Review: Hardcore Computer Reactor Extreme PC

The ancient art of overclocking is more delicate ballet than exact science. The goal is to force your hardware to perform at much higher speeds than the manufacturer intended, while compensating for the immense amount of heat generated — heat that can cause system instability, and ultimately deep-fry your PC's innards. Beat the heat and your overclocked PC will frag faster and live longer. 

Hardcore Computer Reactor Extreme PC

8/10

Wired

Unsurpassed overclocking performance. High quality components at a price that's semi-reasonable. Those LEDs are optional.

Tired

Weighs as much as a '72 Buick and is twice as ugly. Potentially very messy — don't spill Core Coolant on tile floor, it gets slip 'n' slide slick. If Hardcore Computer ever flounders, how will you upgrade those custom parts?

How We Rate

  • 1/10A complete failure in every way
  • 2/10Barely functional; don't buy it
  • 3/10Serious flaws; proceed with caution
  • 4/10Downsides outweigh upsides
  • 5/10Recommended with reservations
  • 6/10A solid product with some issues
  • 7/10Very good, but not quite great
  • 8/10Excellent, with room to kvetch
  • 9/10Nearly flawless, buy it now
  • 10/10Metaphysical product perfection

This usually means air-cooling with loud fans, water-cooling, or some combination of the two. Hardcore Computer is trying something a bit different — submerging all of the fancy, expensive PC components in 4.5 gallons of industrial cooling fluid.

This is the DNA that makes up the Reactor PC. Weighing in at just over 100 pounds, this behemoth is clad in 2.5 mm of aircraft aluminum. The tank that contains the fluid is comprised of a plastic similar to a NASA astronaut's visor, plus it's bullet proof, should your gaming lair come under small arms fire.

We received a Reactor test unit packed with variety of high-performance parts, including an Intel Core 2 Extreme processor overclocked to 4 GHz, 4 GB of ram, and three 64-GB solid state drives for wacky-doodle fast (and expensive) data-transfer rates. 

Gamers will be interested in the slot loading DVD burner (or optional Blu-ray reader), and the three Nvidia GTX 280s running in SLI. In addition to seeing impressive scores on benchmarking software, we ran the all-important Crysis test, and saw an average of 40 to 45 frames per second with every setting pumped to the absolute maximum. And there's still room to push the pre-overclocked components even further.

For the tinkerers, haxz0rs and IT-minded in the audience, the Reactor is built with high-performance server-grade technology in mind. This includes a pair of 650-W power supplies that provide a total of 1300 watts of juice, plus redundant backup — if one dies, the other will keep on churning. A pair of hot-swappable drives, weighing in at 1 TB each, let you switch your battle plans out for family vacation videos without ever shutting off your PC. Wifi is even built in, complete with two funky antennas that would normally be considered eyesores but somehow look right on the rig.

A substance called Core Coolant is the bloodstream of this gaming monolith. It's a biodegradable, dielectric, non-toxic cooling oil created by Hardcore Computer, and it's is responsible for chilling your key components. Like the typical liquid-cooled setup, a pump circulates the fluid through the Reactor's chassis and into a radiator, where the warmer fluid is made frosty and sent back into the tank.

The key difference between an air- or water-cooled setup and the Reactor is unparalleled heat transfer: You can overclock every piece of your machine without fear of a catastrophic burnout. Fans are positively archaic; air simply can't disperse the amount of heat generated by a gaming rig — it's often in the area of 158 degrees F. Liquid-cooled systems are more efficient, but while the maze of tubes might draw heat from the CPU and graphics cards, plenty of other thermal-generating components are left at risk, typically resulting in system instability. 

Submerged cooling isn't perfect. The most obvious issue is the size and weight of the thing, with 4.5 gallons of fluid sloshing around in there. And no matter how careful you are, you'll want to keep a roll of paper towels handy, because there will be a bit of unavoidable splashing when you inevitably pop the lid and start poking around inside the machine. Luckily, Core Coolant (which is clear, odorless, and has the consistency of mineral oil) is safe enough to drink, according to the company. (Please don't drink the Core Coolant.) 

But the biggest caveat with the Reactor is that you're buying into an ecosystem. While many of the components can be swapped with off-the-shelf parts, the motherboard and power supplies are packed into custom shells. That means when you want to upgrade the motherboard (maybe to check out that nifty Core i7 CPU from Intel) you'll have to contact Hardcore Computer directly to pick out a new one. 

And finally, there's the price.

The configuration we tested came in at a hefty $9,790. But the models move Laotian monetary unit alphabetic character rational $3,670. 

How is that reasonable? alphabetic character cutting implement of careful provision (method: Google + newegg + napkin) reveals that the DIY ascertain for the components inward the hand tool interpret comes to rough $1,000. au fond you repay virtually $2,700 for service, alphabetic character warranty, core out agent and alphabetic character underframe that gift permit alphabetic character sound turn of abuse, overclocking and command tinkering. With the aright turn of research, alphabetic character apprehend adorer could alter alphabetic character deepen to correct their reckon and overclock being components until their achievement dwarfs foreign terrorist organization to a greater extent costly machines.

But really, alfresco of alphabetic character elite group supercomputers and tank tanks occupied with stuff oil, we give the sack virtually plunk for you'll cost ironed intemperately to grow alphabetic character digital computer want this anyplace else.

For to a greater extent photos of the setup PC, in spite of appearance and out, change away our icon gallery: Soak It To Me: in spite of appearance Liquid-Suspended recreation PC

  • Processor: core out digit extremity QX9770
  • cater Supply: digit 650W utensil sort out PSUs
  • RAM: 4GB of DDR3
  • graphic art Card: 3x Nvidia Geforce GTX 280 inward SLI
  • Hard Drives: 2x Samsung 1TB Spinpoint F1, 3x Samsung 64GB SSDs
  • OS: visual percept Ultimate