January 2004. DirectX 9 had just shipped. SCO had begun its ultimately futile crusade against IBM. And Hypersonic’s brightly colored Sonic Boom, featuring Intel’s newest processor, was smacking our benchmarks around.
Sure, back in 2004 the new hotness was Intel’s Pentium 4 Extreme Edition and the Sonic Boom’s paint job was bright yellow, but the cherry-red Hypersonic Sonic Boom OXC—the first rig we’ve tested using Intel’s fabled Penryn CPU—still gives us an undeniable sense of déjà vu.
The Enthusiast System Architecture enables the power supply, cooling system, and motherboard to talk to each other.
This Sonic Boom’s got a sweet 3GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9650 CPU overclocked to 3.88GHz on a 1.7GHz FSB. Throw in a pair of XFX GeForce 8800 Ultras and 4GB of OCZ Reaper DDR2 at 1,208MHz, all sitting pretty on Nvidia’s new 780i SLI motherboard, and you’ve got a system as hot—in theory—as the Sonic Boom we awarded a 9 Kick Ass verdict to four years ago. Unfortunately, we don’t traffic in theory. Despite hot parts, a fab paint job, and wicked technology, the Sonic Boom went bust during our stability testing.
It’s a shame because one of the neatest things about this Hypersonic system is its use of Nvidia’s new open Enthusiast System Architecture (ESA), which enables unprecedented monitoring of system temperatures, voltages, and stats via the Nvidia Monitor app. The 1,200-watt PC Power and Cooling Turbo Cool power supply is ESA-compliant, as is the custom CoolIt CPU/GPU cooler. You can read more about the ESA in our In The Lab segment, but let’s just say we like it.
Before we get to the nitty-gritty of benchmarking, let’s marvel for a minute at Hypersonic’s fully kitted flight simulator rig. The Lian-Li PC-A10 chassis is beautifully decked out with a cherry-red Colorware paint job, and looks sleek but still classy, especially compared to the over-the-top cases we’ve seen recently from HP, Dell, and AVADirect.
Hypersonic doesn’t mess around when it comes to crafting a flight-sim deck. Instead of one measly monitor, we got three 19-inch LG L1933 Flatron displays hooked up to a Matrox TripleHead2Go Digital Edition, which runs the three digital monitors from one DVI port for a combined 3840x1024 resolution. You’ll find our impressions of the flight-sim aspects of this setup, which also include a Saitek Pro Flight yoke, rudder pedals, and throttle, in this month’s In the Lab (page 60).
But what if flight simulation’s not your thing? What if you’re only interested in the rig itself and not the optional flight-sim package and all its accoutrements? It is for you, Earth-bound reader, that we ended our dreamy sky tours and commenced our standard Vista benchmark suite.
This is the second rig we’ve tested using our new benchmarks and for the most part it performed admirably. The rig’s best scores came in Photoshop CS3, which at 102 seconds was nearly 50 percent faster than our zero-point, and Quake 4, where we saw our fastest frame rates ever: 239 fps, which not only devastated the zero-point (135 fps) but also bested the Falcon Northwest rig (226 fps) that has held the record since June. Vista gaming is finally catching up to XP!
We found decent gains in our ProShow Producer, Premiere Pro CS3, and Fear 1.07 benchmarks as well. In fact, the only benchmark in which the Sonic Boom OCX had any trouble at all was our MainConcept encoder test, where it had plenty. It locked up in two out of three runs. When it finally completed a test, its score was a disappointing 1,451 seconds—slower than our zero-point system.
The system didn’t fare well in our Prime95 stress testing, either. One core usually failed less than an hour into the tests, and it wasn’t until we set all clock speeds back to stock that we saw any real long-term stability. Granted, a stress test is the ultimate machine punisher, especially on a machine as overclocked as this one, but like many other vendors recently, Hypersonic went a few megahertz too far.
Hypersonic sent us a system that looked great and performed pretty damn well on our benchmarks. We appreciated the massive overclocks, forward-thinking Penryn, ESA architecture, and flight-simulator setup, as well as the overall build quality. But stability issues hurt this machine, as does its volume—the fans are simply too loud. We understand that Hypersonic, freshly acquired by OCZ, may still be adjusting to its new environment; hopefully, this is simply an aberration, and the next rig we see from the company will be firmly back in 9 Kick Ass territory. But nearly $8,000 for a loud machine that crashes occasionally just doesn’t meet our expectations.
…but it’s clocked too fast for its own good, and it’s noisy.
Hypersonic Sonic Boom OCX
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650 (3.0GHz overclocked to 3.88GHz)
Dell 780i SLI
4GB OCZ Reaper DDR2/1208
Gigabit LAN x2
Two 150GB WD Raptors (10,000rpm SATA) in RAID-0, one 1TB Hitachi DeskStar
Two 768MB XFX GeForce 8800 Ultras in SLI
Realtek HD (onboard)
Hypersonic Sonic Boom OCX
Premiere Pro CS3
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard. We are running two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drives, an LG GGC-H20L optical drive, a Sound Blaster X-Fi soundcard, and PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad power supply. The OS is Windows Vista Ultimate.