The Deluge is suited for today's games, but its lack of a quad core makes it a poor choice for other apps.
There’s a civil war brewing within the PC: Intel says the CPU is the head honcho while Nvidia argues that the GPU is boss. With its Deluge-i A2, Puget shows whose side it’s taking in this debate. This budget gaming box spends big on the videocard but skimps on the processor.
There’s no $1,200 Core 2 Extreme quad core in here. In fact, there’s no quad core at all. Instead, Puget reaches for a $200 Core 2 Duo E8400 dual core. Further insulting Intel, the system sports a $380 XFX GeForce 9800 GTX riding in an XFX nForce 780i SLI mobo. At least Puget doesn’t leave the stock 3GHz Core 2 Duo as is. Using an Asetek water cooler, Puget takes the CPU to a safe and sane 3.5GHz on a 1,600MHz front-side bus. You can practically do that on air cooling alone, so the water cooler makes this a very safe overclock.
Being a midrange box, the Deluge-i A2 lacks such amenities as a soundcard, Blu-ray drive, and SLI (although the 780i board lets you run up to three cards in SLI). But not everything is low end—Puget runs with Microsoft’s top SKU: Windows Vista Ultimate. While that might sound extravagant for such a moderate machine, it costs only about $65 more than Vista Home Premium. A 500GB Seagate Barracuda drive and 4GB of DDR2/800 OCZ Reaper memory round out the innards. If you’re wondering if 4GB of RAM in a 32-bit OS machine makes sense, for the record, the Deluge reported all 4GB as available. Most of the time, machines loaded down with hardware will report only 3.5GB or even 3GB of RAM in a 32-bit OS. Apparently, Puget hit just the right balance to make all 4GB available. The entire machine is wrapped in an Antec P182 case, and the acoustic signature is fairly quiet—not bedroom quiet, but definitely tolerable.
Against our 2.66GHz Core 2 Quad Q6700 zero-point system, the Deluge loses in every single benchmark except Photoshop, where it squeaks out a 2-percent victory. Dual cores generally outrun quads in Photoshop since the app isn’t optimized for more than two cores. In fact, the Deluge would likely have beat our zero point by a larger margin if not for the 10,000rpm Raptor in our baseline rig
In system, CPU, and GPU tests, the Deluge just can’t manage to pull away from a PC that’s almost a year old. However, you can look at it this way: This $2,600 box is able to compete with a PC that cost more than twice as much to build a year ago. Of course, you can also look at it this way: The $5,000 CyberPower system we reviewed in July, with its overclocked 4GHz quad core and its quad-SLI configuration, runs circles around the Deluge.
Our take is that the Deluge is simply underconfigured. A second 9800 GTX wouldn’t have hurt this machine nor would some additional storage—500GB is pretty spartan when terabyte drives are so affordable. The Deluge is best suited as a gaming-only box and only at standard screen resolutions.
On the issue of CPU versus GPU, we’re not sold on the idea that one is more important than the other. Yes, perhaps a dual core is adequate for a small formfactor machine or a notebook, but a beefy tower like the Deluge really should have the maximum processing potential of a quad. One glance at the benchmarks backs that up.
In the end, we think the civil war between Nvidia and Intel is just plain wrong—it’s too bad Puget Systems bought into it.
Puget Systems Deluge-i A2
Competent and affordable machine for most games.
Diet Dr Pepper
Underpowered for most other apps and underspec'd for the price.
Puget Systems Deluge-i A2
Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 (3GHz@3.5GHz)
XFX nForce 780i SLI
4GB OCZ DDR2/800
XFX GeForce 9800 GTX
Seagate Barracuda 500GB
Antec P182/Cooler Master TX650W
Vista 32-Bit Benchmarks
Puget Deluge-i A2
Premiere Pro CS3
Unreal Tournament 3
Best Scores are bolded. 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 8800GTX 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, a PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad PSU, and Windows Vista Home Premium 32 bit.