The PCO Group Intel I7 Gaming PC Page: 1
Introduction

Here at Overclock3D we get through a mass of different component reviews, as do most other self respecting hardware review sites. Today we're going to take a step back form the normal in-depth look at a single part, and review a full system. The machine under the spotlight today comes form a company that I for one hadn't heard of before, The PCO Group. The company boasts over ten years experience in the field and a dedication to providing the customers with guaranteed satisfaction from both the products and service they offer.
Here's a little snippet form their own site:
 
ThePCOgroup is an established provider and manufacturer of custom built PC systems. The systems we provide range from budget systems, professional workstations, high end gaming systems and media centres. Our aim as a company is to provide our customers with quality systems comprising of the only top quality branded hardware and software at the best possible prices. We know what you’re thinking... we say the same as every other company, but we guarantee that we do provide quality as well as providing a top notch service. We feel that it is important to offer a complete service whether it’s Budget, gaming, home theatre or maybe repair we have the option for you...
 
A bold and positive approach to solving any problems that their customers experience, focusing on care and honesty toward those who purchase a system. Weather it be a super high end gaming rig or a budget Internet machine.
The system that The PCO Group have sent us for testing falls into the 'high end gaming rig category' with ease. Consisting of the following jaw dropping (and wallet hammering) components:
 
CPU - Core i7 920 CPU Overclocked to 3.8GHz
HDD - 640GB Western Digital Hard drive
RAM - OCZ 6GB 1333MHz 3x2GB
Motherboard - ASUS P6T Deluxe
Optical - Samsung DVD-RW (SATA)
GFX - 1792MB Nvidia GTX295
PSU - Coolermaster 1000W Gaming PSU
CASE - Antec 1200 gaming case
CPU COOLER - Thermal take CL-P0310 CPU Cooler
 
Certainly not for the light hearted casual user, the system packs an awful punch. The I7 920 offering cutting edge processing power, able to handle modern multi threaded applications and games. 6GB of ram allowing multitasking as many applications as you like and the GTX295 will provide a solid frame rate in the most demanding of modern games.
 
All that power doesn't come cheap however. Weighing it at a hefty £1499.99, the system isn't designed with the cash light in mind.
 
Packaging
 
Box1 Box2
 
Top Package
 
Packaging is always an area that concerns me. Especially when it comes to fully built rigs. They can easily be under packaged and end up tuned into mashed metal at the hands of abusive couriers. The system came packaged in the 1200 box, with the usual sturdy polystyrene inserts holding everything in place. It was nice to see an extra bit of packing paper shoved down the sides to aid protecting the valuable content. But it wasn't quite the extra mile. 
 
Next up we'll take a look at the machine itself... 


The PCO Group Intel I7 Gaming PC Page: 2
Appearance
 
The PC is enclosed in a rather suave looking Antec 1200. The bigger brother of one of the most popular gaming cases around. It's certainly a step up form the traditional beige case that you used to find pre-made PCs coming in. Another quite industrial looking case, but a little more minimalist than the likes HAF 932.
 
The front consists entirely of mesh drive bays. The bottom 3 of which are taken up by drive 3.5" caddies with 120mm fans in the front. Take a note that theres fan controllers built into these caddies. The top lip of the front houses the power and reset switches, as well as two USB ports and an eSATA port. 
 
Front USB_Switches
 
The left side of the case is nothing special, plain, simple black panel. But the right side sports a clear plastic window with a mesh panel protruding into it. Nestled behind the mesh is a 120mm fan mount. The top of the case is dominated by more mesh, this time housing a massive 240mm fan
 
.Side Top
 
Overall a solid choice of case by the PCOGroup here. The 1200 is definitely sturdy, weighing a fair amount even without components installed. Some may prefer a different chassis, which the PCO Group are quite happy to supply instead of the 1200 as part of their custom building service.
 
 
Internals
 
Opening the case for the first time we're presented with a tidy arrangement of components. The coolers large orange fan being the most prominent feature. Interestingly enough it included a potentiometer, much like the ones on the front of the 1200, allowing you too control the speed of the fan. A little concerning given that if the pot was turned down to as far as it would go, would that mean that when the motherboard wanted to speed the fan up due to the CPU being under load, would it max out at that lowered voltage?
 
Over Card
Fan
 
Looking around the insides we see nothing out of the ordinary with this build. Everything is in the right places, transit hadn't lead to loose connections or giggled parts out of place. Cable management, while not bordering OC(3)D territory, is neat and everything is kept tucked away form plain sight. I was quite happy to see no cables sprawled across the motherboard area after having seen some real bird's nest builds from OEMs in the past.
 
HDD PSU
 
Equipped with some of the most powerful hardware on the market, this beast of a machine has the potential to blow away a lot of our benchmarks. So without further ado, lets crack on with the testing.  


The PCO Group Intel I7 Gaming PC Page: 3
Test Setup
 
Here I ran into a little issue with this review. Normally we here at OC3D would pick the closest product in terms of power, cost, market level etc to the items under the spotlight and pit them head to head. Unfortunately there hasn't been anything like this at OC3D before. The previous full system reviews don't compare on a hardware level, not to mention price. So for these tests, the results will stand alone. A quick re-cap of the parts in this monster:
 
CPU
Intel Core I7 920 (2.6Ghz @ 3.8Ghz)
Memory
6GB OCZ DDR3-1333
HDD
640GB Western Digital
Graphics Card
Nvidia GTX295 (Gainward)
Power Surply
Coolermaster Real Power 1000w
Operating System
Vista 64bit SP1
Cooling
Thermal take CL-P0310
Price
£1500.00(ish)
 
And it'll be assaulted with the following benchmarks & games to assess how well the machine performs. A slightly shorter list than usual, but to to some very tight time constraints with the machine itself some of our regulars had to be forgone.
 
Synthetic CPU & Memory
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• SuperPI Mod 1.4
• PCMark Vantage x64

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark06
• 3DMark Vantage

3D Games
• GRID
• The Last Remnant
• Call of Duty 4
 

Stability
 
The first thing to check when un-packaging any piece of hardware is that it's going to run for days and days on end without crashing. We all know how frustrating it is when your machine locks up or BSODs when your the last man standing on your team or in the middle of a huge boss fight. This becomes more important with a pre-overclocked PC, as you don't know what state the manufacture left the bios in before shipping.
 
So naturally, the first thing to do was load the machine up with Prime95 to stress the CPU. Unfortunately, there had been minimal tweaking beyond setting the BCLK to 190 in the BIOS, all other settings were left to auto. This lead the P6T to decide to push 1.43v through the poor little 920, which then lead to temperatures hitting the wrong side of 100° after only a few minutes of priming and threads started failing left right a center.
 
 
 
A little disappointing to say the least. If you look at the CPU-Z dump above however, you will also notice that it's clocked nearly 200Mhz over what the specifications on page one stated. So without further ado I went about tweaking the set up to see if it could maintain the overclock first suggested by the machines specs list. I'm pleased to announce, after a very short time spent tweaking, i got the system stable at just shy of 3.8Ghz (180x21, 3780Mhz) with only 1.25v needed to keep it healthy over an 8 hour priming session. This setting was then used across all the tests ran over the next few pages. 


The PCO Group Intel I7 Gaming PC Page: 4
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
 
 

SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers as it's lightweight to download and can give a quick indication on how good a system is at number crunching. A test of 8 million itterations was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest times removed from the results and an average calculated from the remaining three.
 

 
Cinebench
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
Results Observation

The PC has output some solid numbers though our first set of tests. Multi-threaded benchmarks really shining, showing what the I7 can do with a bit extra oomph behind it. The single threaded SuperPi showing some, while not jaw dropping, competent figures coming in at just under 11 seconds on a 1M test. The Cinebench results looking impressive also, with the multi core test standing out like a sore thumb once again.


The PCO Group Intel I7 Gaming PC Page: 5
PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmarking suite from Futuremark. Differing significantly from their 3DMark suites, PCMark performs a series of benchmarks designed to recreate and benchmark scenarios of a PC being used for everyday tasks. Vantage has a Vista only requirement as it actually relies on several different components from the OS in order to run correctly.
 
 
 


3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
Results Observations
Looking across the range of results from our Futuremark programs, the machine puts up a tough fight once again. The system should be a good all round performer with the only test on PCMark Vantage dropping below 5000 points, and excelling at the games test thanks to it's GTX 295. The most impressive figures, in my opinion at least, have to be the 3DMark06 results. The system manageing to maintain a more than helthy 20k+ score even at 1900x1200. The only place the computer slips a little is the extreme test on Vantage, but I'm sure it can be forgiven for that eith it being the most testing benchmark on the page.


The PCO Group Intel I7 Gaming PC Page: 6
Grid
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that perhaps represents a challenge to any graphics system. The benchmark was run a total of 5 times using Fraps with the highest and lowest scores removed leaving the remaining 3 runs to calculate the average fps.



 
CoD4
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast gameplay. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long gameplay demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.

 
 
The Last Remnant is a role-playing game developed by Square Enix that uses the Unreal 3 engine to do something slightly different to its accustomed FPS style. Square were kind enough to release a benchmarking tool that ran through a set sequence in order to gauge how a system would cope with the title. The benchmark was run a total of 5 times, the median 3 results were averaged to give the scores shown below.



 
Results Obervations
More impressive results form the system in the games tests, nothing dropping below more than acceptable playing levels. The GTX295 keeping both CoD4 and GRID safely over 100FPS even at the highest resolution, Only dipping below the ton mark when The Last Remnant benchmark hit 1900x1200. 


The PCO Group Intel I7 Gaming PC Page: 7
Conclusion
 
So its that time again where we draw conclusion on what we've seen over the last few pages. In terms of sheer power, there's no doubt that this machine is up there with the best of them. The results across all benchmarks show that even in areas where the hardware isn't best suited (ATI bias games and single thread apps for example) the build can still power though and put out competitive numbers. Looking at the 3DMark06 figures alone, any system with, what is really a mild overclock by a benchmarking standard, that can still crack 20k by a large gap is not to be sniffed at. The game tests re-enforce the enormity of this systems power, with not one of the three games tested falling below 80FPS. I really would have liked to extend the games testing to a few more titles just to get a wider picture, but alas time constraints wouldn't allow it.
 
The component choice certainly doesn't leave much to be desired. The I7 920 being the based on the current leading architecture, 6GB of RAM should be ample for any application at the time of writing (as discovered here), the GTX295 cranking out blistering FPS and the Cooler Master Realpower 1000w PSU providing clean voltages makes up for a all-round powerhouse of a PC. In my opinion, the cooler could have done with being a little bit more substantial. I felt something like the Thermaltake TRUE or even watercooling would have been more fitting for such a machine.
 
Now comes the stinger, the price of a pre-built machine of this level of power isn't anything to be laughed at. Weighing in at around £1500, this system certainly isn't for the person on a budget. Out of curiosity, I went ahead and put together a shopping list over at ebuyer.com for the same spec system and it came out at pretty much what the PCO Group had told us the price of this system was. So, although the unit definitely isn't cheap, your not paying through the nose to have the system assembled.
 
So to wrap up. If you want a money no object, screaming fast PC, and don't have the time or skills to build your own. It's worth shortlisting the PCO Group to get you a similar system to the one they sent us today. Just overclock it yourself!
 
Good
- Blistering Performance.
- Tidy Build.
- Quality parts.

Mediocre
- Price is steep but just.
 
Bad
- Unstable Clock on arrival.
 
 
Thanks go out to The PCO Group for sending us the review sample. Discuss in the forums