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PC Specialist LS-Surge – Review

PC Specialist LS-Surge – Review

PC Specialist LS-Surge - ReviewWe’ve never seen a desktop that looks as wild as the PC Specialist LS-Surge – but that’s no surprise, because we’ve never seen a system inside the ID-Cooling Stream 2.

This triangular case mixes metal and perspex, and PC Specialist has filled the rig with top-tier components like a GTX 1080 Ti graphics card and a Core i7-7700K processor.

The LS-Surge arrives with a whopping price of £2,799 – huge chunk money for a gaming system. With those big figures in play, you’ll have to make sure this is worth the cash before you open your wallet.

Design

The Stream 2 stands out in numerous ways. For one, it’s triangular, and it’s built from thick metal tubes, with the components sandwiched between two perspex panels. The machine stands on four sturdy rubber feet, and the front, rear and top of the system are open to the elements.

The Stream 2 looks stunning, and its design has practical advantages too. The thick pipes that form this machine’s structure are an integral part of PC Specialist’s water-cooling loop – coolant flows in and out through four connections scattered around the machine.

PC Specialist LS-Surge - ReviewThere’s plenty of water-cooling in this rig. A shelf towards the bottom of the machine holds a 100mm reservoir, and the top of the Stream2’s triangular build houses two radiators – one 240mm unit with a pair of fans, and a 120mm unit with one fan.

Short stretches of tubing help the white coolant flow between the radiators, the piping, and the components. Waterblocks made of clear acrylic are used for the processor and graphics cards, and the white coolant stands out against the black piping and darker components used elsewhere.

All of the water-cooling hardware in this machine comes from EKWB. It’s a specialist company based in Slovenia, and they make some of the best water-cooling gear on the market.

The Stream2 has striking water-cooling and looks, but the outlandish design creates some practical issues. The PC Specialist weighs more than 20kg and is 545mm tall, but there’s only room for a mini-ITX motherboard – so there’s little room to upgrade, with no spare PCI-Express connectors and the only empty M.2 socket virtually inaccessible. There’s only one empty SSD bay, too.

Full Specification

CPU: 4.2GHz Intel Core i7-7700K overclocked to 4.8GHz
Memory: 16GB 3,200MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
Motherboard: Asus ROG Strix Z270I Gaming
Sound: On-board
Hard disk: 500GB Samsung 960 EVO SSD, 2TB Seagate FireCuda HDD
Ports: Front: 2 x USB 3, 2 x audio; rear: 4 x USB 3.1, 2 x USB 2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 5 x audio
Case: ID-Cooling Stream2
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 585 x 545 x 250mm
Extras: Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Corsair RM750x PSU, EKWB water-cooling
Warranty: 3yr labour w/ 1yr parts, 1mth C&R

PC Specialist LS-Surge - ReviewComponents

The mini-ITX form factor hasn’t stopped PC Specialist from installing some barnstorming hardware in this rig.

The GTX 1080 Ti is one of Nvidia’s best graphics cards. It’s got the mighty Pascal architecture, and this card has 3,584 stream processors and 12 billion transistors alongside 11GB of GDDR5X memory.

It’s not overclocked, but its core and boost speeds of 1,480MHz and 1,645MHz are still formidable. It’s a GPU designed for 4K, VR and beyond.

The Core i7-7700K is overclocked from 4.2GHz to 4.8GHZ, which is an impressive tweak for Intel’s popular Kaby Lake part – you won’t find many British builders running that CPU at a higher speed than this.

PC Specialist LS-Surge - ReviewElsewhere, this machine ticks the gaming PC boxes, but rarely pushes the envelope. It’s got 16GB of DDR4 memory, a 500GB Samsung 960 EVO SSD, and a 2TB hard disk. It’s powered by a 750W, fully-modular Corsair power supply.

The capable high-end specification attaches to the Asus ROG Strix Z270I Gaming motherboard. It has dual-band wireless, RGB LEDs, snazzy gaming audio and four USB 3.1 ports, but its mini-ITX size means there’s a natural limit to what can be included. That’s fine if you’re not fussed about upgrading, but it’s not ideal if you like to tinker.

It also creates a stark contrast with the Chillblast Fnatic Ryzen Gaming PC, which we reviewed in April. That rig costs £2,500 and includes an AMD Ryzen 7 1800X processor alongside an overclocked GTX 1080 Ti graphics card, 32GB of memory and a full-size ATX motherboard with far more versatility than the PC Specialist.

Chillblast’s machine came in a conventional ATX case, so there’s more room to grow. The Chillblast was more practical, but it didn’t look anywhere near as striking as the PC Specialist.

Performance

PC Specialist LS-Surge - ReviewThe overclocked Core i7 processor and stock-speed graphics card delivered exceptional performance in gaming tests.

It blitzed through every 1080p benchmark with an average of 104fps or more, and it was great in 4K tests too. Its slowest result in the 3,840 x 2,160 benchmarks was a 36fps minimum in Fallout 4, and it whizzed through our other tests with minimum framerates of 40fps or more. That’s enough to ensure smooth gameplay even at this lofty resolution, and it was bolstered by averages that ranged from 47fps to 90fps.

There’s enough power here to game at 4K, on multi-monitor setups and VR headsets.

PC Specialist LS-Surge - ReviewThere wasn’t much to choose between the PC Specialist and the more conventional Chillblast machine – this rig was faster in Witcher 3, the two machines had equal averages in Shadow of Mordor, and the PC Specialist was only a frame or two behind in our other games.

There wasn’t much to choose from in theoretical tests, either: the PC Specialist’s 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme score of 12,761 is only 18 points behind the Chillblast.

The two machines continued to trade blows in application tests. The PC Specialist’s Geekbench single-core score of 6,058 was around 2,000 points better than the Chillblast, but both systems scored exactly the same in the multi-tasking test.

PC Specialist LS-Surge - ReviewThe PC Specialist’s quad-core chip fell behind in the Cinebench test, with its score of 1,048cb unable to match the eight-core Chillblast’s result of 1,608cb. But the PC Specialist proved itself in PC Mark 8, where it was around 1,000 points ahead.

You’re getting ample levels of performance, no matter which system you buy – and these gaming and application results indicate that the PC Specialist will scythe through modern titles and intensive work software with equal skill.

If there’s one conclusion to draw from this, it’s that the PC Specialist machine is stronger in single-thread tests and that the Chillblast is better in multi-threaded applications. That’s no surprise, since the former system has faster single-core speed while the latter has more physical cores.

The PC Specialist has better memory, too – it may only have 16GB compared to the 32GB inside the Chillblast, but the former figure is plenty for all tasks. Speed is more important, and here the PC Specialist triumphs: the LS-Surge runs its RAM at 3,200MHz, while the Ryzen machine is clocked to just 2,133MHz.

Our bandwidth tests illustrate the extra speed afforded by the faster DDR4. The PC Specialist’s single- and multi-core bandwidth results of 27.5MB/s and 32.1MB/s are easily able to beat the Chillblast, which could only manage 20.9MB/s and 25.4MB/s in the same benchmarks.

The fast processor is bolstered by the Samsung SSD, which delivered read and write speeds of 2,699MB/s and 1,983MB/s. That’s fast, and it’s exactly what we expect from this high-quality component.

The PC Specialist’s water-cooling guided the LS-Surge to mixed thermal performance. The graphics card peaked at a chilly 52°C in a stress-test, but the overclocked CPU surged to 88°C. That’s not dangerous, but it is a little higher than we’d like.

The PC Specialist’s coolant produced faint liquid gurgles throughout most of our tests, but gaming benchmarks produced some high-pitched coil whine and a little extra CPU fan noise. This PC remains quieter than most gaming machines, but it’s something to bear in mind.

PC Specialist LS-Surge - ReviewConclusion

The LS-Surge is one of the best-looking PCs we’ve ever seen. The Stream2 chassis looks fantastic, and PC Specialist has improved its striking design with extensive water-cooling, some lighting and high-end components.

It’s fast, too, with table-topping speeds in application and games benchmarks alongside a great SSD and rapid memory.

The form factor, though, does have its downsides. The mini-ITX motherboard and unique chassis mean there’s barely any upgrade room despite this machine being larger and heavier than the Chillblast. The PC Specialist is more expensive, too.

The incredible design at the heart of this PC, though, will justify its higher price for many people – especially if you don’t have any interest in upgrading this already-fast machine.

PC Specialist LS-Surge - Review

Summary
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PC Specialist LS-Surge
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Review Overview

About Author

Mike Jennings

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