Electronics and Computing Black Mamba: Overclocked Speed for Less Than You'd Expect
At a Glance
Electronics and Computing Black Mamba Power Desktop PC
From out of nowhere, Electronics and Computing has delivered a fantastic power and gaming PC.
This is the first desktop we've reviewed from New Jersey-based Electronics and Computing--and judging by what we've seen from this machine, the boutique PC maker sure knows how to build a power PC. The Black Mamba is designed for gaming first and foremost, but that's not to say that you're paying extra for features you might not use. The desktop's superspeedy general performance places it among the top power PCs we've tested, and its $2179 price tag (as of February 1, 2010) makes it one of the least expensive models on that list.
You don't have to do much digging to find this system's secret. Staying true to gaming PC design concepts, the Black Mamba has a standard 2.66GHz Intel Core i7 920 processor jacked up to 3.6GHz--quite a dramatic overclock, as evidenced by the sheer size of the Noctua CPU cooler attached to the motherboard. The 6GB of DDR3-1600 memory is average in size but unique in speed for the category. As for storage capacity, the Black Mamba has a total of 2.28TB (three drives in a RAID 0 array), the second-highest total capacity of any system on our power-PC chart.
Equipped with a dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295 graphics board, the Black Mamba beat out every other power PC on our gaming benchmarks, achieving 117 frames per second in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars and 130 fps in Unreal Tournament 3 (both at 2560-by-2100 resolution and high quality). In general performance, on our WorldBench 6 suite, the Black Mamba fell short of the category leader--the Xi MTower PCIe 965--by a hair, earning a score of 153 versus a mark of 156. Given that the Black Mamba is nearly $2000 cheaper than Xi's desktop, I'd take that three-point hit any day. Note: Tests completed under Windows Vista, but E&C now ship this $2179 system with Windows 7.
It's a little disappointing to see that Electronics and Computing stuck to a classic Antec case for the Black Mamba. That isn't a poor chassis overall, it's just an older variant that comes with a few limitations and quirks affecting upgrades and connections. The interior is full of screws, and to add or replace drives you must fully remove the hard-drive bays, which are built in two sets of three. Of those bays, three are open for further system customization, but the Black Mamba's cramped quarters will make for an unpleasant upgrading experience.
Our test configuration had no free external 5.25-inch bays: One held the desktops DVD writer, another a Blu-ray drive, and the third contained the multiformat card reader accessible on the front of the chassis. As for other upgrade options, while the GTX 295 graphics board takes up a good deal of room, the machine still has space for an additional PCI component, an extra PCI Express x4 card, or two more PCI Express x16 devices. SLI, anyone?
It's great to see that the Black Mamba's external connectivity is as tricked out as its insides. The rear of the PC hosts no fewer than eight USB ports, one FireWire 400 port, one eSATA port, two gigabit ethernet ports, integrated 7.1 surround sound, coaxial and optical S/PDIF connections, and a single HDMI port (on the graphics board).
Aside from a DisplayPort connection, it's difficult to think of what other ports this system lacks. The front of the Black Mamba suffers mostly because of the limitations of the Antec case design, offering a mere three USB ports and one FireWire 400 port to play with, along with the multiformat card reader. Electronics and Computing could easily fix that with a switch to a new chassis.
Electronics and Computing's Black Mamba power PC is unstoppable in its prowess, and unbeatable in price. A few nitpicky details, mainly related to the chassis, are all you could criticize on this otherwise monstrous system. It almost seems like snake oil, but this machine--and its boutique vendor--are genuinely worth paying attention to.