A Spark Of Brilliance
Have you ever asked yourself why you need so many boxes in your living room? The cable box, the DVR, the gaming console, the Blu-ray player, the little silent-but-weak PC substitute that checks your Facebook page or Twitter feed—you don’t need all of that, right? Cable companies have gotten on-board with video recorders the size of small PCs, and console makers include Blu-ray drives. And then you can always retreat to your desk for PC gaming, right?
I’ve always said that a home theater PC should be able to do everything all of those other devices do, and faced strong push-back for it from those who think set-top boxes only need to play back media, silently. That a media PC should be limited in order to assure complete silence. That even a few decibels of noise audible in a quiet room is too much. Rather than continue arguing, I ditched the plans I had for covering living room entertainment, put away my own HTPC, and kept on writing reviews of more traditional desktop-class hardware.
Maybe I gave up too easily? Steiger Dynamics figured out that a strong message reaches beyond the silent movement's din (irony?) and into the hearts of true performance geeks. Here we have a machine that gives the impression of silence, relying on the logic that most people either can’t or have great difficulty discerning sound pressure levels lower than 16 decibels in natural environments.
|CPU||Intel Core i5-4690K: 3.5-3.9 GHz, Four Cores, 6 MB Shared L3 Cache|
|DRAM||Corsair CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9: DDR3-1866, C9|
|Graphics||EVGA 02G-P4-2771-KR GeForce GTX 770 2 GB|
|System Drive||2x Kingston HyperX 3K SH103S3/120G in RAID 0|
|Storage Drive||WD Red WD30EFRX 3 TB, 5400 RPM, 64 MB Cache|
|Optical Drive||Panasonic UJ265: 6x BD-R, 8x DVD±R|
|Motherboard||Asus Z97-AR: LGA 1150, Intel Z97 Express|
|Chassis||Steiger Dynamics Maven|
|CPU Cooler||Corsair H60 (CW-9060007-WW) Closed-Loop Liquid|
|Power Supply||Seasonic SS-660XP2: 660 W Modular, 80 PLUS Platinum|
|Internal Bays||3x 3.5", 2x 2.5"|
|External Bay||1x Slim/Slot-loading ODD|
|Front Panel I/O||2x USB 3.0, Headphone, Microphone, SD Card Interface|
|Fans||2x 92 mm Intake (side), 1x 140/120 mm Exhaust (top)|
|External Peripheral||4x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0|
|External Audio||5x Analog, Digital Optical|
|External Video||DisplayPort, HDMI|
|Internal Ports||6x SATA 6Gb/s (Shares SATA-E, M.2), 2x USB 3.0, 6x USB 2.0|
|Internal Slots||2x PCIe 3.0 (16+0 or 8+8 paths), 1x PCIe x2 (long), 2x PCIe x1 (Shares M.2)|
|Maximum Memory||4x DDR3-1333 to DDR3-3200 (all standard capacities)|
|Gigabit Ethernet||Intel I218V PHY|
|Wireless Network||Gigabyte GC-WB867D-I: Intel 7260 802.11ac / BT 4.0 combo|
|Audio Controller||Realtek ALC892 DAC, 7.1+ 2 channels rear/front, DTS Connect|
|Dimensions||7.0" (H), 17.1" (W), 15.8" (D), 26.9 Pounds|
|Warranty||Two-year parts replacement, 45-day free shipping, lifetime tech support Optional three-year parts, three-years free shipping, lifetime tech (add $199)|
|Additional Services||Overclocking (4.3 GHz at 1.17 V) $49 Custom single sleeved power supply / drive cables and management $99|
|Software||Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro OEM ($110) CyberLink PowerDVD 14 Ultra ($59)|
The price for this machine is only $330 over the self-built option, with us using the closest-matching $400 OrigenAE case. If you subtract the $49 overclock fee and $99 cable service, Steiger only has about $189 in mark-up. And even if we deduct another $80 for the LED panel not present on the special Maven case, we’re still impressed by the value Steiger Dynamics offers the high-end PC market. But is the machine equally impressive?