3XS meets Devil's Canyon
It's fair to say that we weren't overly enamoured by the Intel Devil's Canyon processors. The two Haswell Refresh chips, Core i5-4690K and Core i7-4790K, were launched last month with heightened frequencies but didn't, at first glance, live up to their promise in terms of overclocking headroom.
Cast your memory back to our initial analysis and you'll recall that Intel uses a 'next generation polymer thermal interface material' (NGPTIM) between die and heatspreader that's said to enable cooler and higher-performing parts. This, combined with extra on-chip capacitors for smoother power delivery, should in theory make the 22nm chips more willing than earlier Haswell processors when it comes to high-end overclocking.
That wasn't necessarily the case with our first review samples, as both the Core i5 and Core i7 parts struggled to run stable when pushed beyond 4.4GHz. Not a great return by any means, and disappointing for enthusiasts who were hoping to see speeds in excess of 5GHz with simple air cooling.
But review samples and retail products aren't always one and the same, so HEXUS has been eager to see what system integrators have in store for Intel's latest and greatest. This is an opportunity for the big firms to rejuvenate their product lines with new rigs running at lofty speeds, and one of the first to bite is Scan Computers, who sent in the 3XS Z97 Vengeance 780.
Priced at around £1,400 with a myriad of configuration options available, this rig is designed to showcase the raw power of the Core i7-4790K Devil's Canyon processor, which Scan is shipping at a speed of 4.7GHz across all cores. That's almost seven per cent higher than the overclock we managed in our own labs, though still short of the eye-catching 5GHz that system integrators would dearly have liked.
Still, the 4.7GHz frequency is one of the highest we've seen on a 3XS machine in recent years. Scan's first Haswell-based machines typically shipped at 4.4GHz, older Ivy Bridge systems managed 4.6GHz but not since the Sandy Bridge era have we seen the Bolton outfit send out gaming rigs ramped up to 4.7GHz.
As part of its base specification, the 3XS Z97 Vengeance 780 has the Core i7 chip sat atop an Asus Z97-K motherboard and beneath a customised Corsair Hydro Series H80 liquid cooler. A sign that air cooling wouldn't suffice for a Devil's Canyon processor running at this speed, perhaps? What's interesting is that Scan has the H80 outfitted with only the one fan, and it's positioned as an exhaust, rather than to pull-in cool air from outside the chassis.
The CPU is but one part of the gaming-rig puzzle, so it's joined here by EVGA's GeForce GTX 780 SuperClocked ACX graphics card. The factory-overclocked card ships with a 967MHz core and a 3GB frame buffer running at an effective 6,008MHz. Upgrading to EVGA's 780 Ti model would add a further £145 to the build cost, so the standard 780 is a good bet for users wanting to keep costs reasonable, and going by our past experiences, the SuperClocked ACX is one of the best 780s around.
Elsewhere, Scan outfits the system with 8GB (2x4GB) of Corsair Vengeance Pro 2,133MHz memory as standard - 16GB and 32GB options are available - and chooses gold heatsinks that match-up nicely with the rest of the build. Power is sourced from a quiet-running 550W Corsair RM-Series PSU, and cable management, as you'd expect from a Scan 3XS system, is very neat and tidy throughout.
We see our fair share of turnkey systems, and our first impression is that a little extra care and attention has been paid to the Z97 Vengeance 780. The build arrived in spick-and-span condition, with none of the fingerprints that sometimes plague such machines, and component selection is well-thought-out. We also like the fact that an 8GB USB 'diagnostic' stick is attached to the power supply - this includes useful utilities such as Memtest, Seatools and Kaspersky Rescue Disk.
Storage is provided by two drives - a 256GB SanDisk X110 SSD as the system disk and a 2TB WD Green HDD for secondary storage - and both optical bays are occupied, too. The upper bay is outfitted with a 3XS-branded multi-card reader with two USB 3.0 ports and a standard Samsung DVD writer occupies sits just below. Offering more than just onboard sound, a dedicated Creative Sound Blaster Audigy FX 5.1 sound card is also part of the package.
Moving away from the base specification, our review system arrived in a Fractal Design Arc Midi R2 chassis with white LED strip lighting that looks very nice behind the tinted side window. Total build cost for this particularly configuration at the time of writing is £1,423 including delivery, yet pricing up the individual components suggests that an experienced user could put together a very similar rig for just a little less. For the small premium, circa £50, you're getting a guaranteed 4.7GHz overclock and a three-year warranty from a long-standing UK retailer, with on-site support for the first 12 months.
The 3XS Z97 Vengeance 780 is a tasty-looking PC, there's no doubt about that, so let's move on to some benchmarking fun.