Primordial Medusa: Includes the Kitchen Sink
At a Glance
Excess: It's the defining characteristic of the PCs that sit atop our performance desktop chart, vying for supremacy by cramming bleeding-edge components into massive hulls.
Primordial Computers' Medusa ticks all of the requisite boxes: big case, lofty moniker, a dizzying array of tubes, and a monstrous price tag ($6495). But PCs are more than just the sum of their parts--does the Medusa earn a spot amongst PCWorld's Top Performance desktops? In a word, yes.
I'll start with the guts. The Medusa is built around an Intel Core i7-3960X processor. This is the recently released Sandy Bridge Extreme Edition CPU, but Primordial Computers has overclocked it to 4.9GHz. That CPU is backed up by 32GB of RAM (Correction: Four 8GB RAM sticks only take up four of the eight DIMM slots, leaving four free), and a fair bit of storage space: two 120GB Intel 520 solid-state drives in RAID 0, and a 2TB storage drive. A Blu-ray burner provides access to your optical media.
About that liquid-cooling array: It's...thorough. Everything is liquid cooled--the three AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards, the CPU, the RAM, even the motherboard. A bit much? I think so. But you will not want for thermal headroom, if you're one to play with voltages and core clocks.
All of that care pays off--the Medusa earned a score of 207 on our new WorldBench 7 benchmarks suite, a few pegs higher than other machines on the chart. As expected, it's no slouch in the gaming department--91.8 frames per second in Crysis 2, and 187.1 fps in Dirt 3, at a resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels, on high settings. Anything over 30 fps is considered playable, and 60 fps is the gold standard for a smooth experience. These dramatically higher results are nice, though; you won't need to upgrade this behemoth anytime soon.
The Medusa's innards are housed in a Corsair 800D case. It's a familiar chassis that's spent quite a bit of time on PCWorld's charts, and is one of my favorites. Getting inside is easy, as the case walls pop off at the push of a button. But once you're in, you may not find much to do: The liquid cooling means taking a lot of tubing apart if you actually want to get in there and make some changes.
The four hard-drive bays are held in a separate, fan-cooled bay. They're readily accessible from the front of the case, and drives can easily be swapped in and out--just press a latch, and pull on the tray. Tool-free and accessible--always appreciated.
The trio of graphics cards offer a total of three HDMI ports, six mini-DisplayPort connectors, and 3 DVI ports. On the motherboard, you'll find six USB ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one eSATA port, analog audio output ports, an SPDIF optical output port, a PS/2 serial keyboard and mouse port, and the requisite Gigabit Ethernet port. The motherboard also offers Bluetooth connectivity, and a button that clears the CMOS battery--very handy if something goes wrong while you're tinkering.
So what's missing? Bloatware. The system hosts a clean install of Windows 7 Ultimate, and nothing else. There's also no multiformat card reader, and the liquid-cooling reservoir on the face of the unit blocks most of the available 5.25-inch drive bays, but I suppose one can't necessarily have everything.
Is the Medusa nevertheless a good value? Forget the lofty price tag for a moment. Quick and dirty calculations put the parts list at about $4715. Add another $500 or so for the barbs, reservoir, radiators, pump, cooling fluid, and tubing that goes into a liquid-cooling array that's a bit less aggressive (you can spend more, but unless you're serious about overcloking your RAM and graphics cards, it's unecessary). And then there's shipping charges and sales tax.
Sure, those numbers are rough--you could probably do better on some parts, and get free shipping from sites like Amazon. But if you were looking to build this rig yourself, you'd save about $1000 to $1500; certainly not a bad "fee" for a stable overclock, comprehensive liquid cooling, and not having to do it all yourself.
I'm something of a hardcore PC gamer, but this level of performance is leagues above anything I'd consider--better to save for a few more displays and a few months' rent. But the Medusa shows off what Primordial Computers is capable of, and it doesn't disappoint.