We’ve seen a couple of HEDT (high-end desktop) systems based on the X299 platform and Core X processors now. The power is obvious, and here X299 and the favoured i7-7820X find themselves in the Vulcan X-01. Available for a low £2,249 – ie. Putting this spec together yourself using PC Specialist’s part-picker would cost more – this system looks like a handy 1080p/4K gaming ally. The inclusion of a GTX 1080 8GB hints that there is just a slight compromise at play here. Still, if it isn’t an all-guns blazing kind of affair it can’t be too far off.
We’ll start with the graphics card. PC Specialist has opted for EVGA’s GTX 1080 8GB FTW2, and that’s an important factor when considering the Vulcan -X-01. It’s a pre-overclocked card with a base clock of 1,721Mhz, boosted to 1860Mhz. It makes use of EVGA’s iCX cooling solution – a combination of extra thermal sensors and micro-processors…essentially it should shunt heat away from the GPU efficiently.
The inclusion of the FTW2 is a useful signifier of what this system is about. That is, it aims to offer substantial power to lay waste to 1080p gaming while handling decentframe rates at 4K. Sure, you could spend more and get a system featuring an GTX 1080Ti with 11GB of GDDR5 and 3,584 stream processors…but do you need it? If you’re not hoping to get the best possible 4K frames then perhaps not.
With a boosted GTX 1080 the Vulcan X-01 looks to complement in suitable fashion. Intel’s mighty eight-core/sixteen thread Core i7-7820X seems the go-to for HEDT builds right now so its appearance here makes semse. The hyper-threading of the 7820X is monstrous compared to any Skylake processor, and PC Specialist has overclocked it to 4.6GHz (up from a 3.6GHz stock speed). Productivity isn’t likely to make this rig blink.
The CPU sits in the Asus ROG Strix X299-E Gaming motherboard. It’s a mean looking and capable setting, allowing decent tweaking, two M.2 slots and offering on-board buttons. 32GB (4 x 8GB) of Corsair Vengeance DDR4 occupy half of the eight DIMMs available, and is clocked at 3,000MHz.
The final pieces to this promising jigsaw are a 256GB WD Black M.2 SSD drive, a 1TB WD Black HDD, a Corsair 750W TXm Series modular PSU and a Coolermaster Masterliquid Pro 280 cooler.
- CPU: 4.6GHz Intel Core i7-77820X
- Memory: 32GB Corsair Vengeance RGB 3,000MHz DDR4
- Graphics: 8GB EVGA Geforce GTX 1080 FTW2 Gaming
- Motherboard: Asus ROG Strix X299-E Gaming
- Sound: On-board
- Hard disk: 256GB WD Black M.2 SSD, 1 x WD Black HDD
- Ports: 6 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x PS/2, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 8 x audio
- Case: Coolermaster Mastercase Maker 5t
- Dimensions: (W x D x H): 242 x 544 x 574mm
- Warranty: 3yr labour w/ 1yr parts, 1mth C&R
PC Specialist has chosen the Coolermaster Mastercase Maker 5t for this build. Effectively it’s £200-worth of chassis style, and Coolermaster calls it ‘modular meets turbo’. ‘Make of it what you will’, says Coolermaster, and PC Specialist has. This is a case worthy of a high-end build, and makes one hell of a statement: angular and magnetised top and front panels, tinted side panels, red metallic detailing, a rubber handle and premium features all add up!
It’s a very nice case indeed. Front-panel ports and features sit at a diagonal at the top of the front panel, illuminating when powered on, and adding Low/High fan and LED mode buttons to four USB 3.0 ports, mic and headphone ports and the standard power and reset buttons.
Outside the case, ample air-flow considerations have been made, with a front-panel which leans out, and a removable cutaway on top. The side-panels, opened with keys, also fan out to make this the perfect choice for a build with a bit of flare. Inside, protected cable routing holes, a large amount of space and standout red metal panelling maintain the high standard.
One in-built red LED strip offers some illumination, and PC Specialist has decided to add to it. The Vulcan X-01 has a motherboard, RAM and graphics cards all endowed with modest LED lighting – plus two 50cm LED strips. Powered on, the mix of hues is colourful even behind tinted side panels. The lighting isn’t always uniform and may not be for everyone, but it brightened up our day!
Aside from the colour, PC Specialist has ensured the Vulcan X-01 is a tidy build. We should point out that the RAM was arranged in dual- not quad-channel mode – but this is due to a BIOS inconsistency on Asus’ part – hopefully soon resolved.
The Vulcan X-01 came to us with its memory arranged in dual- and not the quad-channel mode Skylake X is capable of. In the spirit of transparency, our gaming and 3D Mark benchmarks were conducted with the memory ‘as was’.
For application benchmarks, we switched the RAM to a quad-channel arrangement. We wanted a true sense of this system’s potential, and found a noticeable boost on the already decent results. This isn’t how the system arrived, but we’ve faith the BIOS issue will be resolved.
In a quad-channel arrangement the Vulcan X-01 outperformed Scan’s X299-based 3XS Carbon Aura in Geekbench. It also delivered a very good showing in PC Mark 8’s Home benchmark. It fell down a little in Cinebench, where the Scan system’s higher overclock just pips it to our highest CPU score. In the GPU test, the Scan won out by just 15fps.
That was reinforced in 3D Mark Fire Strike. We put the Vulcan X-01 up against PC Specialist’s own Kaby Lake-based LS-Surge and the Chillblast Fnatic Ryzen. Both beat it thanks to their GTX 1080Ti 11GB parts, but not by much. With that part, the Vulcan X-01 would absolutely fly.
Even without it this is a great gaming machine – and especially at this price. It offers smooth 4K gaming, and gave averages of 59fps (Fallout 4), 52fps (BF1) 50fps (Witcher 3). Ashes of the Singularity hit 79fps in DX12. 1080p gaming? This system won’t break a sweat, and you’ll be looking at 90-110+ fps consistently. It didn’t sweat with RAM bandwidth either, clocking a massive 47GB/s multi-threaded.
Throughout use the Vulcan X-01 remained reasonably quiet, and temperatures were absolutely fine: 61c peak for the CPU and 71c for the GPU. Peak draw was 480W, but with performance comes power.
Conclusion – PC Specialist Vulcan X-01
X299 provides a powerful and potentially power-hungry platform. The Vulcan X-01 delivered on the first and was as expected on the second. In a premium case decked out with illumination, generous cooling and tidily built, PC Specialist has delivered a great gaming system at a very attractive price. If you don’t demand a GTX 1080Ti (and would rather save £200), then this is an attractive and engaging build delivered with flair – although if you need matched LEDs, or prefer none at all, then this won’t be for you.
Weighted towards gaming, you can be sure this system also delivers super-quick productivity and general use. We’d opt for a Samsung 960 Pro M.2 over a WD Black part, but then we’d expect to pay more for that privilege. No, the real minor point here is RAM. That’s on Asus rather than PC specialist though. If Asus can sort the BIOS inconsistency then this and many other systems based on the ROG Strix X299-E Gaming will get a boost. Hopefully an upcoming update will clear the issue, but it didn’t overly cloud our experience: this is still a very fine system at a very, very nice price. Worthy of our Gold Award, with four of our five stars because of the slight BIOS issue.