Here at Maximum PC, we adhere to the cable news statistics rule that two data points is all you need to create a trend. So being presented with the second white system we’ve seen in the last three months, we can now declare that white is the new black (which was the new beige).
And, (Kent Brockman voice-over) it’s a trend we like. Far from gaudy, Polywell’s Ignition X5800 manages to look powerful, stately, and professional. It’s an appropriate aesthetic coming from a company with a long history of making computers for work. For 24 years, Polywell has cranked out workstations, servers, and even Alpha-based rigs.
White is really the new black.
Those workstation roots seem to influence the rig’s interior as well, with Polywell opting for Intel’s 3.46GHz Core i7-990X six-core processor conservatively overclocked to 4GHz. The 990X is coupled with Asus’s Sabertooth X58, 6GB of DDR3/1600, a 128GB Crucial C300 SSD, and a 2TB Hitachi, er, Western Digital hard drive. The big surprise is its GPU. Given that AMD was the first graphics company out with a new dual-GPU card, we expected to find the Radeon HD 6990 in Polywell’s rig. When we cracked open the case, we instead were treated to Nvidia’s top new dual-GPU offering, the GeForce GTX 590. Why no Radeon HD 6990 card? Perhaps it’s the result of vendor/supplier relationships, or just a matter of preference, but we do wonder if something isn’t up with the Radeon HD 6990. After all, if you glance through the magazine this month, you’ll find a review of Asus’s GTX 590, but nothing for AMD’s hot new card. That’s because no cards were available for review.
We’ll leave the issue to the armchair analysts. Instead we’ll concentrate on how the Polywell X5800 performs.
Against our current zero-point rig, a Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, there’s not much of a contest. The Polywell X5800 roasts the quad-core 920 in everything by double-digit numbers. The closest the zero-point came was in our Adobe Lightroom benchmark, where the Polywell aces it by just 11 percent. Lightroom isn’t very multithreaded and is mostly clock-speed dependent. The Polywell is clocked about 13 percent higher, so the 11 percent advantage is about right. In gaming, the GTX 590 easily surpasses the old dual-GPU Radeon HD 5970 card by huge margins. STALKER: CoP saw it 76 percent faster and Far Cry 2 (which is more dependent on CPU performance these days) also saw a nice 51 percent boost. But what about more current rigs? Perhaps the best comparison is the Sandy Bridge–based Digital Storm Black Ops Enix we reviewed in April. Clocked 700MHz higher, with its Turbo Boost 2 taking it to 5.2GHz, the Enix manages to get ahead of the X5800 in all six benchmarks. However, in three of the benchmarks—Vegas Pro 9, MainConcept Reference, and Far Cry 2—it’s surprisingly close considering the clock differences.
While it’s certainly not a price breakthrough, Polywell’s X5800 should be given credit for offering both a 990X and what’s essentially the performance of GTX 580 cards in SLI in a $3,500 box. It’s still a tough sell against the onslaught of über-clocked Sandy Bridge–based systems that are now back on the market, but it’s at least respectable.
Fairly quiet under load and quite pleasing to the eye.
990X at conservative overclocks can’t go toe-to-toe with high-clocked Sandy Bridge.
Intel 3.46GHz Core i7-990X overclocked to 4GHz
Asus Sabertooth X58
6GB DDR3/1600 in tri-channel mode
GeForce GTX 590
Crucial 128GB C300, 2TB Hitachi Deskstar
Ignition / Thermaltake 1,200 watt
Black Ops Enix
Vegas Pro 9 (sec)
Lightroom 2.6 (sec)
ProShow 4 (sec)
Reference 1.6 (sec)
STALKER: CoP (fps)
Far Cry 2 (fps)
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Core i7-920 overclocked to 3.5GHz, 6GB of Corsair DDR3/1333 overclocked to 1,750MHz, on a Gigabyte X58 motherboard. We are running an ATI Radeon HD 5970 graphics card, a 160GB Intel X25-M SSD, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate.