As I'm sure you saw with yesterday's review, the GTX680 is upon us and every bit as powerful as we hoped. The question on a lot of peoples lips is whether it's worth the upgrade, and if their current system is up to the task. After all, gradually drip-feeding your system new parts is fairly cost-effective but eventually you reach the point when it's a lot cheaper to just scrap and start afresh. Or, more likely, you're one of those people who hasn't got the time, or desire, to buy a load of parts and deal with building your system, possible RMA dead parts, endless tweaking to get the best overclock, cable tidying etc etc. It's probably fair to say that all of us started our hardware lives off with an 'off the peg' model.
To call the Scan 3XS Systems range of PCs 'off the peg' is quite wide of the mark. Of course they do sell a host of PCs for general use but it's their high-end gaming range that have always captured the imagination thanks to a great choice of parts and outstanding build quality and after sales support. So often companies sell a 'gaming' PC but cut many corners and leave you with a rig that has the heart of something good, but is let down by a raft of stuff you don't need or would prefer to upgrade.
Today's review is looking at a system that has everything you could hope for in a system with, and we'll cover this as we go, no extraneous parts of bizarre choices.
So what exactly are the specifications of the Vengeance Z68 OC?
Case : Corsair Obsidian 650D
PSU : Corsair TX 650 Modular
Motherboard : Asus P8Z68-V Gen 3.0
CPU : Intel Core i7 2700K @ 4.7Ghz
Memory : 16GB (2x8GB) Corsair DDR3 Vengeance RAM 1600Mhz
GPU : 2GB EVGA GTX 680, 1006Mhz GPU, 1536 Cores, 6000MHz GDDR5
SSD : 120 GB Corsair Force 3
HDD : 2TB Seagate Barracuda, SATA 6Gb/s, 7200rpm, 64MB Cache
CPU Cooler : Corsair H80 Hydro Water Cooler
Optical : LG BH10LS38 Blu-ray & DVD, Reader & Writer
Soundcard : Asus Xonar DG 5.1 PCI Sound Card & Headphone Amplifier
OS : Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit SP1 Operating System
Other : Back Up Software (Optional) Acronis® True Image Home 2012 HDD Backup & Restore Software
As always with Scan 3XS Systems you have a system image on a hidden partition so you can take your rig back to factory fresh if you desire along with a 2 year warranty (1 year on-site, 1 year return to base) and the system delivered and set-up by the 3XS delivery team should you so desire.
Let's take a rather lengthy look at the system itself.
We always talk about the importance of good packaging because we know that most of us buy our parts online these days. Partly because of the huge savings, but equally because not many of us are fortunate to live near a genuine enthusiasts hardware store and PC World tend to think a Riva TNT is still a high-end card.
Of course nowhere is the importance of packaging better highlighted than when buying a prebuilt system. With all the parts installed in the motherboard the need to keep things safe and secure is enormous. Scan have understood this and the Vengeance Z68 OC comes in a very sturdy box with loads of air-bags. At the bottom is enough bubble-wrap to keep an elephant safe, and between the two is yet another sturdy box that holds the system itself.
That warning is important as we're about to see.
As the Vengeance comes in a 650D it makes sense to deliver it in the same box to ensure a snug fit. Remember that notice above? Look at the amount of bubble-wrap in the case.
It's absolutely stuffed to the gunwales with the anti-static pink stuff in every conceivable crevice. There is absolutely no doubt at all that your system will arrive in mint condition. The only thing we might worry about is that if you're the kind of person who is so hardware illiterate that the sight of a PC case full of candy floss doesn't stop you wanting to turn it on, then perhaps it might be wise to issue a larger notice about being careful when removing the bubble-wrap. Sure you shouldn't just yank at it, but if you did just grab a handful and pull the likelihood of also grabbing a hose from the CPU cooler or a power cable is pretty high.
Having dispensed with our pink protective friend we finally can see the Vengeance Z68 OC in all its glory. There is no denying that the EVGA GTX680 is the most eye-catching part. The front of the case has a couple of subtle logos but otherwise it's thankfully free from excessive branding. Classy and understated is the watchword.
Assuming the obvious elements are installed well, the acid test of the quality of a system comes from the cable management and the Vengeance Z68 OC has taken it to the levels of artwork. There is barely a spare centimetre of cable flapping about and every inch is cable tied and locked down.
It's not just the obvious front part that has got the treatment either, round the back is even more impressive. Seeing the work that has gone into this by the builder we are all looking at our own systems rather guiltily. It's stunning. Just look at the CPU 8 pin cable running up the right hand side of the motherboard tray.
The Obsidian 650D definitely helps as there are so many places to tuck cables away, but even still we just can't get over how neat and tidy everything is. An obsessive attention to detail on an element that doesn't effect the performance (which is what matters in the sales pitch and peoples perception) speaks highly of the underlying principles of 3XS.
The heart of the Vengeance Z68 OC is the Intel i7-2700K and the ASUS P8Z68V Gen3. Although it might not have the immediate name recognition of something like the Maximus, the quality of the Intel Z68 Chipset is such that it's more than adequate.
Powering the system is the Corsair TX650M, a modular PSU which, with the excellent power efficiency of the GTX680, is more than enough to power the whole of the system.
Keeping everything cool is a Corsair H80 with push/pull fans making sure that the 4.7GHz overclock doesn't get too warm. Just to the right of the hoses you can see the 16GB of Corsair Vengeance RAM. What else would you expect to find in a system called Vengeance?
Storage is handled by a Corsair Force 3 120GB SSD which handles the OS side of things, with enough room leftover for some apps and games. If you need even larger amounts of storage then a 2TB Seagate Barracuda helps meet even the most demanding user, as well as being very speedy thanks to the SATA 6Gbp/s interface. The drives are mounted as high as possible in the Corsair 650D to make the most of the airflow available from the front intake fan.
Of course the main event in any system is the graphics card, and the Vengeance Z68 OC is no exception thanks to an EVGA GTX680. Bask in its magnificence. Just below that is the ASUS Xonar DG 5.1 soundcard. No matter how good onboard sound has got in recent years there is no replacement for a genuine soundcard.
Round the front we have an e-SATA connector on the top of the 650D, and behind a flap hidden above the LG Blu-Ray optical are the always useful USB ports as well as front audio and a Firewire port. Anyone who has an older case where you're stuck fumbling around the back to make the most of your USB 3.0 stick will appreciate this (that'll be me then).
At the rear we have all we'd expect to find on a modern system. The twin-DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs from the GTX680 as well as the audio jacks from the Xonar DG. The ASUS P8Z68V Gen3 gives us an array of USB ports alongside IGP outputs and the like.
Taking all the hardwork out of your hands the Vengeance Z68 OC earns its name with a 4.7 GHz overclock on the 2700K. You certainly wont be lacking for processing power.
The memory is of the 'lots of capacity, average speeds' variety. Considering that to get 2133MHz memory of this capacity you're forced to pay extortionate prices or use four sticks, and also how well the Z68 chipset handles memory bandwidth, this isn't as much of a detriment as one would expect. At least you've got the option of filling the other slots if you want, or dipping into memory overclocking yourself.
So what does all this mean in terms of the coarse Windows 7 rating? A very fine 7.7, with 7.8 for the memory and 7.9 for the graphics and storage. You certainly wont be wanting extra desktop performance
If there is one thing we're all guilty of, yes even those of us here at OC3D, it's wanting to know the performance of our latest bit of hardware. To this end Scan have helpfully provided some benchmark results on the desktop, visible here on the top right, and some performance tools for you to have some fun with yourself, on the left hand side. Not only is the system 'plug and play' but you don't even need to install something to be able to see your new purchase in all its glory.
PassMark isn't something we use here at OC3D, preferring FutureMarks PC Mark suite, but as it's a small download, available to be used for thirty days evaluation, and included with the Vengeance Z68 OC it would be churlish not to use it.
It also makes a nice change from watching that fricking dog get rotated all the time.
Obviously comparisons are difficult as our bench systems are tightly regulated and, at least with these tests, the biggest difference is that our bench rigs are still on Spinpoint F1s rather than SSDs. So there will be a big leap in the results thanks to the use of the Corsair Force 3 in the 3XS. For this reason we've also included some screenshots of the results so you can compare to your own system if you want.
PC Mark Vantage
If ever you doubted how much a good SSD can improve your rig, the i7-3930K in the graph is using a HD7970. The only difference is the SSD. Even so, jeepers the Vengeance Z68 OC can fly!
PC Mark 7
How far graphics technology has come. The underpinnings of the 3XS Vengeance are nearly identical to the Bengal Rig which has RAID0 ForceGTs and a GTX590, yet the 3XS is 60 points ahead, and a long way clear of any of our mechanical HDD bench-rigs, despite a single GPU.
Obviously the i7-2700K is only a quad-core so the LGA2011 based processors spank it fairly heavily. However despite giving up 300MHz against our 2500K and 2600K, the overclock on the i7-2700K in the 3XS really runs them close.
Memory testing is even more impressive. The i7-3930K has quad-channel Corsair GTX8 memory yet the combination of Z68 motherboard and Corsair Vengeance RAM still out-performs it.
3D Mark Vantage
We've kept you hanging long enough. We know that what you really want to know is whether the LGA1155 Core i7-2700K is capable of pushing the GTX680 as hard as the Hex-Core i7-3960X we used in our GTX680 review.
I think it's fair to say it can, and then some. The P-Score is a fair bit ahead and even the X score is only 100 points behind. Considering this is giving up 2 cores that's hugely impressive.
3D Mark 11
So if it's good in 3D Mark Vantage, how does it do in 3D Mark 11? Exactly the same. The P score is actually better than we saw yesterday and the X result is only 37 points shy, which is certainly within the variance you'd expect from different runs.
So we've seen how a i7-2700K can power the GTX680 in benchmarks, but can it continue this in gaming? Of course it can. The comparison we're using is our testing from yesterday which was a i7-3960X @ 4.6GHz on a Rampage IV Extreme. The difference is at worst 8FPS in Alien vs Predator and at best it's 11FPS ahead in Dirt 3. Across the board it's damn close. The 3XS Vengeance Z68 OC is a gaming beast.
One of the things about being a hardware review site is that we're always doing our best to compare like for like, to find those minute differences between various manufacturer products so that you can make an informed decision about which processor, or motherboard, or graphics card or whatever is the best one for your needs. Because of this we always have to have a very stable baseline to work with which means that, although you might be able to see the GTX680 is much better than a GTX570, you're always aware that we're using a system that almost certainly isn't comparable with yours. Because of this we've included the actual screengrabs from our benchmarking for you today so you really can see what a difference a system such as this, freed from the constraints of our testing methodology, might make to your life.
What a system it is too. The whole thing just screams quality. The packaging that could (almost) withstand being dropped from the back of a C130 Hercules such is the double-box, double bubble-wrap that ensnares the Vengeance Z68 OC, and the yards and yards of bubble-wrap contained within the case itself to absorb jiggles. Once you get your hands upon it you can see the labour of love that the team at Scan have put into it. The spec-list is right up there with the very best and we're really struggling to think of anything that we'd change. There have been no corners cut, nor compromises made. It's a fabulous processor in a great motherboard with superb storage and the eye-popping EVGA GTX680 at the heart of the system. The cable routing is flawless. Not flawless in a "good enough" hyperbole way, but actually without flaw.
Getting up and running is a breeze. With the monitor, keyboard and mouse plugged in you just turn on and within a minute or so you're in Windows. All the latest drivers are installed, the motherboard has the latest BIOS, and there is none of the usual unwanted guff that you expect to find with a pre-built system. No resource sucking applications or 'helpful' things to scroll through. Just a desktop all ready to go, exactly as you'd find if you had just installed Windows and the drivers yourself. But without the annoying hour of faffing about. As well as some screenshots of the rigorous stability and performance testing your system has undergone you also get a couple of benchmark applications installed so you can test yourself. We all know how impatient you can be waiting for that first install to finish so you can finally see the glory of your purchase.
So it's built like a tank from carefully selected parts and you can go from delivery to use in about 5 minutes and the performance is exceptional. What don't we like? Actually there is only one thing we'd change on the whole system, and that's the fans on the H80. The Corsair fans are pretty loud and having tested the Noctua NF-F12s on a H100 we know how quiet and high-performing they are. Other than that we really wouldn't swap out anything. If you do fancy something slightly different the Scan 3XS customisation service is up to their usual high standards and we're sure they'll be happy to accommodate you.
There is always a price to pay with a bespoke gaming system and with the 3XS Vengeance Z68 OC it's £1450+VAT. Of course it's more expensive than doing it yourself, but considering you're getting a proven system at 4.7GHz with parts guaranteed to work, all the tedious stress testing done, with the latest drivers and a ready to go Windows 7 installation, the tidiest cable management this side of the Hadron Collider, all the performance you're likely to need for many moons, and a two-year warranty it's actually great value. The most surprising aspect is that the i7-2700K is more than enough to push the GTX680 hard, showing you don't need to move to the hugely expensive LGA2011 just to get the most out of it.
We love it, and if you're in need of an overhaul, or wanting the latest hardware without a self-build, then you'll love it too. 3XS Systems once again demonstrate they're at the forefront of pre-overclocked systems. A Gold Award system if ever there was one.
Thanks to Scan for supplying the 3XS Vengeance Z68 OC for review. Discuss in our forums.