capsule review

Hardcore Reactor

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At a Glance
  • Hardcore Computer Reactor

It's time to cash out the mutual fund. Hardcore Computer's Reactor gaming system has a $10,000 price tag, and its design is almost as eye-popping. But what does this cool investment get you? Oil. A lot of oil.

The Reactor is an immersion-cooled PC. Its custom-designed case is filled with a synthetic, viscous liquid that keeps your parts cooled (using an included pump and radiator system) the same way a deep fryer makes your French fries tasty.

That liquid immersion allows Hardcore to kick the Reactor's 3.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9770 up to 4.0 GHz of processing power. It's not the fastest overclock we've seen (that honor goes to the 4.5-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8600 of Xi's Mtower HAF-SLI), but it's enough to keep this quad-core system competitive against the fastest rigs we've benchmarked.

Other features of the Reactor include four gigabytes of DDR3-1600 RAM and, true to the company's name, a "hard-core" storage setup that uses three Samsung SSDs in a RAID 0 array for your boot volume and two RAID 1 Samsung Spinpoint F1 terabyte drives for your file storage. That's 2.2-terabytes of storage in all, with the RAID mirrors making 1.2-terabytes actually available. Unfortunately, Hardcore doesn't include a cooling solution for your wallet--your credit card will be molten once you dole out $10,053 for the system (as of November 11, 2008). And that's for the tower only; it'll cost you an additional $425 for an above-average Samsung 2443BW monitor.

All in all, it's a high sum for the system's overall performance. While the Reactor was able to tie the fastest gaming computers we've tested with a WorldBench 6 score of 163, its average frame rates on our gaming tests were still less than those of Falcon Northwest's comparatively budget-priced Mach V rig ($7395). The Reactor and its tri-SLI PNY GeForce GTX 280 cards (even overclocked to 640 MHz) are simply no match for the Mach V's CrossFire AMD Radeon HD 4870 X2 cards. While we'd normally commend the GeForce cards for being able to run our tested games at high settings and resolutions like 2560 by 1600, the Reactor's absurd price point forces us to expect no less than supreme graphical dominance, which just didn't happen.

However, we absolutely love the lengths Hardcore goes to bundle usability into its custom-built chassis. All of the system's connectors are built into the case's top, for example--it's certainly the first time we ever plugged our speaker cords into that part of a system. Two hot-swappable hard-drive bays on the front of the case free you from having to navigate the oily inner nightmare just to add storage to your machine. The case's grilled side glows a thunderous blue-purple, though we wish more attention had been paid to showing off the case's gooey interior. It would be nice to see what's actually inside your machine, given the novelty of this PC's cooling system.

We also applaud Reactor's inclusion of a Sony NEC Optiarc BC-5600S Blu-ray player and DVD read/writer combination, because that's its only optical drive. The case's connection options could be a bit more extensive: eight USB and four Firewire 400 ports are nice, but an eSATA option anywhere on the case could have sweetened this ten-thousand-dollar deal. The included Logitech G9 mouse is acceptable, but the DPI adjustment buttons are difficult to access in the heat of the moment. We also miss the fancy flip-up screen that used to be a staple element of the included Logitech G11 keyboard. A G15 keyboard, with screen included, would have been a better choice.

There's no question that the Hardcore is an impressive, delightfully imposing machine. But the gimmick of oil-based cooling doesn't sweeten the deal (or its benchmarks) enough to make this $10,000 machine an instant buy. You can find a faster PC that's far easier to upgrade for thousands less.

--David Murphy

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At a Glance
  • Impressive PC cools its parts by immersing them in oil, but more upgradable, cheaper, and faster (graphics-wise) PCs exist.


    • Full immersion cooling
    • Superb design


    • Extremely expensive
    • Tricky to upgrade
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