We’ve never—ever—seen a PC like Hardcore Computer’s Reactor. Who the hell, after all, would dunk a CPU, GPUs, SSDs, a proprietary motherboard, and a power supply in non-conductive oil? We’ve seen submerged PC projects since as early as 1998, but they’ve always looked like a PC that ran Titanic-style into an iceberg, with half the components sinking to the bottom of the tank.
The Reactor, however, feels solid. It’s made of fabricated heavy-duty aluminum and is so stunningly gorgeous that it could easily be dropped onto a movie set as a nuclear-powered PC from 2112.
Heck, there are even some hardware exclusives here. The Reactor is the first machine to have a full, real EAX5-capable X-Fi chip in it. And in another first, Hardcore somehow managed to use three of Samsung’s new 256GB SSD drives—that’s 768GB of fast solid state storage, kiddies. In graphics, we didn’t get Nvidia’s latest GTX 295s, but Hardcore does manage to stuff in three GTX 280 cards. All this was fitted to the custom nForce 790i SLI board with Intel’s pre-viously top-of-the-line 3.2GHz Core 2 Extreme Edition at 4GHz. And, of course, almost all of it was sunk in heat-conductive oil.
So how does a small company with some 30-odd employees build a completely custom machine without problems? It doesn’t. And frankly, we’re not surprised. There’s a reason large OEMs stick with off-the-shelf parts: There’s little that can go wrong and little extra engineering required.
When pushed hard at 4GHz, one of the Core 2 Extreme’s cores would error out in Prime95. Other rigs have failed the same test, including the Uberclok Fury that we reviewed in January, but Uberclok was able to correct the problem by having us add additional core voltage to the CPU—and its rig was air cooled and used the far cheaper Core 2 Quad Q9650. No amount of voltage would fix the Reactor’s error, despite the rig’s exotic oil cooling.
And then there’s performance. The record holder for the bulk of our application benchmarks is Velocity Micro’s Core i7 Raptor Z90 (Holiday 2008). The Reactor couldn’t come close to its scores. In fact, the Reactor ran in the middle of the pack when compared with other 4GHz Core 2 boxes. This rig isn’t slow, but it didn’t whip the snot out of, say, the AVA Direct PC that we reviewed in December or January’s Uberclok PC.
That left us a little uneasy. As glorious as its design is and as frakking cool as it looks, where exactly is all this amazing technology paying dividends? Not in overclocking and not in performance.
As disappointed as we were, we still think there’s hope. There is a hell of a lot to get wrong when you reinvent the wheel, the spoke, and the ground it rolls on. Hardcore should still be applauded for trying to move the PC forward. Let’s just hope Reactor 2.0 moves it even further along.
Will make your friends think your PC is from the future.
Heavy and doesn’t overclock as well as you’d expect it to.
Premiere Pro CS3
606 sec (+108%)
53 fps (+104%)
Unreal Tournament 3
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 run two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drives, LG GGC-H20L, Sound Blaster X-Fi, and PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad. OS is Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit.
Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 (3.2GHz@4GHz)
Custom-designed Tyan using nForce 790i SLI
Three GeForce GTX 280 SLIs in tri-SLI
Custom integrate X-Fi
Three Samsung 256GB SSDs in RAID 0, two 1TB Samsung F1s in RAID 1