Vigor Gaming brings the bling (and the cool-ing) Start up the Force Recon AXE and the rig lights up like Christmas Day. It’s studded with blinking LEDs, awash in glowing blue fans, sports and animated LCD front panel display… there’s even a series of blinking blue LEDs on the base arranged like an airstrip. No doubt, it’s an attention-getter. In fact, if you swapped out the blue color scheme for red, this PC would feel right at home in one of Amsterdam’s, um, commercial districts.
But pop open the clear acrylic side panel and instead of hookers you’ll find AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 4400+ processor boldly overclocked from 2.2GHz to 2.82GHz and nestled in an Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard; 2GB of Corsair PC-3500 DDR RAM; two Western Digital 250GB 7,200rpm SATA drives in a RAID 0 config (so they appear to Windows XP as a single drive); and-whee!-a pair of nVidia’s latest rock star, the GeForce 7900 GTX 512MB. It’s all backed up by a Tagan 580W power supply and cables tucked away with supreme tidiness.
The benchmark tell a pretty good story, climbing near the top of the pack in 3DMark2006 and Doom3. Elsewhere, the Force Recon AXE turned in impressive but not leading numbers, indicating that performance could use some finessing. Also, while it’s unlikely we’d have seen much difference in our 3D gaming benchmarks, we wished for a pair of 10,000rpm drives instead of the more pedestrian 7,200rpm models. The AXE’s most unusuall feature is its cooling scheme. The rig’s interior temperature remained consistently cool even while running 3dMark2006 on a loop for hours. Vigor Gaming calls its secret chill sauce-deep breath-the Vigor MonssonTM II TEC Active CPU cooling System.
The “TEC” stands for thermo-electric cooling, which uses what’s the Peltier effect to cool down hot surfaces. Peltier was a French dude who made clocks until he was 30, and then discovered that by combining two metals and applying electricity to them, one side would get hot and the other would get cold. In this PC, the cold thermoelectric plate is applied to your CPU, and the hot plate is stuffed inside a radiator where the heat is blown out by a 120mm fan and sucked outside the case by another 120 mm fan. Class dismissed.
This super-efficient cooling comes with a catch or two, though. The Force Recon AXE uses a total of four fans to move air throughout the case, and they’re very loud. Worse, although Peltier cooling requires no moving parts, a mechanism in this system’s cooling apparatus spins up and down with a loud whirring hum every ten seconds or so-even when the PC isn’t in use. If ordinary ambient noise bothers you, this will drive you crazy. On the other hand, if you’ve got a 7.1 speaker system cranked up to full and enjoys chucking claymores in Battlefield2, it probably won’t bother you at all. And after last month’s expensive, coal-burning furnace of a rig (the Aeon 8035, PCG score: 57%), it’s nice to see a system that’s got cooling and price under control. Needs some refining, but as is, a fine deal for the price