Palicomp Alpha Detonator £1300
23rd Apr 2012 | 16:01
The new de facto spec for a modern gaming rig?
Introduction and benchmarks
The Palicomp Alpha Detonator is the first fully Ivy Bridge PC through the TechRadar labs, and it's a bit of a beast.
You might be getting a little bit of Ivy Bridge - sorry, Intel 3rd Generation Core Microarchitecture - fatigue by now and that's only natural considering the lukewarm response we've given it so far. But bear with us as Palicomp has got in there early with our first example of an Ivy Bridge PC.
This Alpha Detonator is being put together as the perfect example of a modern, future-proof, gaming PC. It's been fully specced up to the nines, but it's been put together sensibly with a complete focus on gaming.
What does that mean?
Well, essentially that means Palicomp has opted for, what we're going to increasingly see as, the real gamer's chip from this new range of Intel processors. That's the Intel Core i5 3570K, and is the only K-series chip in the resolutely quad-core i5 lineup.
Palicomp has easily managed to hit 4.7GHz on air-cooling with this chip and that makes it fly.
At this speed you're getting the same sort of CPU benchmarks as you'll see in the eight-threaded Core i7 2700K at its stock speeds.
So if you're worried you might be missing out when it comes to the more CPU taxing tasks outside your regular gaming then the Alpha Detonator is set to stop those concerns in their tracks.
Games are still struggling to cope with multi-threading in any true sense of performance scaling, so a quad-core i5 without the i7's Hyperthreading shenanigans is fine for this sort of machine.
While the Ivy Bridge Core i5 is the new component of this machine, the Gigabyte Z77X-D3H is a decent partner. We've checked out the excellent Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H and this slightly cut-down version is almost as good.
While the UEFI BIOS still doesn't have the usability of the Asus boards it's still got all the functionality as well as the overclocking chops.
CPU - Intel Core i5 3570K @ 4.7GHz
Motherboard - Gigabyte Z77X-D3H
Memory - 16GB Corsair 1,600MHz
GPU - AMD Radeon HD 7970
Storage - 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, 2TB Seagate HDD
OS - Windows 7 Premium 64-bit
It's impossible to recommend the Intel Core i5 3570K as an upgrade for anyone rocking an i5 Sandy Bridge or above.
Realistically this is for those people who skipped a CPU generation.
We put it against the same spec with a Core i5 2500K at the same clocks and there was only a slight difference in the CPU benchmarks, but then only 4% and 10% in Cinebench and X264 respectively.
DirectX 11 tessellation performance
DirectX 11 gaming performance
CPU rendering performance
CPU encoding performance
Elsewhere on the specs list it's a top-end gaming rig and no mistake.
The version we've had on our test bench houses AMD's top gaming behemoth, the AMD Radeon HD 7970, overclocked from the 925MHz core speed over the 1GHz mark to 1,050MHz.
Palicomp is also offering the Alpha Detonator with an Nvidia GTX 680 instead of the AMD HD 7970. As the two are relatively closely-priced there's no difference in price.
We don't know as yet what Palicomp will do to the Nvidia card's clocks; at stock clocks the GTX 680 offers the same sort of performance as this overclocked HD 7970 we've got here.
The next highlight on the impressive specs list is the storage split – the 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD takes care of the boot drive specifics, but it's partitioned so that 20GB is taken for the Smart Response Technology to accelerate the chunky 2TB HDD backing it up.
While the setup definitely makes for an impressive machine, it's also likely to be the de facto spec for a gaming rig over the next year.
We'll see i7 variants like the Chillblast Fusion Mamba we're also looking at, but the i5 is going to be the chip we see in most rigs circa £1,000.
All the machines, which until now had Intel Core i5 2500K CPUs in them, will switch over to the Ivy Bridge variant, the Intel Core i5 3570K.
That wont come as any surprise as there's no real price or performance difference.
We set up a 2500K machine with roughly the same spec and there was zero difference in gaming frame rates. But in terms of gaming rigs, this is still the chip you want at its heart.
Ivy Bridge: What you need to know
Intel Core i7 3770K review
Intel Core i5 3570K review
Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H review
The Core i5 3570K is going to be the de facto chip in most £1,000 gaming rigs we see from now on and that's because it's as good as it gets in quad-core trim.
The overclocked AMD Radeon HD 7970 is also a great choice, offering the same sort of frame rates, in this tweaked state, as the competing Nvidia GTX 680.
The Palicomp Alpha Detonator is also incredibly well-specced out everywhere else too, from the huge amount of RAM to the excellent SSD/HDD storage set up.
Unfortunately the price is getting on for a little too much from a gaming rig. It is incredibly well kitted out, but pushing this close to £1,500 is tough.
It's not Palicomp's fault, but Intel's, that the Core i5 3570K doesn't offer much improvement, as a gaming CPU, over its Core i5 2500K brethren.
This is the new gamer's standard. Though it's almost the same as the old gamer's standard too...