V3 Traverse: The march of small machines continues
The enthusiast PC market seems to be experiencing a bit of bipolar disorder these days. It’s either represented by massively huge systems so big they blot out the sun, or teeny, tiny boxes that you could slip under your arm and then skateboard to a LAN party.
The V3 Traverse falls into the latter category. Built in BitFenix’s cool little Prodigy case, the Traverse is a kissing cousin to our popular "Small Gaming PC." Well, except that the Traverse is a full-on freedom-kiss in the graphics department. We’ve seen snaps of the BitFenix Prodigy with a dual-GPU card in it, but we were skeptical until now. The V3 Traverse sports none other than the fastest card in town: a GeForce GTX 690. Cracking open the Traverse, we were literally shocked to see the entire box running on a Corsair CX600 PSU. Why the amazement? We’re just so used to dual cards sucking up power by the megawatts that a “mere” 600 watt PSU seemed surprising.
Measuring 16x10x14 inches, the V3 is the smallest box we’ve tested with a GeForce GTX 690.
With the GeForce GTX 690 rated to consume 300 watts of juice, that doesn’t leave much for the rest of the system. V3 gets away with the smaller PSU because the Mini-ITX board and case don’t allow you to build out to, say, five hard drives and a crapload of other accessories. Still, it’s probably a bit less headroom than you'd like, especially on sweltering days when the temperature in your room is 85 degrees and the temp inside your case is a balmy 130 degrees or more.
This brings us to a real snag, though. V3 tapped the budget wonder known as Intel’s Core i5-3570K to run this show. The CPU’s temps are controlled by closed-loop liquid cooling, and it's overclocked from the stock 3.4GHz to 4.8GHz. That’s quite a leap for an Ivy Bridge using a closed-loop cooler. In our October from the magazine build, we opted for a more conservative 4.4GHz using a different closed-loop liquid cooler.
Right off the bat, the V3 Traverse coughed up a BSOD in our Stitch.Efx 2.0 benchmark. V3 advised us to add a little core voltage and clock it back 100MHz to 4.7GHz and drive on. We did that and experienced no further stability issues in any of our benchmarks, including multiple heavily threaded encoding benchmarks. When we finished, though, we decided to execute a cursory Prime95 load on the box—something we do with all overclocked machines we review or build. Within 10 minutes, the machine again blew a BSOD. That’s not good and made us wonder how carefully the company had vetted the overclock. V3 assured us it had done extensive stress-testing before the box shipped. Obviously, something wasn’t right.
In performance, the Traverse is no slouch. Our dataset of systems that have run our new benchmark gauntlet isn’t huge, but the GeForce GTX 690 is a tough one to beat. In gaming, in fact, the Traverse was the second-fastest box we’ve tested, behind our quad-SLI Dream Machine. The compute-bound tests also saw the Traverse with pretty respectable scores, for a non-Hyper-Threaded processor. To put some perspective on Hyper-Threading’s value in multithreaded tasks, the miniature Polywell we reviewed in October, with its stock-clocked 3.4GHz Core i7-3770, is damn near as fast the 4.7GHz Traverse in our Premiere Pro CS6 test, and faster in the x264 video encode test. In workloads that can’t load up the processor, however, the Traverse’s high clocks put it well ahead of the diminutive Polywell.
Our real issue is the instability. We can accept having to tune the box down one time, but a spontaneous reboot within 10 minutes of a Prime95 load after applying the recommended fix is a pretty big negative. For what it’s worth, we clocked down to 4.6GHz and ran Prime95 for an hour with no issue. Obviously, if the box were stable out of the box, we’d recommend it, but our experience was less than satisfactory.
Our current desktop test bed consists of a hexa-core 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K 3.8GHz, 8GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, on an Asus Sabertooth X79 motherboard. We are running a GeForce GTX 690, an OCZ Vertex 3 SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.