PC Spe­cial­ist Vul­can X 02

AMD’s Ryzen chips just keep on giv­ing: the Vul­can de­liv­ers per­for­mance we’re not used to at this price

PC Pro - - November 2017 Issue 277 - DARIEN GRA­HAM-SMITH

SCORE ✪✪✪✪✪ PRICE £833 (£999 inc VAT) from pc­spe­cial­ist.co.uk

Now that AMD’s barn­storm­ing Ryzen 7 chips have made their mark, the rest of the fam­ily is emerg­ing. The Vul­can X 02 is the first sys­tem we’ve seen with a Ryzen 5 CPU – nom­i­nally a mid-range chip, but still a very pow­er­ful chunk of sil­i­con. It comes with a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, boost­ing to 4GHz as load de­mands. When AMD’s XFR tech­nol­ogy de­cides that there’s enough room in the “ther­mal en­ve­lope”, you can get an ex­tra 100MHz on top of that. If you’ve been pay­ing close at­ten­tion, you may no­tice that th­ese speeds pre­cisely match those of the top-end Ryzen 7 1800X – and the 1600X also comes with the same cache con­fig­u­ra­tion, com­bin­ing 512KB of L2 cache per core with 16MB of shared L3 cache.

The dif­fer­ence is the core count. Where the 1800X fea­tures eight phys­i­cal cores, the 1600X of­fers “only” six, with AMD’s SMT tech­nol­ogy al­low­ing them to han­dle 12 si­mul­ta­ne­ous threads. No­tably, this still rep­re­sents more par­al­lel pro­cess­ing power than any of the Core i7 chips in In­tel’s Kaby Lake lineup. It’s re­ported that the next-gen­er­a­tion Cof­fee Lake series will in­clude six-core mod­els, but if you want to wait for those that’s up to you: Ryzen is here right now.

To back up the pow­er­ful processor, PC Spe­cial­ist has equipped the Vul­can X 02 with a full 16GB of 2,133MHz DDR4 RAM. This is thought­fully pro­vided as a pair of 8GB DIMMs, leav­ing two free slots in the Asus RoG Strix B350-F Gam­ing moth­er­board, should you want to add more.

Stor­age comes in the form of a 256GB M.2 WD Black SSD – a speedy drive of­fer­ing se­quen­tial read rates of over 1,200MB/sec – plus a 1TB Sea­gate hard disk. It’s not a gen­er­ous pro­vi­sion, so it might be worth up­grad­ing to a larger hard disk at time of pur­chase.

With such pow­er­ful in­ter­nals, it was no sur­prise to see the Vul­can romp through our bench­marks. It scored an ex­cel­lent 142 in our im­age-edit­ing test, putting it al­most on par with a typ­i­cal Ryzen 7 1800X sys­tem: Yoy­otech’s Red­back N6, op­po­site, scored 151 in the same test.

Pre­dictably, the Vul­can dropped fur­ther be­hind in more heav­ily mul­ti­threaded bench­marks. In the video-edit­ing and mul­ti­task­ing tests it achieved scores of 203 and 237, ver­sus the Red­back’s 260 and 317. Even so, it’s one heck of a per­former: we’d ex­pect a top-end Core i7 sys­tem to nudge slightly ahead in sin­glethreaded tasks, but the Ryzen 5 1600X wins hands down when it comes to mul­ti­threaded com­put­ing.

Com­pare the Vul­can’s over­all bench­mark score of 210 to the 185 scored by the Core i7-7700K-pow­ered Chill­blast Fu­sion Strix we tested back in is­sue 269. Then re­mem­ber that this PC costs half as much, and the ex­tent to which AMD has shaken up the mar­ket be­comes clear.

To be fair, as well as a cost-ef­fec­tive CPU, PC Spe­cial­ist has cho­sen a cheaper graph­ics card – a 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. This isn’t an en­thu­si­ast-grade card, but it’s still per­fectly ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing

“The Ryzen 1600X of­fers six phys­i­cal cores, and 12 threads, which is more par­al­lel pro­cess­ing power than any Core i7 chip”

an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence. In Metro: Last Light Re­dux we en­joyed a smooth 52fps at Full HD with high de­tail set­tings. Any­thing more am­bi­tious is prob­a­bly out of reach, though: switch­ing to 2,560 x 1,440 saw the av­er­age frame rate fall to 30fps, marred by vis­i­ble hic­cups and stut­ter­ing.

Per­haps our least favourite as­pect of the Vul­can X 02 is the InWin 101 enclosure. The eye-catch­ing de­sign avoids stray­ing over the line into gaudi­ness, but it’s not a ver­sa­tile case. It won’t take an op­ti­cal drive nor a card reader, and the di­ag­o­nal power but­ton (tucked be­neath the InWin logo) is plain weird. The chas­sis is also larger than nec­es­sary, with the clip-on glass side ex­pos­ing swathes of empty space in­side.

On the up­side, that Asus moth­er­board pro­vides ex­cel­lent con­nec­tiv­ity. You get two front-fac­ing USB 3 ports, and a fur­ther four at the rear, plus two 10Gbits/sec USB 3.1 sock­ets, twin USB 2 and eight-chan­nel au­dio. If you want to up­grade the Vul­can X 02’s gam­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, there’s a sec­ond full-speed PCIEx­press 3 x16 slot sit­ting next to the first. Three PCI-E x1 slots com­plete the line-up – help­ful, per­haps for adding a Wi-Fi card, since the board lacks a wire­less con­troller of its own. In all, PC Spe­cial­ist has put to­gether an ex­ceed­ingly tempt­ing pack­age. The case isn’t our favourite, and it would have been nice if the bud­get had stretched to a 2TB hard disk. Cau­tious shop­pers might hold out to see what Cof­fee Lake has to of­fer be­fore leap­ing in – but frankly it hardly seems worth the wait. The Vul­can X 02 is a se­ri­ously high­per­for­mance PC, with 3D ca­pa­bil­i­ties to sat­isfy all but the most die-hard gamer, for a price that very re­cently would have seemed un­think­able.

BE­LOW The InWin 101 chas­sis looks great, but it isn’t the most ver­sa­tile of cases SPEC­I­FI­CA­TIONS 3.6GHz AMD Ryzen 5 1600X CPU 16GB DDR4 2,133MHz RAM Asus Strix B350-F Gam­ing moth­er­board 6GB GeForce GTX 1060 graph­ics 256GB WD Black M.2 SSD 1TB hard disk InWin 101 chas­sis 1yr RTB war­ranty (first month C&R) 226 x 445 x 480mm (WDH) Win­dows 10 Home

ABOVE There’s room for ex­pan­sion, from more hard disks to a sec­ond graph­ics card

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