Intel's Sandy Bridge processors are still the popular kids on the block, but the new Sandy Bridge Extreme Edition has arrived, to take top honors on our Performance PC benchmarks
Excellent price-to-performance ratio
Lacks a DisplayPort connector
Bottom Line: Looking for a top-tier performance PC, but not quite ready to part with a kidney? You're in luck.
V3 has earned a soft spot in our hearts with the impressive performance of its Convoy desktop--a Sandy Bridge-based system that tore through our benchmarks with one of the beefiest overclocks we've seen. Provided that your house doesn't catch ablaze when you boot the system up, you'll find much to love about the $2499 (price as of January 31, 2011) desktop's mix of looks and performance.
You'll be forgiven if you haven't heard of this smaller boutique vendor before. A few months ago we checked out the V3 Move 3DS, a portable mainstream desktop built with 3D gaming in mind. This time around, V3 is taking on our performance-PC chart. The V3 Convoy sports an Intel Core i7-2600K CPU overclocked from its stock-clock value of 3.4 GHz to a whopping 5GHz. Liquid cooling keeps the machine from self-immolating. Alas, the system's creators decided to insert only 4GB of DDR3-1600 memory. It seems kind of silly to throw in such an impressive overclock without packing the rest of the insides to the brink, eh?
As you might expect, the Convoy cruised to the upper echelons of our performance-PC chart thanks to its benchmark performance (bested only by the latest version of the Origin Genesis, a $6400 system also sporting a 5GHz overclock on its second-generation Core i7-2600K processor). With a score of 204 on our WorldBench 6 series of tests, the Convoy has a downright ludicrous price-to-performance ratio--and we mean that in the good way. But Sandy Bridge can't take all the credit, as the system's RAID 0 array of two 64GB SSDs (with an extra 2TB hard drive on hand for storage purposes) does much to contribute to the speedy success of this rig.
The Convoy is hardly done there, though. Two Zotac GeForce GTX 570 cards in an SLI configuration delivered a score of 224.8 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (tested at 2560-by-1600-pixel resolution, high quality).
V3 turned to the consumer market for the chassis, and we're very pleased with its selection of the Antec DF-30, a member of Antec's Dark Fleet family. The case is eye-catching, to say the least. The entire front consists of covers and panels that can swing out from their tab-locked positions to give you full access to the parts (or case) underneath.
It might seem frustrating at first to have to move a guard cover in order to access the system's Blu-ray combo drive, but the case's design is a blessing in disguise. Cleaning the two blue-LED fans covering the hard-drive bays (or replacing them) is now one of the easiest things you'll ever do. And if you thought that was simple, just wait until you see how much less time it takes you to stuff more hard drives into the system (including the Convoy's pair of hot-swap drive bays).
In total, three of the case's five front hard-drive bays are already populated with devices, as is one of the Convoy's three 5.25-inch bays. The system's motherboard offers one PCI slot, one PCI Express x16 slot, and one PCI Express x1 slot, with the rest of the space occupied by the graphics cards. It might be a tight squeeze, but you definitely have the capacity to add some extra PCI devices inside the Convoy.
The Convoy's connection options are also strong. The front of the case features a scant two USB ports, but a 2.5-inch hot-swap bay is built right into the top of the chassis; it connects directly to the system's motherboard via an included SATA cable. The average consumer might not have many 2.5-inch drives lying about, but having the option is nice.
The rear of the case is similar to what we've grown used to seeing on Sandy Bridge-based systems. The selection includes six USB ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a FireWire 400 port, two eSATA ports, an S/PDIF coaxial and optical connection, integrated 7.1 surround sound, a gigabit ethernet port, and a Bluetooth transmitter. You can use that last item to connect the system with your mobile device and, according to Asus, control the motherboard's overclocks directly from your phone. The system's SLI setup comes with a total of four DVI connectors and two HDMI ports, but no DisplayPort connections.
The V3 Convoy we tested shipped with no mouse or keyboard, so we can't comment on the high or low points of whatever you might be able to order from the company's Website. You're on your own there.
If you're looking for the fastest PC you can get your hands on without destroying your bank account in the process, add the V3 Convoy to your short list. It's loaded with just about every option you can think of, packed in a wicked-looking, eye-catching, upgrade-friendly chassis--and it's one of the fastest systems we've reviewed for both gaming and general performance.
WarFactory Sentinel Review, by Alex Cocilova October 13, 2011
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