Vadim Custom Fusion Amd 939g CrossFire Inverness

The Fusion's nuclear looks are helped by the side window, which clearly displays the Sapphire Pure Innovation motherboard inside. It shares the white and red colour scheme of the A9RX480, but it's the CrossFire version of the board.

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Vadim Custom Fusion Amd 939g CrossFire

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Overclocking usually involves plenty of trial and error, as you painstakingly and progressively alter voltages, timings and multipliers. It's a good way to get to know the BIOS. You find options that reveal hidden caches of performance, and others that are like pits of quicksand, which will swallow the PC's stability whole. When we saw the 'PnP/PCI Confaguratagfs' option - along with 'Save & Epat Setup' and 'PLL Stabilitq Cadabrataqf' - we knew we'd hit the point of no return.

And yet it all started out so well. The Vadim Custom Fusion AMD 939G CrossFire is seriously impressive. Having it on your desk next to you is a bit like how you'd imagine sitting next to a nuclear reactor would be. There's the impression of massive power, lots of pipes, an eerie green glow and, at the back of your mind, the nagging thought that you might now be endowed with mutant super-powers.

The Fusion's nuclear looks are helped by the side window, which clearly displays the Sapphire Pure Innovation motherboard inside. It shares the white and red colour scheme of the A9RX480, but it's the CrossFire version of the board. UV lighting gives it a radioactive look, and the power cables are braided in blue UV-reactive material. The S-ATA cables are fluorescent, and the fans are made from UV-reactive green and blue plastic. And this is just the background radiation, which, compared with the liquid-cooling system's 1/2in ID tubing and green coolant, is easily the most noticeable aspect of the Fusion.

The waterblocks on the CPU and the graphics card are both massive; the former has a triple pipe connection, and the latter cools both the GPU and the card's memory. The Northbridge is liquid cooled too, with American-based company PolarFlo making the blocks for the CPU and Northbridge, and the German Alphacool supplying the one for the graphics card. On first inspection, the system seems to be cooled by a single 120mm fan radiator, which is sandwiched between two 120mm fans and attached to the case's rear fan mount. However, thisis actually the system's secondary radiator; the primary radiator is a dual 120mm fan model tucked away at the front of the case. Between this radiator and the main case cavity are two small black cubes, which are C-Systems pumps. According to Vadim, the system doesn't need both of these, but having two provides a back-up should one fail. The tubular Cape Coolplex reservoir is a neat touch too.To top it all off, the system is filled with FluidXP, a non-conductive coolant, rather than water, so if it leaks, your components won't get damaged.

The coolant is pre-cooled by the dual radiator before being pumped to the CPU and Northbridge. It's cooled again by the single radiator before hitting the graphics card, and then returning to the reservoir and dual radiator. After that, the coolant is recirculated. It's impeccably engineered and has been put together with the same care and attention you'd hope that nuclear plant workers would exercise: the pipes are cut to sensible lengths and kept from kinking by plastic spiral wrap, while the pumps are kept quiet by foam matting. The Thermaltake Armor case isn't our first choice, but the cooler and components fit well into its interior.

Given that the Fusion contains such an intricate liquid-cooling system, we expected to find some hot-running components at its core. Although the motherboard supports CrossFire, the Fusion has only one graphics card, as no X1800-series master cards are available yet. Our Fusion was fitted with a top-of-the-range Radeon X1800XT card, complete with 512MB of GDDR3 memory. As you'd expect from the hardcore cooling system, the Fusion has been overclocked, with the GPU running at 700MHz, and the memory at 792MHz (1.584GHz effective). This isn't the only overclocking Vadim has done though. The CPU, an Athlon 64 X2 4800+, is overclocked from 2.4GHz to 2.58GHz, as the FSB has been raised from 200MHz to 215MHz. The memory's timings have been set by hand to 2.5 - 3 - 3 - 7, and to keep the Fusion stable, there's extra voltage going to the CPU, chipset and PCI-E bus. The fairly tight memory timings help to boost performance, and are made possible by the use of 1GB Corsair TWINX 3500LLPRO DIMMs.

The primary hard disks are a pair of aging 36GB Raptors, which shows how good the Raptor's reputation is, despite the fact its performance no longer lives up to it. Vadim has installed Windows XP on the Raptors in a RAID 0 configuration, and there's a 300GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.8 for data. The Raptors are really noisy, clicking and tutting just like your mum would when you tell her you've spent £3,000 on a PC. They might not be ideal choices, but they're neatly installed. The Raptors are fitted with gel pads to dampen noise and vibrations, and all three drives sit neatly in a caddy at the top of the case. They're cooled by an 80mm fan, while the 600W Seasonic PSU exhausts the air, so together, the drives and PSU form their own cooling ecosystem.

The Fusion also has two optical drivers, an 8x dual-layer NEC DVD burner and a Sony DVD/CD-RW combo drive. The Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Music edition is a welcome inclusion, and, as you have a RAID setup that needs drivers, so is the floppy drive. There's a Thermaltake HardCano fan controller too, although it's black, not silver, so it doesn't match the case.



PERFORMANCE

As you'd expect, the Fusion ran through our benchmarks extremely quickly. It was slightly slower than Scan's 3XS Chameleon, despite having the same CPU, as the Scan is more overclocked. However, the Fusion's overall score of 1.54 is still scorchingly quick. With faster hard disks, such as the Hitachi Deskstar T7K250, it would have been quicker still.

When we previewed the Radeon X1800XT, we only had it for a very short amount of time before it was spirited away for other uses, so the thought of having one sitting in the lab for a few days, along with copies of F.E.A.R. and Quake 4 wasn't something I wanted to miss. However, I was suprised by the Fusion's handling of those games at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x AA and 8x AF. Basically, it doesn't. The Fusion averaged just over 20fps in F.E.A.R. and 30fps in Quake 4, but the minimum frame rate in both games was barely in double figures. Considering the Fusion's spec, I was disappointed.

However, once you reduce the AA and AF, these games run smoothly, and in less demanding games, such as Battlefield 2, the Fusion flies. You simply forget what luxury such a high resolution is, and instead find yourself concentrating on just how stupid your squadmates are, and where your next tank is coming from. When the hard disks aren't thrashing, the Fusion hums along quietly. The cooling system has more than enough capacity to run a second high-speed graphics card; when those X1800XT master cards show up, Vadim will be able to pop one into the PC and integrate it into the liquid-cooling loop, so you can play F.E.A.R. at the mightiest settings.

Having such an extremely well-cooled high-end PC just sitting in the labs really tempted the CPC team to try its hands at overclocking the Fusion further. Like the previous Pure Innovation motherboard we saw, the Fusion's board has a stack of options. Its CPU voltage control is better than that of our our review A9RX480. However, we couldn't set the CPU voltage higher than 1.475V without the board refusing to POST, and we couldn't get the memory frequency much higher than 230MHz either. This wasn't much of an increase, so we swapped out the RAM for two 512MB Mushkin PC4000 Redline DIMMs. These are designed to run at very high voltages - 3.3V to 3.5V, according to the box. We stepped them up to the not-quite-meltdown level of 3.8V, and then clocked them to 258MHz with a CPU bus multiplier of 10.5, which pushed the CPU up to 2.7GHz. At this speed, it completed our benchmarks with an overall score of 1.61. Sadly, after an hour of running two instances of Folding@home, it froze. When we rebooted, we headed into the BIOS, and the ambush referred to in the first paragraph. To be fair, though, we did change the RAM and overclock it hard, and at Vadim's settings it was rock solid.



CONCLUSION

The Fusion's build quality is superb, but considering the low-latency memory and super-quick graphics card, we think an Athlon 64 FX-57 CPU would have been a better choice, especially if it was overclocked. The 36GB Raptors are a poor choice too, and should be changed, but we can't complain about the way the Fusion is put together.

Author: Alex Watson

Vadim Custom Fusion Amd 939g CrossFire