Many PC vendors put case windows on their systems, but few consider whether the system’s interior is actually worth looking at. It’s like the guy at the beach with a bad farmer’s tan—some things just shouldn’t be out in the open.
Not so with Voodoo’s Omen a:121 CrossFire, which is totally justified in putting its innards on display. The Omen features Voodoo’s oft-imitated but rarely duplicated, stealth wiring job. Does Voodoo make its cables from the same material used for Reed Richards’ costume, or what?
The Omen’s Swiftech-based water-cooling also charms. The company skillfully connected water blocks to the CPU, north bridge, and both videocards in the system. You don’t have to worry about the motherboard’s voltage regulators overheating; Voodoo placed a low-rpm 12cm fan at the rear of the PC to keep air moving.
The cooling system is impressive, but the hardware it serves is even more so. The Omen is host to the reigning CPU-performance champ: a dual-core AMD Athlon 64 FX-60, overclocked from 2.6GHz to 2.92GHz. Voodoo paired the FX-60 with 2GB of Corsair DDR400 and a pair of ATI’s X1900 XT cards running in CrossFire mode. The system sports an Asus A8R32-MVP motherboard, which uses ATI’s new CrossFire Express 3200 chipset—so both of the X1900s will run in full PCI Express x16 mode. Did we mention the four 150GB Raptors? One 150GB 10,000rpm Raptor is fast, but four in RAID 0 gives you average read speeds of about 250MB/s. You won’t see better hard drive performance than this system’s 600GB array.
We were pretty excited to see how CrossFire would stack up. We haven’t reviewed a desktop system with ATI videocards in ages, but our stand-alone tests of the X1900 XT show performance on par with nVidia’s high-end cards. In our testing of this system, however, we saw some irregularities. In 3DMark05 Game 3, the dual Radeons squeaked past the record set by Falcon Northwest’s SLI-equipped Mach V machine in February. Not a bad feat considering how shockingly fast the Mach V was. But the Radeons take a back seat to nVidia’s dual-card solution in Doom 3, where its score of 109fps is a distant second to the Falcon’s record 137.
Fortunately, there’s good news elsewhere. The Omen scorched our SYSmark2005 application test, blasting past the 300 mark, and setting a new record at 312. The Omen also broke the record in our Adobe Photoshop CS test. In the two remaining tests—our Premiere Pro and DivX Encoding test—the Omen didn’t break any records, but it performed extremely well.
In the end, we’re very intrigued by the Omen, but we have reservations. We’re a little worried about the Doom 3 numbers. It’s not unusual for some games to run better on certain hardware, but a 28fps gap is abnormal. We just don’t have the confidence yet in ATI’s CrossFire scheme that we have in SLI systems yet. This is the first CrossFire system we’ve tested, and while we didn’t have any major problems, we did see some oddly rendered shadows in certain games. And then there’s the price. The Voodoo costs a painful $7,500 which is good and bad. The bad is that it’s $7,500, the good is that it’s about $250 less than the Falcon Mach V we reviewed in February.
Month Reviewed: May 2006
+ VOODOO: Yummy FX-60, plus two X1900 XT cards equals happiness.
- DOO DOO: Expensive, with just fair OpenGL gaming performance.