The Stormforce Crystal i7 8700K GTX 1080 Ti packs in top-tier components like a Core i7-8700K and a GTX 1080 Ti, but its price of £1,999 makes the Stormforce PC one of the more affordable machines we’ve seen with this kind of hardware. It’s hundreds of pounds cheaper than the PC Specialist Velocity X 01, for instance, which retailed at £2,899. It’s also a lot cheaper than the Chillblast Fusion Yogscast Ultimate, which paired the same GPU with an AMD processor at a price of £2,850. Check out our Stormforce Crystal PC review to find out if this system is a worthwhile bargain – or to see if it’s cheap but not cheerful.
Stormforce Crystal i7 8700K GTX 1080 Ti PC Review – Components
Some components are tweaked, despite the Stormforce PC’s lower price. Stormforce has hit the lab to overclock the i7-8700K from 3.7GHz to 4.8GHz. That’s a huge increase – and the same speed used by PC Specialist on its pricier PC.
Elsewhere, the 8700K delivers six cores and Intel’s Coffee Lake architecture, so you’re getting top-notch technology that’ll handle gaming and tough work software with equal aplomb. However, Chillblast’s rig does offer an eight-core AMD Ryzen 7 1800X, which ran at its stock speed of 3.6GHz with no overclocking.
The processor is paired with the familiar GTX 1080 Ti. It’s the current graphics card of choice for high-end machines, and for good reason. It’s got 3,584 stream processors and 11GB of memory. The budget has bitten a little here, though: the card runs at its stock speed of 1,480MHz. That’s fine, but it does fall behind other machines: the PC Specialist ran the card at 1,569MHz while the Chillblast clocked it at 1,506MHz.
The StormforcePC’s lower price has made an impact in some other areas. There’s 16GB of memory, which is fine, but it’s running at a modest 2,400MHz. Chillblast’s machine had 32GB of 3,000MHz DDR4, while the PC Specialist’s 16GB of memory was also faster.
Windows 10 Home sits on a 256GB Western Digital Black SSD, and there’s a 2TB hard disk. That, again, is fine – but it’s another area where rivals are better. The PC Specialist system had a larger SSD, while the Chillblast had two SSDs and two hard disks.
Stormforce connects the components to an Asus TUF Z370-PLUS Gaming motherboard. We’ve not seen a TUF model before, and that acronym stands for The Ultimate Force. It means that this board has a few extra modifications that are designed to improve its durability.
On this board, that means steel around the PCI slots, isolated audio hardware, protection against overvoltage issues and beefed-up chokes and capacitors around the processor. Asus also says that its stainless-steel rear IO cover will last longer than more conventional – and cheaper – metals used on other motherboards.
They’re welcome additions, of course, but they’re not unique to TUF boards. High-end boards from Asus and other manufacturers will often have most of these features, too.
Elsewhere, the TUF board is more conventional. It’s got the usual bevy of RGB LEDs and chunky metal heatsinks, and a second M.2 connector for further storage. There are two memory slots and three PCI-E x1 sockets vacant.
In a couple of minor areas, though, the TUF board is a little deficient. There’s a second PCI-E x16 slot, but it runs at 4x speed – so it’s not suitable for dual-graphics. The board only supports AMD CrossfireX anyway, and not Nvidia SLI. The Realtek ALC887 chipset is mediocre, and there are only three audio jacks on the backplate. The board doesn’t have wireless, either, but Stormforce has rectified this issue by fitting its own dual-band 802.11ac card.
Stormforce’s rivals avoid these small issues. Both machines have more dual-graphics capabilities and better networking.
Stormforce has used the Cooler Master MasterCase H500P for this build. Despite the price disparity between the two desktops, it’s the same case as PC Specialist picked for its pricier rig.
It’s easy to see why several companies are choosing the H500P for high-end builds. It’s huge, which makes it easier to cram lots of hardware inside, and it looks superb. The front panel is made of clear plastic to highlight two 200mm fans that have RGB LEDs, and more clear plastic is used on the top panel. The side is hewn from a huge slab of tempered glass. The various clear panels are joined by long areas of black mesh and gunmetal struts.
The H500P is imposing and attractive, and it’s good in other areas too. A single screw releases the side panel, and four USB ports sit on top of the system. Build quality is mostly fine – the front and top areas are a little weaker, but that’s a minor complaint.
The Stormforce PC is neat on the inside, but the lower price means you shouldn’t expect any extras. A small Stormforce-branded water-cooling unit chills the overclocked processor. It’s connected to the rear exhaust with a single 120mm fan. A conventional heatsink chills the graphics card, and the cables aren’t braided – although they are arranged neatly throughout.
Spare cables are crammed into the bottom of the case because the power supply isn’t modular. At the rear, covers conceal the CPU cutout and most of the cables.
You might not get extra features with the Stormforce PC, but the modest internal design does mean it’s easier to work inside this rig than inside the crammed, liquid-cooled PC Specialist. The empty memory and PCI slots on the motherboard are simple to access, and there are two spare 2.5in drive bays on the top of the PSU’s shroud.
Stormforce Crystal i7 8700K GTX 1080 Ti PC Review – Application Performance
The overclocked processor is a formidable performer in application benchmarks. It’s only a handful of points behind the PC Specialist machine in both Geekbench tests, likely because the latter machine has faster memory – they’re both clocked to the same speed.
That’s an impressive turn of pace for a machine that’s cheaper. It means that the Stormforce PC will be able to handle almost all high-end applications and tough multi-tasking scenarios.
The Stormforce machine was also ahead of the Chillblast’s AMD chip in all of our tests. The Ryzen 7 1800X may have two extra cores, but Intel is the leader here – at least until Ryzen 2 arrives.
This machine’s Western Digital SSD returned read and write speeds of 1,741MB/s and 703MB/s. They’re fine results, but the drives in both rival systems are faster – no surprise, as they’re Samsung products. You won’t notice any poor loading times on the Stormforce, but this is one area where the budget tells.
There wasn’t much to choose between the Stormforce PC and its competitors in gaming tests. That’s not a shock, because they’ve all got GTX 1080 Ti cards, and there are only small differences in clock speeds.
Stormforce Crystal i7 8700K GTX 1080 Ti PC Review – Gaming Performance
The Stormforce’s stock-speed card managed to outpace the Chillblast rig by a couple of frames in six out of our ten tests. The Chillblast card has a tiny clock speed advantage, but the Stormforce’s Intel processor clearly negates the Chillblast’s tweak.
However, the Intel processor and the heftier overclock in the PC Specialist saw that machine pull away from the Stormforce. The Stormforce fell behind the PC Specialist in every 4K gaming benchmark, with the gaps ranging from a couple of frames to gaps of 10fps or more.
The Stormforce PCmay not be as quick as its overclocked and pricier rival in games tests, but there’s still a lot to like. The Crystal will handle virtually any current title at 4K and solid graphics settings, and it’ll run VR headsets too.
Despite the relatively modest price, the Stormforce PCwas a good thermal performer too. The peak graphics temperature of 84°C is fine, and the top processor temperature of 91°C is OK, too – a little high, but not as toasty as the PC Specialist.
We had no throttling issues during our tests, and the Stormforce was consistently subtle. It was very quiet when idling, and certainly quieter than the PC Specialist during gaming and full-system tests.
Building a system with a relatively low price always involves a lot of compromise and balancing – and, pleasingly, Stormforce has done a great job with the Crystal i7 8700K GTX 1080 Ti.
The overclocked six-core processor is a stellar part that’ll handle virtually any consumer task. The GTX 1080 Ti is close to rivals and has the pace to handle top-tier gaming despite its lack of overclock.
The Stormforce PC has compromised with slower memory, lesser storage and a slightly unconventional motherboard. The case is large and versatile, but there’s no extra money spent on ostentatious cooling hardware.
Importantly, none of those compromises have a huge impact on performance, which means the Stormforce PC remains fast, well-balanced and quiet. The Stormforce Crystal i7 8700K GTX 1080 Ti is an excellent option If you need to save some cash or aren’t fussed about having record-breaking SSDs or high-end water-cooling.
The Stormforce Crystal i7 8700K GTX 1080 Ti costs £1,999 in the UK from Ebuyer. Discuss our Stormforce Crystal PC Review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or click here to read about the best desktop PCs.
- Fast, overclocked processor
- Good gaming pace
- Quiet operation
- Large, versatile case
- Far cheaper than many rivals
- Middling memory and storage
- Motherboard misses some features
- Few high-end extras
CPU: 3.7GHz Intel Core i7-8700K overclocked to 4.8GHz
Memory: 16GB Kingston HyperX Fury 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Asus GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
Motherboard: Asus TUF Z370-PLUS Gaming
Storage: 256GB Western Digital Black M.2 SSD, 2TB Western Digital Blue HDD
Warranty: 3yr C&R