This Penryn-based CyberPower Power Infinity Pro packs a big punch in gaming performance, but it'll also wallop your wallet. It's currently available only in the US, but we put it through its paces to test out Intel's newest quad-core CPU.

CyberPower's Power Infinity Pro is one of the first systems to ship with Intel's newest quad-core CPU, a 3-GHz QX9650 Core 2 Extreme chip - the company's first to be built on a 45nm manufacturing process - that's aimed squarely at enthusiasts and other early adopters. (Mainstream users will have to wait until next year for more-affordable 45nm dual-core offerings.)

We were able to test the CyberPower Power Infinity Pro before the QX9650 - or Penryn - hits the streets, and found its test results to be a mixed bag. Although the Power Infinity Pro strutted its stuff in our gaming and graphics tests, in most general applications it showed only modest performance gains over systems using older quad-core chips.

Our review CyberPower Power Infinity Pro shipped with 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate. In our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 test suite, it earned a strong mark of 120. That score fell a bit short, however, of the 124 mark of a CyberPower Infinity Pro that we tested a couple of months ago, which uses the previous-generation, 3-GHz QX6850 Core 2 Extreme CPU. This result echoes the benchmarks that we obtained in similar tests comparing the QX9650 with the QX6850 chip that it is supplanting.

In the Photoshop, 3DS Max rendering, and multitasking components of our WorldBench speed benchmarking series, the CyberPower Power Infinity Pro earned the best scores among all power PCs we've recently tested, although its marks were only a few seconds faster than the results of the next-closest models.

In some WorldBench application tests (3DS Max DirectX, Windows Media Encoder, and VideoWave), the CyberPower Power Infinity Pro's scores merely tied those of other systems (the Xi Mtower PCIe and the HP Blackbird 002) that used older CPUs. Most perplexing was the Power Infinity Pro's sluggish performance in the Nero portion of our WorldBench suite, for which its score of 592 seconds was slow indeed.

While none of our WorldBench scores reflect the performance gains that Intel predicts for the QX9650 CPU in imaging, 3D rendering, and video encoding, it should be noted that none of the applications in our test suite are optimised to take advantage of the QX9650's new SSE4 instructions, which can greatly speed up tasks such as video encoding (in applications that use SSE4).

On the plus side, the newer CyberPower Power Infinity Pro posted the fastest scores ever in all of our gaming graphics tests, beating older quad-core models that use the same EVGA 8800 GTX graphics board.

The CyberPower Power Infinity Pro achieved an impressive average of 193fps (frames per second) while running Doom 3 and 223 fps running Far Cry, both at 1280 by 1024 resolution with antialiasing turned on, well ahead (by about 13 percent) of our previous fastest systems. That's not the 40 percent that Intel claims for gaming, but it's still pretty darn impressive.

Although the CyberPower Power Infinity Pro came with a single graphics board that performed well in our graphics tests, the system's Asus P5K3 Deluxe motherboard is capable of hosting two graphics cards in a CrossFire setup. (Taking advantage of the feature would preclude using an SLI-compatible card such as the EVGA 8800 GTX card in our test system.)

Without a doubt, one of the CyberPower Power Infinity Pro's best features is its stylish Cooler Master Cosmos case, which sports sturdy bars on top that are helpful when you're lifting the case - especially because it weighs a ton. The top panel includes an easily accessible connection dock with USB, FireWire, and audio ports, plus an eSATA connector, with additional USB, FireWire, and other ports on the back. Five external drive bays are easily accessed behind the hinged front panel. Our test system included a Lite-On Blu-ray DVD drive, a multiformat DVD burner, and a multiformat card reader drive-bay module, leaving two open bays for expansion.

Opening the side panel (insulated to keep the system's noise levels down) is easy, and the neat and tidy interior has plenty of room for expansion. Adding upgrades couldn't be much easier, thanks to a tool-less design that features push-button locks and pull-out aluminum racks for easy hard-drive installation. But some upgrades could be costly. For example, adding a matching pair of Corsair XMS 1GB DDR3 RAM sticks to raise the system's memory to 4GB would cost about $400 - that's £200 to you and I. A Thermaltake V1 CPU cooler, four 120mm case fans, and a cooling attachment for the graphics board provide sufficient thermal management.

The $4,299 (about £2,150 ex VAT) PCyberPower Power Infinity Pro we tested represents only one of several different configurations that CyberPower offers. Our test system also came with a generous 1.8TB of hard-disk space, consisting of two 150GB, 10,000rpm Western Digital Raptor drives (configured in a RAID 0 array) for performance and two 750GB, 7200rpm Hitachi drives for backup and data storage that can hold hundreds of hours of video.

The included dual Sylvania 22in wide-screen monitors (SK2201W-B) have thin bezels that make positioning them closely side by side easier, but you get no height-adjustment control for maximum flexibility in setting them up. The picture quality was very good, with crisp readable text (even at 8 points) and nicely saturated colour when we viewed still or moving images. The cordless Logitech MX3200 keyboard presents a host of useful extra keys and a wrist pad that's comfortable to type on. The MX600 laser mouse also benefits from an ergonomic design that fits nicely in the hand.

CyberPower Power Infinity Pro: Specs

  • 3-GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9650
  • Graphics Adaptor: EVGA 8800 GTX
  • Monitor Model: Sylvania SK2201W-B
  • Total HD Size: 1800GB
  • 3-GHz Core 2 Extreme QX9650
  • Graphics Adaptor: EVGA 8800 GTX
  • Monitor Model: Sylvania SK2201W-B
  • Total HD Size: 1800GB

OUR VERDICT

The CyberPower Power Infinity Pro is clearly aimed at enthusiasts and other early adopters who don't mind paying a premium for the latest technology. But considering that the market has few SSE-4 quad-core optimised apps, mainstream users may want to wait a bit longer before taking the plunge.

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