Gamers who travel to LAN parties (and anyone else who moves their PC frequently) will love the Cooler Master Storm Sniper chassis that CyberPower chose to build their Core i7 rig in. This large mid-tower has two massive handles cleverly integrated into its design, and while it’s fabricated from steel, it’s surprisingly light.
As we noted in our AVADirect review, though, gaming rigs tend to be noisy and the CyberPower was easily the loudest of the three machines in this roundup, even when we dialed the top exhaust fan to its slowest rotational speed using the oversized knob on the top of the case. This machine would be even louder if it didn’t cool its CPU with Asetek’s LCLC (the acronym stands for Low Cost Liquid Cooling). This is closed-loop system similar to the Domino A.L.C. we saw in the AVADirect system, but it doesn’t include a fancy display like the one on the CoolIT product.
Processor and Motherboard
Asus’ P6T Deluxe motherboard, featuring Intel’s X58 core-logic chipset, makes its second appearance in this roundup, but it plays host to Intel’s faster Core i7 940 this time. CyberPower juiced the chip’s clock speed from its stock 2.93 GHz to 3.61 GHz. As with the AVADirect system, we didn’t encounter any instability as a result of the overclocking.
CyberPower populated three of the motherboard’s six DIMM slots with Kingston HyperX DDR3 memory running at 1,600 MT/s in order to take advantage of the Core i7’s triple-channel architecture. As we mentioned in the AVADirect review, the P6T Deluxe is outfitted with Marvell’s Yukon 88E8056 to offer two 1 Gb/s NICs, and eight-channel audio provided by an Analog Devices SoundMax AD2000B audio chip.
The P6T Deluxe supports both SLI and CrossFireX, but CyberPower used a single videocard with two AMD GPUs: the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 X2. Since we’re looking for a balanced rig adept at handling all types of applications, we’re happy to see a little more of the budget go towards a faster CPU even if does come at the expense of gaming performance.
The Radeon HD 4870 X2 enjoyed a brief run as the market’s fastest single-card solution, but its performance has since been surpassed by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 295. Still, the Sapphire board is no slouch in the benchmark department. The board’s two GPUs boast 800 stream processors each, running at a core clock speed of 750 MHz. Each GPU has a 256-bit interface to 1 GB of GDDR5 memory running at 900 MHz.
For what it’s worth, AMD’s dual-GPU implementation is more elegant than Nvidia’s. All the 4870 X2’s components are mounted on a single PCB, compared to the two-board sandwich that is Nvidia’s GTX 295. And the Radeon card doesn’t need a cable to pipe digital audio to the video connector on its mounting bracket; audio is routed through the PCI Express bus. The GPUs and memory are cooled by conventional heatsinks and fans.
Storage and Optical
CyberPower installed the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium on a RAID 0 array formed by two 500 GB Hitachi Deskstar drives. They also installed a 1 TB Western Digital WD10EACS drive for additional storage. Capacious storage is an important consideration for a system that’s going to be used for applications such as video editing. AVADirect supplies a larger second drive, but they didn’t include a RAID; the Alienware came with a fast RAID, but no secondary means of storage at all. CyberPower’s solution is just right for the application we specified.
CyberPower also got the optical drives right: There’s a LightScribe-capable Sony DVD burner for backups and for making movies, but there’s a Sony Blu-ray player for watching movies, too. You also get a media-card reader in front. This one’s not as fancy as the one in AVADirect’s machine—it’s a 12-in-1 compared to a 68-in-1—but does add a fifth USB port to the front of the machine. The presence of these drives leaves two externally accessible 5.25-inch drive bays in the front of the Cooler Master enclosure.
Cooler Master bills the Storm Sniper as a “mid tower;” it stands much taller than the Thermaltake V9 AVADirect chose and it’s just a little higher than Alienware’s trademark custom case. We dig its understated matte-black looks and its special features, such as the mechanism in back that can you can weave your USB cables through to prevent your headset, mouse, or keyboard from growing legs and walking away. This will deter a thief, but it won’t prevent a vandal from cutting cords.
The oversized fan-speed controller we mentioned earlier also features a button that turns the blue LEDs on the 200 mm on top of the case and the 20mm fan in front of the case in and off. The 120 mm fan in back features an incongruous green LED. CyberPower includes the optional 140 mm at the bottom of the case, but there’s no fan on the side of the enclosure (there are mounting points for either one 140 mm fan or two 120 mm fans here).
You’ll find all the front-panel ports you could want, including include mic and headphone, four USB ports, Firewire, and eSATA.