 9149, which is a very good result, but one we've come to expect from a machine with an 8800 GTS-based graphics card. Running the same test, but with the native resolution of the monitor (1680x1050) and 8x anti-aliasing (AA) with 16x anisotropic filtering (AF), it scored 5694, which is still a very impressive score for current games. Using the FEAR in-game benchmark at a resolution of 1280x960 and with 4xAA and 16xAF enabled, this machine scored an average of 82fps, which ensures super-smooth game play.
Two sideways facing hard drives, one a 36GB 10,000rpm Western Digital (WD) Raptor that has been used to hold the Windows XP Home operating system, and another 400GB Samsung (7200rpm) hard drive for data storage, occupy two of the four available 3.5in internal drive bays. Situated in the first two hard drive bays at the bottom of the drive cage is a plastic box that can hold extra cables, adapters and brackets, a handy feature of the 3DAurora 570 case. This can be removed if more hard drives need to be installed.
We ran some copy tests to see how quickly the drives can transfer data. Using 4.12GB of raw data, of varying sizes, we did a copy test for each hard drive from one place on the hard drive to another. The WD Raptor took 3min 24sec to complete this task, which is a transfer rate of 20.2MB/s. The Samsung 400GB drive was a little slower at 18.5MB/s. These scores are ok, but nothing flash. A RAID configuration with larger WD raptors would have been nice.
The drives are mounted using screw-free (clip-on) brackets and simply slide in and out. It's easy to access the drives, but the sliding action is quite stiff and cumbersome. Tools aren't needed to install expansion cards or optical drives either.
The Zalman CPU cooler consists of a 120mm fan that's semi-enclosed by a ring of aluminium and copper fins, which conduct heat directly from the CPU. It's considerably quieter than the stock Intel cooler for quad-core CPUs. Another 120mm fan on the front of the case sucks air from the front and blows it over the hard drives. Hot air is extracted via two 120mm fans on the rear of the case and another in the SeaSonic 550watt power supply. Overall we found this system to be reasonably quiet considering its grunt.
The Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3P (rev 2.0) motherboard is not Gigabyte's flagship model, but can handle up to 8GB of DDR2 800MHz RAM across four DIMM slots and supports two ATI graphics cards using CrossFire technology. Unused in the case are two PCIe x1 slots, one PCIe x16 slot and two PCI slots. Only two of the SATA ports are in use as the LG DVD re-writer is an IDE drive, leaving six free SATA ports for additional devices.
Although the case is large, it's not too heavy. The media card reader can be accessed via the front panel, as can the optical drive, three USB ports and a FireWire port. Audio ports are also available on the front panel. On the rear panel, digital (optical and coaxial) and multi-channel analogue ports for surround sound audio are available. A further four USB ports can also be found, as can another FireWire port, as well as serial and parallel ports. PS/2 ports are available, though the supplied mouse and keyboard are USB.
Although the case interior is so spacious, and the cables are less likely to impede air-flow, Pacstar has done a quick and simple job of tying them together so they don't get in the way.
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