Kaby Lake-X and Intel’s X299 platform are in the wild, but who are they for? Chillblast has plumped for a multi-threaded melee with the Fusion Photo OC VIII, delivering a media machine which augments the platforms innate capabilities.
That makes sense, Kaby Lake-X bringing more cores, threads, up-levelled RAM support and a whole heap of PCI Express Lanes. Chillblast looks to use all of that, well Intel’s Core i7-7820X, and deliver a £2,250 system unfazed by hard graft. It’s an interesting basis for a build, but is it justified?
Chillblast seems to like Fractal Design’s Define R5 case, and we can see why. We’ve spoken of its benefits and longevity before, and it all comes into play again here. Being that the Fusion Photo OC VIII isn’t shouting about its appearance, the define R5 is a fine match. If anything, its excellent features serve to emphasise a well-considered and strong concept for this build.
Robust, and lined with sound-dampening panels, it’s always as if little is going on inside a Define 5. Here it seems much the same. A Chillblast logo at the foot of the front door is the first thing we see before opening the case. Behind the front door, along with a 140mm intake, is an Blu-ray rewriter and a multi-card reader.
Moving to the side-panel, two thumb-screws and a release reveals the familiar interior. The Define 5 is an accommodating case, so there’s plenty of room for most builds – not to mention a tidy build such as this. Two 3.5-inch drives are housed happily to the right, and all else is well-ordered.
The CPU sits between two banks of four DIMM slots, populated for quad-channel support. Below the CPU one of the two M.2 slots is occupied, leaving another spare. Off of the CPU itself, the cooling pipes of a H100i V2 are led to the roof and two 140mm fans. A single exhaust is at the rear of the case.
Back downwards, one PCI-Express slot is taken, leaving plenty of opportunity for more arrivals and potential multi-GPU support. From this side of the case, all appears in check, and a removal of the opposing side-panel confirms it. Components, fittings and wiring have clearly been addressed carefully.
One minor point is the green of the RAM modules used, breaking an otherwise cohesively dark theme. Yet in an enclosed system, it’s very minor indeed.
CPU: 3.6GHz Intel Core i7-77820X
Memory: 32GB 2,133MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
Motherboard: Gigabyte X299-UD4
Hard disk: 250GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 SSD, 2 x 3TB Seagate HDD
Ports: 2 x USB 3.1, 6 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x PS/2, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 6 x audio
Case: Fractal Design Define R5
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 232 x 451 x 531mm
Extras: Dual-band 802.11n WiFi
Warranty: 5yr RTB, 2yr C&R
Built around Intel’s X299 HEDT platform, the Fusion Photo OC VIII makes use of Gigabyte’s X299-UD4 motherboard. It’s a board lacking bells and whistles, and could be considered a more ‘affordable’ option to have at the base of a component game. Not a board to attract tinkerers, the system’s Fractal Design Define R5 case is an excellent choice – a case without windows, but which is still stylish and spacious. Essentially, it’s suited to flexibility.
Inside the case, we’ve Intel’s eight-core, sixteen-thread i7-7820X. It doesn’t have the ten-core, twenty-thread capability of i9-7900X. However, the 7820X has a higher base clock of 3.6GHz (Max Turbo of 4.3GHz), and it’s several hundred pounds cheaper. Backing up the CPU is a bounty of 32GB (4 x 8GB) 2,133MHz DDR4 running in quad-channel mode. The i7-7820X supports 64Gb of 2,666MHz RAM natively, so there’s room here for both density and frequency gains.
Graphics duty goes to the Pascal-powered Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB, featuring 1280 stream processors and GPU base and boost clocks of 1569MHz and 1785MHz respectively. If that seems an odd choice in a system with such RAM and CPU power, we’re reminded of the system name. The ‘Photo’ moniker designates primary use, and primarily this isn’t a gaming system.
Beyond a 250GB Samsung 960 EVO M.2 drive sit two 3TB HDDs running in a RAID 1 array. That’s good data redundancy practice, and to be expected from any media-focused system. Of course, we’d also expect ample media connectivity and that’s also here. A 3.5” Akasa 17 in 1 card-reader and blu-ray rewriter are hidden behind the Define R5’s front door. Last but not least, keeping the i7-7820X well clear of danger is Corsair’s Hydro H100i V2. It’s an addition true to the theme of responsible HEDT system building.
The focus for the Fusion Photo OC VIII has to be applications. Therefore, it’s a tricky system to find a comparison for. We’ve not seen too many photo-focused builds in previous months, and a gaming builds are stacked quite differently.
On that basis, we’ve compared application performance to a system reviewed last month – the PC Specialist LS-Surge. The LS-Surge is gaming-oriented and at the time of review was worth £500 more. However, the comparison serves to highlight the capabilities of Kaby Lake-X and X299.
Sure, the PC Mark 8 Home score of the Fusion Photo OC VIII is behind, but only just. In Geekbench single-threaded tests the Chillblast lacks a little again, but its non-overclocked CPU is up against an i7-7700K running at 4.8GHz. Of course, an i7-7820X could in theory more than make up that ground.
Yet the strength of this system was shown in multi-threaded and media-handling power. As a base, speeds on the Fusion Photo OC VIII’s SSD came in at a superb 2,698MB/s read and 1,590MB/s write. As impressive is the 32GB of RAM offering a multi-threaded memory bandwidth of 48.6GB/s, the highest we’ve recorded. No surprises then that in Geekbench’s multi-threaded test, the Chillblast’s i7-7820X beat down the LS-Surge as the graphs show.
In Cinebench, we recorded a huge score of 1757cb in the CPU test and a high of 140.9fps in the GPU benchmark. Speaking of GPUs, 3D Mark and gaming results were where we’d expect from a system including a GTX 1060 6GB: absolutely smooth for ‘High’ 1080p Gaming. Again, this system isn’t built for gamers.
Finally, as we’d hope, thermals were all in check. The i7-7820X idled at 28c and peaked at a cool 65c. GPU temps were fair, at 45c when idling and a topping out at 74c. Max system draw was 312W.
Fusion Photo OC VIII – Conclusion
Once more for continuity, this isn’t a gaming system. The Fusion Photo OC VIII is a wholly capable and incredibly powerful build, and for anyone wanting a high-end photo editing or media handling machine. The potential for X299 and the i7-7820X is massive, and the innate power available means a system uilt on X299 around that processor can be focused pretty much as you wish.
Here Chillblast has opted to utilise the 7820X’s excellent multi-threading power. It’s done so in a smartly put together, well-built and solid system. Supported by a huge amount of RAID storage, 32GB of RAM and multi-media connectivity, this is the work-horse it’s obviously intended to be.
That’s not to say you couldn’t game with it. The GTX 1060 6GB card makes 1080p a breeze, and Chillblast could fit an RX 580 8GB, GTX 1070 8GB, or GTX 1080 8GB if you and your budget demanded. Of course, the potential for CPU overclocking is ample as well. That and other tweaks can be gained for a higher price.
With that in mind, the Fusion Photo OC VIII could morph in many ways. Yet as it is, this is a system well-capable of achieving the role its built to carry out.