Palicomp Phoenix Inferno Redline £4200
23rd Oct 2011 | 08:30
This PC holds more performance in its tower than we've seen of any commercial PC
The phrase 'quad-SLI' ought to be enough to give you an idea just how much of a gaming monster Palicomp's latest machine is.
With a pair of Gigabyte-branded Nvidia GTX 590s lashed together the Pheonix Inferno Redline is capable of producing the sort of frame rate numbers we've never before seen.
Palicomp has gone to great lengths to ensure this is the ultimate gaming machine on the market, and to be fair it comes pretty darned close to being the ultimate machine full stop. It's an insanely over-specced rig.
With those twin, multi-GPU graphics cards, a top-end Z68 motherboard, 16GB of speedy DDR3, OCZ's 240GB Vertex 3 and 4TB of standard hard disk storage the overclocked Sandy Bridge CPU is actually the weakest part. That may sound strange calling a Core i7 2600K running at 4.9GHz a weak component but that is the only part of the rig that doesn't count as top of the line.
Granted it is the most advanced Core architecture around at the moment, but it's still lacks the core count of its hexcore, X58-based brethren. Chips like the i7 990X come with the full six core count, rocking a full 12 threads of processing power and are able to take advantage of the triple channel memory the X58 platform offers.
But there's a trade-off, and that's price. Dropping one of the Gulftown, hexcore CPUs into the equation would have knocked the price up closer to £5,000 and realistically would have given barely noticeable improvements to performance.
A hex on you
There's also the fact the X58 platform is now practically dead. We ought to see its replacement, Sandy Bridge E, in the next few months sporting an advanced hex-core architecture and access to quad-channel DDR3 memory support. Again though we're talking about crazily-priced, $1,000 CPUs. So while it's not necessarily the highest-spec processor around, the Core i7 2600K is still the chip of choice for any top-end PC build today.
The Z68 motherboard sitting inside the Pheonix Inferno Redline ought to be ready and waiting for the next spin of the Core architecture – Ivy Bridge. When that turns up early next year you should be able to drop it into most Z68 boards with little more than a BIOS flash.
Importantly, the i7 2600K is the best gaming CPU currently available. It supports the multitude of graphics processors on those twin cards perfectly, freeing them up to really hit the maximum of what they're technology allows.
The impressive cooling array set up to look after both those hot ol' graphics cards and the seriously overclocked CPU means that the extreme performance the Pheonix Inferno Redline is capable of doesn't come at the cost of reliability or longevity.
Even under continuous full load the CPU rarely gets north of 46°C with the twin graphics cards generally staying well below 60°C. The only slight issue here is the fact that it's a single-loop water-cooling setup, with the CPU getting the cooled liquid first then one graphics card after the other. The result is the graphics cards don't get the full benefit of liquid cooling, with the second card inevitably running noticeably hotter than the first when under full load.
Still, running well under worrying temperatures is what this cooling setup is designed for, as well as keeping the chunky CPU overclock in place. And in both those scenarios this serious cooling setup works well.
So, what does all this expensive tech mean for your games? Essentially it means you can run any game on the market today with no concerns about running it maxed-out at your chosen resolution of choice.
And with the accompanying Samsung 27-inch monitor sporting a native resolution of just 1,920 x 1,080 then you're rather likely to be hitting triple digits when it comes to average frame rates in a lot of titles. Hell, we even saw three figures at 2,560 x 1,600 in DiRT 3. That's some serious gaming pedigree right there and should offer a real stab at future-proofing your PC gaming for the next few years at least.
We do at some point have to talk about the price though. As fast as this machine is if your raison d'etre is more gaming than creation you could happily spend half the price and still get incredible performance in all modern titles. But you could do practically anything PC-related with this machine.
The Z68 platform gives you access to the onboard GPU goodness of the Sandy Bridge chip and so the QuickSync video goodness is ready and waiting for the content-creation faithful. The huge amount of memory and storage means that for any other productivity task you give it, the Phoenix will excel as well.
The only real weakness with the bundle then is that Samsung screen. It's actually a rather weak panel and the 1,920 x 1,080 native resolution hardly does justice to the twin GTX 590s housed within. For a machine that's trying to be the ultimate PC you'd want it paired with a higher-res screen. It's not a huge issue as you can knock the panel off the bundle which brings the price down below the £4,000 mark.
And if you're happy to spend this much money on a single PC then you're likely to be just as happy dropping serious cash on a large monitor.
CPU rendering performance
Cinebench R11.5: Index score: Higher is better
Palicomp Inferno Redline: 9.52
Dino PC Evolution 2600K OC: 8.97
CPU encoding performance
X264 v4: Frames per second: Higher is better
Palicomp Inferno Redline: 51
Dino PC Evolution 2600K OC: 49
DirectX 11 tessellation performance (2560x1600)
Heaven 2.5: Frames per second: Higher is better
Palicomp Inferno Redline: 64
Dino PC Evolution 2600K OC: 32
DirectX 10 gaming performance (2560x1600)
Just Cause 2: Frames per second: Higher is better
Palicomp Inferno Redline: 86
Dino PC Evolution 2600K OC: 59
Case in point
There is something else which has polarised opinion in the office and that's the chassis. Personally I'm a big fan of the function-over-form stylings of the Cooler Master HAF X. With the large fans on top of the case it's perfect for a large watercooling radiator.
Others feel it doesn't necessarily make it look like a £4,000 PC. But when it's throwing polygons around this quickly, rendering 3D scenes in a trice and encoding HD video faster than you can say that Welsh town name with more syllables than people, you're not going to be looking at the chassis.
Obviously this is pretty much as high-end a base unit as is feasible right now without stretching into the professional workstation space. It may be costly, but for a PC practically capable of anything it's not a bad price.
Though if you're a purist PC gamer with little interest in things productivity-based then it's simply overkill. There will be much speedier machines available in a month based on the X79 platform, but for an equivalent machine you'll be looking closer to the £5,000 mark.
And anyway, if you sit there waiting for the next, fastest thing to tip up, you'll always be waiting. But right now this is as fast as it reasonably gets.
Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview