PLUS Stealth IV Extreme Quadro Mach II QX6700

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PLUS Stealth IV Extreme Quadro Mach II QX6700
  • PLUS Stealth IV Extreme Quadro Mach II QX6700
  • PLUS Stealth IV Extreme Quadro Mach II QX6700
  • Expert Rating

    4.50 / 5

Pros

  • Quad core, SLI Inno3D 8800 GTX cards, Zalman cooler, enthusiast motherboard

Cons

  • Noise levels

Bottom Line

If your budget allows for such high specifications then this PC will make you giggle with glee. Although it is quite costly, the parts and build suggest it's worth every penny. The components are trustworthy and provide a considerable amount of headroom for future applications and functionality.

Would you buy this?

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A PC to make all other PCs jealous, the PlusCorp Stealth IV Extreme Quadro QX6700 Mach II may break the bank, but it will guarantee you a superior gaming experience and gloating rights over your friends for some time to come. At $6,999 this is no meagre investment, but you'd be hard pressed to find any game, encoding task, or other application that will make this PC break a sweat.

This is the first complete unit we've seen with Intel's new Quad Core CPU and only the second PC with a graphics card based on NVIDIA's brand new 8800 GTX graphics processor. In this case there are two Inno3D 8800 GTX cards in an SLI configuration. As we would expect, the Stealth IV did well in our tests, but most current benchmarks do not have the capabilities to test this brand new hardware to its fullest extent.

We recently reviewed the Intel Quad Core (see ) and, while a direct comparison is difficult, the Quad Core took twice as much stress as the nearest Core 2 Duo CPU from Intel (using video encoding with Sorenson Squeeze) before it reached full CPU usage. You'll need to use applications that utilise all four cores to see the real benefit of this CPU.

To keep the QX6700 cool, PlusCorp has used a Zalman CNPS9700LED Copper CPU Cooler, which consists of some elaborate copper heat piping and fins combined with a large fan. It looks great, but the heat generated by both graphics cards and the CPU itself keep it running at a constantly high rpm (revolutions per minute) and as a result it's the main source of noise coming from the case. The case itself is a Lian Li silent case and employs some dampening material to lower the decibel levels, but it can only dampen so much and plenty of fan noise is still audible.

A single 8800 GTX would still be excessive for most current games, but the SLI, dual board configuration is nothing short of overkill. Bringing multiple screens into play at high resolutions will be the only thing that puts these two cards under pressure. As with the Quad Core CPU, there is currently no benchmark that can test the proper DirectX 10 capabilities of these cards at this time. The 8800 represents the next generation of GPU technology by implementing a unified GPU architecture, making image rendering far more efficient than anything before. As well as the new architecture, the 8800 cards are the first to support Windows Vista's DirectX 10 application programming interface (API), which aims to re-invent the way hardware and software (such as 3-D games) work.

When we tested the Stealth IV and its twin 8800 GTX configuration using 3DMark 2006, it performed as we would assume and scored 11440; well beyond the requirements of any current game. We also ran the FEAR in-game benchmark, which averaged 110fps (frames per second). This is a great result, but shows negligible improvements over our own test bed results, also built with an Intel Quad Core CPU but only a single 8800 GTX. This is potentially due to the fact that the game simply doesn't draw on the second card. Aside from the raw power of the card, it also brings NVIDIA-based cards into line with top-end ATI Radeon-based cards by supporting High Dynamic Range (HDR) lighting with anti-aliasing turned on, something previous NVIDIA-based cards couldn't do. The cards are also HDCP compliant for anyone planning on hooking up a high definition (HD) screen and an HD media player.

The included 2GB of Geil DDR2 800MHz RAM complements the graphics cards nicely, and is in line with the rest of the system components. In WorldBench 5 the machine scored 129. This result is on par with scores we've seen from the top Core 2 Duo CPUs, but as mentioned before, the Quad Core has not been fully stressed by this benchmark.

The Asus Striker Extreme motherboard supports a number of features for power-users. These include both a power button and clear-BIOS button on the printed circuit board (PCB), and an LCD for boot diagnostics. Blue LEDs next to key motherboard components make them easy to identify and these can be turned on or off when the system is shut down. The inclusion of two e-SATA ports is a nice touch we'd like to see on more motherboards.

Two Western Digital 500GB (7200rpm) hard drives are setup in a RAID 0 array for added speed. We copied 4.12GB of data across the hard drive, which it completed in 3min 37sec: a good result. The hard drives face the side-panel, instead of the rear, within the case and are quite easy to get to. They are cooled by a large 120mm fan that pulls air from the front panel and blows it over the drives. Immediately next to the CPU cooler is another 80mm fan that extracts air from the case. The 8800's internal cooler tends to blow more heat into the case than out the rear panel, so for added cooling a 120mm fan has been mounted to extract air from between the two cards and blows it out the rear panel. Even when the system is idle in Windows the grill through which this air passes got extremely hot, though not scorching. We looped 3DMark 2006 for a full day to see how seriously the case and components heated up. At the end of the session the video cards were hot enough to burn skin, but the system remained stable and all exterior surfaces stayed hot, but not scorching. One area of concern is the rear vents on the 8800s, which get very hot. Be aware of anything dangling down, such as a USB drive.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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