Introducing the Puget Systems Deluge

It's been a little while since we've had a Puget Systems desktop in, and so far we haven't yet tested any of their big dog gaming machines. Everything else we've tested, we've liked, but what happens when the fine folks over at Puget Systems pull out all the stops and put together a high end gaming machine? The answer: the Deluge, an X79-based rig in a modified Antec P183, employing a custom liquid-cooling loop. It's big, powerful, and expensive. Did Puget Systems hit another custom out of the park, and is Sandy Bridge-E the enthusiast platform we were waiting for?

While we're used to seeing liquid-cooled systems around here, the Puget Systems Deluge is one of the few we've had in with a fully custom solution. Puget Systems modified the Antec P183 enclosure substantially, planting a 360mm Koolance radiator in the top and adding a window to the side (complete with intake fan). This is really the first tricked-out system we've received from them, and it's a doozy aimed at demonstrating what Intel's new Sandy Bridge-E and X79 platform can do. Needless to say, the rap sheet comes packed with all the latest and greatest hardware.

Puget Systems Deluge L2 Specifications
Chassis Antec P183, Modified
Processor Intel Core i7-3960X
(6x3.3GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.9GHz, 4.6GHz Overclock, 32nm, 15MB L3, 130W)
Motherboard ASUS Sabertooth X79 (X79 chipset)
Memory 8x4GB Patriot Viper Xtreme DDR3-1600 @ 1500MHz (expandable to 64GB)
Graphics 2x NVIDIA eVGA GeForce GTX 580 1.5GB GDDR5 in SLI
(2x 512 CUDA Cores, 772/1544/4008MHz core/shaders/RAM, 384-bit memory bus)
Hard Drive(s) Intel 510 250GB SATA 6Gbps SSD
Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB 7200-RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive(s) ASUS BD-RE (BW-12B1ST)
Networking Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio ASUS Xonar DX
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround jacks, optical out for 7.1 sound
Front Side Optical drive
Card reader
USB 3.0
2x USB 2.0
Headphone and mic jacks
Top -
Back Side PS/2
5x USB 3.0
6x USB 2.0
6-pin FireWire
Optical out
2x eSATA
4x DVI-D
2x Mini-HDMI
Speaker, mic/line-in, surround, and optical jacks
Operating System Windows 7 Professional 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 19.9" x 8.1" x 22" (WxDxH)
Extras Card reader
Antec CP1000 PSU
Custom liquid-cooling loop with 360mm radiator
Warranty 1-year parts, Lifetime labor and tech support (extendable by up to three years)
Pricing Starts at $3,945
Review system configured at $7,254

Well, I believe that's officially the most expensive configuration I've yet tested, so if you don't need a car but can afford to buy one, Puget Systems is willing to sell you a tricked out desktop in its stead.

We start at the top with Intel's shiny new top-of-the-line Core i7-3960X. Built on a 32nm process, the new chip features eight hyper-threaded Sandy Bridge cores and 20MB of L3 cache, although in this chip 5MB of L3 and two of the cores are disabled. There's an unlocked multiplier and quad-channel memory, and it runs at a nominal 3.3GHz clock speed. Puget Systems, however, pushed this baby to 4.6GHz, and strapped to the four memory channels is 32GB of Patriot DDR3 in eight 4GB DIMMs, running at 1.5GHz due to a tweaked BCLK.

Handling graphics duties are a pair of eVGA GeForce GTX 580s with Koolance waterblocks attached to them. For the first time, I think I'm actually mildly surprised the video cards themselves haven't been overclocked, especially given how much headroom there can be on the GTX 580 (my own is pushing 880MHz on stock voltage). The stock clock speeds of 772MHz on the core (resulting in 1544MHz on the shaders) and 4GHZ on the 1.5GB of GDDR5 is actually kind of disappointing, especially knowing that all of Puget Systems' suppliers offer factory overclocked cards. Even a mild bump, as is found on eVGA's SuperClocked GTX 580, would've been appreciated. But they're running in SLI and the stupefying amount of CPU power on hand should hopefully alleviate any CPU limitations in gaming.

As I've come to expect from Puget Systems, the SSD is an Intel 510. Other manufacturers will use SSDs by Crucial, Corsair, or OCZ, and I personally run a Corsair in my desktop, but Puget is serious about hardware reliability and thus far Intel is one of the best for SSDs. The 510 is rated for 500MB/sec in read speed and 315MB/sec in write speed, making it more than adequate for our purposes. Mass storage is handled by a Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB drive, and given the current shortages in the industry as a result of the Thailand flooding, you pay dearly for the privilege.

Rouding out the Deluge is an ASUS Xonar DX on audio duty and an ASUS BD-RE drive. While I can definitely vouch firsthand for the quality of the Xonar DX (and it's a popular choice among enthusiasts), I'm keen to point out that it becomes a lot less attractive if you're using optical out instead of analog. I use a pair of Antec Soundscience Rockus speakers with the digital out on my motherboard, and found it to be a bit less of a hassle than keeping my Xonar DX installed.

Of course, one of the big things you're paying for is the 360mm Koolance radiator custom mounted to the top of the P183 V3 enclosure along with the 3/8" tubing used for the liquid-cooling loop that runs between the CPU and pair of GeForce GTX 580s. There's also a reservoir mounted in one of the front 5.25" drive bays. It's a very slick and clean installation.

Update 11-30-2011: We've added results for the Deluge in surround gaming.

Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • vanadiel - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    I don't understand for the life of me why anyone would purchase a system like this for over $7K.
    While it's true that this system will ensure top notch gaming, so will a system that costs 5 times less.
    I benched my own system to compare the scores, and while I got beaten on every number, the beating was merely a little tap on the shoulder.
    If I would pay this much for a system I would expect it to crush and utterly demolish my current gaming system.
  • Beenthere - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    No one would actually buy a system like this unless they were technically PC illiterate. This is a system for posers with more money than knowledge.
  • vanadiel - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    Maybe, but it's not much of a pose if you get beaten. A system like this has to have stellar performance or there's no point in purchasing it.
  • Beenthere - Saturday, November 26, 2011 - link

    Which is exactly why no one but a poser would buy it. ;)
  • mariush - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    Mass storage is handled by a Western Digital Caviar Black 2TB drive, and given the current shortages in the industry as a result of the Thailand flooding, you pay dearly for the privilege.

    Yeah, right. I'm sure the price of a 2 TB hard drive really matters in the total of 7500$ for this system system.
  • Catalina588 - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    I too was surprised by the high voltage used in the factory OC, as well as the permanent 1.4+ volt load on the processor. I don't see the benefits of that overclock. Here are two scenarios:

    1. Always at 100% CPU Utilization
    If you're running simulations constantly (e.g., Folding@Home), then the cooling limits of your setup will drive the possible OC. I set my Turbo to 43X BCLK 100 for a 4.3GHz boot on 6 cores. After 10 minutes, CPU-Z reports the core speed has dropped to the thermal stability point of my Intel HSC water-loop: 4.1 GHz at less than 80 degrees package temperature (via Core Temp) with a voltage of 1.104. Looks like it could run this way for a long time with no sweat.

    2. Occasional high-performance single threads
    Set the Turbo multiplier to 48X. Leave all the Intel SpeedStep technology enabled. If it boots, run your burn-in tests and you should be fine. If not, try a lower Turbo multiplier The processor will spool all 6 cores up to 48X briefly (seconds) or a couple of cores for long runs. If you're doing a long video transcode, you'll see the core speed decline from 48X as the TDP thermal limits are met and throttled back. With this method, most of the time you'll benefit from the energy savings running at lower voltage and lower core speeds at idle.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    Not a very sophisticated overclock, if you rely on thermal throttling.

    Also, if your CPU throttles (but there is more overclock to be had) you might want to think about getting better cooling, because 1.1V and 4.1GHz seems quite conservative on moderate to good air cooling. Seems like you have bad to moderate cooling in your rig.

    My CPU (i7 860) is not limited by temperature (75°C @1.408V+4.05GHz) but by normal manufacturing errors. Even a small spike at 1.5V didn't result in better OC and gave me errors after a few minutes on LinX.

    Even if it was limited by temperature, I wouldn't let it just throttle, I'd tweak it to get the best non-throttle overclock.

    But there are enough good OC manuals out there. :D
  • jadawgis732 - Thursday, November 24, 2011 - link

    I think the conclusion here smacks of real, independent speak, which is not something you find in spades in this day in age when every reviewer is just writing it as nicely as possible in order to keep in high standing with manufacturers. I love the "good citizen" line in the power section too. Just one mistake, on the conclusion page, after you finish ripping apart Puget's placement strategy and pricing scheme you say, "[...] having six cores, but it's not like anyone gamers have been crying that [...]" Anyway keep up the great work.
  • McFoozle - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    1. Intel Sandy Bridge-E is a bust. By the time it starts providing the necessary performance per dollar to make sense, Ivy Bridge will be out.

    2. This system doesn't even make sense for people with money to burn who don't have time to spend on building it themselves.

    3. Boutique systems builders obviously charge big money to build these things for you and they almost always do things that are weird, undesired and even downright inexplicable.
  • piroroadkill - Friday, November 25, 2011 - link

    I agree that Sandy Bridge-E is pointless for almost everyone.

    Also, the sort of person that would buy the best ULTRA EXXXXTREME edition processor would already have a Core i7-980x or 990x system, and would STILL have no reason to upgrade to this.

    Everyone's better off waiting for Ivy Bridge.

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