Around 10 years ago the concept of an overclocked retail PC was something associated only with dodgy dealers looking to sell a slower CPU for a higher price. It was generally frowned upon by non-enthusiasts, as components weren't as reliable when overclocked as they are today (anyone remember the Kryotech machine that used a fridge to overclock an 800MHz AMD Athlon to 1GHz?). With the Core 2 Duo, though, it's possible to ship reliable factory-overclocked PCs. Altech is taking advantage of this to give its customers more value for their money.
The Typhoon is overclocked to 4GHz from its standard speed of 3GHz, which makes it a speedy machine not only for gaming, but also for working with video, photos and music. But it's a gaming box first and foremost, and an affordable one at that. It costs $1899, so it won't break the bank, and what's interesting is that it's also smaller than the average gaming PC.
Its components are housed in an Antec Mini P180 Performance One case, which is only 50cm high and looks good. We're not usually fans of front-panel doors, but the one on the Mini P180 actually feels good to open and close, and it does muffle some of the fan noise as well as give the system a more streamlined look.
Within the case are an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU, a DFI LANPARTY P45 motherboard, 2GB of 1066MHz Corsair RAM, a 640GB Samsung hard drive and an ATI Radeon HD4870–based graphics card. These components are connected impeccably. Cables have been routed between the right side panel (looking from the front of the system) and the motherboard tray, so the visible areas of the case when you remove the left panel are cable-free for the most part. In fact, the system is so neatly built it's worthy of translucent panels so everyone can marvel at what the Altech technicians have done.
Altech has overclocked the machine's Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 CPU from 3GHz to 4GHz, but it hasn't used anything fancier than a large Gigabyte heat sink and fan, as well as two case fans to keep it cool. It ran faultlessly through all our tests, completing office application scripts and gaming sessions without any stability problems. It scored 124 in WorldBench 6, which ensures you won't have to twiddle your thumbs too long while waiting for Microsoft Office to load.
For tougher tasks, such as 3-D rendering and MP3 encoding, the system is a cut above average due to its fast straight-line speed. It recorded times of 44sec in both the Blender rendering test and the iTunes MP3 encoding test. It also achieved a score of 15,213 in 3DMark06. This means it will handle most games well at high settings, but for even more grunt there is room to install a second 4870 card in a CrossFire configuration.
Despite all the good points of this machine, we can rattle off a few criticisms: it has a micro-ATX case and motherboard, which means there isn't a lot of room for expansion cards; it doesn't have a quad-core CPU; it could use two more gigabytes of RAM; it could use more storage space; and it's not capable of Blu-ray playback. But of course these changes would drive up the price of the system, and this is not the point of the Typhoon. It's designed to be an entry-to-mid-level gaming system, but with petite dimensions and plenty of grunt.
On the front panel you get a couple of USB ports and an eSATA port, as well as a memory-card reader, while the rear of the system is filled with six more USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, optical and coaxial digital audio ports, PS/2 ports, and analog audio ports. One PCI Express x16 slot and one PCI slot can be used for expansion cards and there are two free memory slots; the case has removable drive bays and there is room for two more hard drives to be installed.
All up, the Typhoon is worth its $1899 price tag. It's fast, small and attractive, and it's impeccably constructed. Even though it doesn't have much space for internal expansion, the abundance of USB ports allows many external devices to be used instead.