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Voodoo PC OMEN a121x CrossFire Extreme Gamer PC
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Date: Apr 26, 2006
Section:Systems
Author: Dave Altavilla
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Introduction, Specifications, Warranty & Support

It almost goes without saying that we'd all love to have enough disposable income to be able to afford the best-of-the-best, top-shelf, ultra-high-end, no compromise products, whether it be a 36 foot Chris Craft Corsair with 840hp of Mercruiser under its decks (in the aft section, by the way, the wet bar and mini fridge are in the bow) or perhaps the fastest Gaming Rig money can buy.  Fortunately for many of you, the technically elite members of our audience, an ultra-high-end Gaming Rig can be built with your own hands and a few key off-the-shelf components.  However, semi-custom pre-built systems can offer features and build quality that the average enthusiast may not be able to furnish on their own.  Teak-lined side panels anyone?  Custom cooling for those sultry summer nights?

This is the niche', or should we say market segment, that the folks at Voodoo PC are targeting for service, with their line of premium Gaming systems, Workstations, Media Centers and Home Office PCs.  Of course, when we contacted Voodoo for a look at one of their latest rigs, we went for the jugular.  It's a baaaad OMEN...No, really.  It is.  The Voodoo OMEN a121x CrossFire Extreme Gaming System to be exact.

VoodooPC OMEN a121x CrossFire
Specifications
Processor
AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 Overclocked At 2.95GHz

GPUs
2 X ATI Radeon X1900 XT - CrossFire Enabled

Chipset
ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200 (RD580)
UliM1575

Memory
2GB Corsair TWINX2048-3500LLPRO
Supports maximum memory capacity up to 4GB

Chipset
ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200
Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe Motherboard

CrossFire
Support ATI CrossFire graphics cards (both at x16 mode)

Expansion Slots
2 x PCI Express x16 slot
1 x PCI Express x1
3 x PCI

LAN
Marvell 88E8053 PCIe Gbit LAN, featuring AI NET2
Marvell 88E8001 GbitLAN, featuring AI NET2

Audio:
Creative Labs X-Fi Xtreme Music
Realtek ALC882 High Definition Audio

CPU and GPU Liquid Cooling
* Voodoo OMEN Supercharged Intercooler
* Purple Voodoo Super-Coolant


Chassis
Voodoo MAGA Aluminum Chassis
Various colors - BAM (Brushed Anodized Machined Tested)

Power Supply
Voodoo Stealth 650 Watt Modular Silent PSU


Storage
UliM1575 Southbridge:
4 x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s with RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5 and JBOD
2 x UltraDMA 133 / 100 / 66 / 33
OMEN Molded Digital Card Reader
SilionImage:
1 x Internal Serial ATA 3 Gb/s hard disk
1 x External Serial ATA 3 Gb/s hard disk
Support RAID 0, 1
Installed Drives:
2 X Hitachi HGST 400Gig
1 X Pioneer DVD-110D

1394
2 x 1394a ports

ASUS Motherboard Features
ASUS PEG Link
ASUS Precision Tweaker
AI NOS
AI Overclocking
Stack Cool 2
ASUS Q-Fan2

Asus Motherboard Extras
MediaOne Gallery
WinDVDCreator 2 Platinum
InterVideo PhotoAlbum
Disc Master 2.5 Platinum
DVD Copy 2.5 Platinum


Voodoo Extras
FUEL Software Essentials v2.0
Voodoo Renowned Cabling System
Voodoo Disaster Recovery System II
Voodoo EDGE Mousing Surface
Voodoo Koeskin System Binder
Free VoodooPC T-Shirt

Warranty And Support
1 year Voodoo Desktop Warranty
3 year Voodoo Desktop Warranty (optional and extra)
Support Line - Call free: 1-888-708-6636
Monday to Friday 9:00AM to 5:00PM MST
Saturday 10:AM to 5:00PM MST


Price - As configured here = $6090.89 USD


Shown here in Candy Green AMD Finish

 


Delving briefly into the OMEN CrossFire's specs, you'll note this system is built around ATI's recently released CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset, on an Asus motherboard, driven by a highly overclocked Athlon 64 FX-60 at 2.95GHz guaranteed stable and warranted from the factory for 1 to 3 years. 3D Graphics are rendered with a pair of the fastest GPUs ATI has to offer in CrossFire mode - the Radeon X1900 XT. 800Gigs of 7200 RPM Hitachi RAID 0 storage array serves up the file system, along with 2GB of low-latency Corsair 3500LL Pro memory and a Creative Labs X-Fi to keep the tunage on key.  To say this system is decked out would be an understatement but we'll dig deeper on this later.

Voodoo offers a standard 1 year warranty which covers hardware, labor and even return shipping, at their discretion.  Backed up by toll-free and Live Chat Tech Support (limited hours noted above), you do get a whole lot for your money, but some of you may ask if all this high-end flash really worth it?  We'll try to cover that angle for you as well in the pages ahead.

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Exterior Finish & Build Quality

Simply saying it's "built well" wouldn't do this product from Voodoo PC any justice.  You have to see it in the flesh almost, to appreciate the OMEN's workmanship fully.

OMEN CrossFire Esthetics And Construction
Premium, Heavy-Duty Hummer-like Construction With A Bad  Mojo Finish

Voodoo decided to go with a custom, modified Lian Li V2000 series chassis and the finishing, while a tad on the boxy side, is extremely stylish, concrete block level strong, and very functional.  The unit we tested arrived in Voodoo's "BAM" (Brushed Anodized Machine - think Gun Metal black) finish but there are also a myriad of other colorful finishes to chose from.  The backside of the case is neat, ventilated and accessible, save for the bulky CrossFire dongle which is unavoidable currently in high-end ATI dual-GPU setups.

  

  

Cathode and LED lights illuminate the interior, emitting red and silver glows through custom logo cut-outs in the front and side panel casing.  A windowed side panel affords the owner a view of the technological splendor within this rig.  Voodoo's Witch-Doctor logo adorns the top of the chassis via a sheet metal cut-out and glows fire red appropriately.  Finally, everything from PSU to side panel access is fastened down by machined thumb-screws for quick, easy access.  The Voodoo PC OMEN CrossFire is truly a Gamer and Modder's masterpiece, showcasing some of the cleanest custom chassis design-work we've ever seen.

   

Rather than installing a second optical drive, Voodoo configured our machine with a Matrix Orbital MX3 LED display.  Customers can of course choose different options at Voodoo's site when configuring a system via Voodoo's customization menus for their particular OMEN build-out.  Our model was configured to provide system resource data on the display, with stats like drive space, RAM usage and even cooling system flow levels.  Again, this particular OMEN CrossFire was built with both style and functionality in mind. 

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Interior Design, Layout & Construction

 

If the exterior finish and styling of the Voodoo OMEN CrossFire got you all jazzed, the interior will really get your juices flowin'...

OMEN CrossFire Interior Layout & Design
Super Clean, Cool And Stylish

As upstanding Tech Journalists, we strive to remain calm, cool, collected, unbiased and frankly, monotone when it comes to the evaluation of a product.  Getting overly enthusiastic about a new article subject can only lead to something we would say is akin to "tunnel vision".  That is to say, if you're all excited about something, chances are you're going to view it through a very rosy pair of Ray-Bans.  Unfortunately for us, containment wasn't in the cards when we popped the side panel of the OMEN CrossFire.  We think we heard the angels (perhaps fallen angels?) singing "ahhhh" above our heads when we got a closer look inside this rig. 

  

    

Like our Muscle-Car High School days of old, the OMEN CrossFire was "chromed and braided".  You could eat off the engine it's so clean.  Voodoo has fashioned custom copper water blocks and tubing onto both the Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU and its dual Radeon X1900 XT GPUs in the OMEN CrossFire.  These all hook up to what looks to be a Swiftech radiator and a nicely compact coolant reservoir that tucks up underneath the DVD drive, inside a single 5.25" drive bay.  The coolant itself is described by Voodoo as "Purple Voodoo SuperCoolant" but we know better that actually it's made of a special mix of glycol fluids, silicon, and distilled water (thanks to our friends at Voodoo for that tid-bit).  The radiator is cooled by two 120mm intake fans in the front of the rig and there is another 120mm exhaust fan in the back of the system.

 

We're simply enamored by the custom copper/nylon water blocks that Voodoo designed for the Dual Radeon X1900 XTs in the OMEN CrossFire.  Filled with purple Voodoo SuperCoolant and illuminated by a nearby cathode light, they're very much showcase items viewable through the system's side panel window.  Tied in with tubing between each other and fed back to the CPU cooling block, they do a nice job of cooling both GPUs and obviously they're completely silent themselves.  More on noise levels later.

The PSU in the OMEN CrossFire is positioned in the bottom rear corner of the case, perched upon a metal grate of its own and tied in with thumbscrews.  The PSU is a 650W custom modular Voodoo PC unit that is built for Voodoo by TopPower.  Unfortunately for us, we had major issues with this particular PSU and had to have it replaced by Voodoo twice.  It turns out TopPower had a bad batch of units where the fan controllers were going bad and then eventually the unit would heat up and ultimately fail.  Voodoo was quick to respond with replacements and we were back up and running in no time. Voodoo's excellent reputation for customer service leaves us very little concern with what was essentially an isolated issue, that Voodoo has since purged from their manufacturing lines.

Ending this section on a more positive note, next to the PSU is the OMEN's massively expansive hard drive cage, once again attributed to the impeccable layout of the Lian Li chassis that Voodoo chose to customize for the OMEN CrossFire.  Our system had two 400G Hitachi drives installed but there's room for 6 additional drives, 2 in the rack pictured above and another 4 in an adjacent rack in the front of the chassis.  Air is pulled in through one of the 120mm SilenX fans over the radiator and is in turn then pumped across the drive array.

All told the Voodoo OMEN CrossFire a121x is a sexy, well-built, well-oiled machine and it simply purrs.  If there is one attribute that we would say justifies this system's lofty price tag, we would have to say "build quality" is it. Of course there's also performance to consider, so we'll fire it up next.

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Thermal Characteristics & Test Setup

Before we rolled up our sleeves for the benchmarks, we wanted to get a sense for the general performance, thermals, operational voltages and noise level of the system under heavy load. 

System Vital Signs
Temps, Speeds, Voltages And Acoustics - Stock Out Of The Box

We fired up instances of Folding At Home and "rthdribl" (The DX9 Real-Time High-Dynamic Range Image-Based Lighting benchmark) and proceeded to take some simple measurements with PC Probe II, the bundled health monitoring software that Asus packs in with their A8R32-MVP motherboard.


OMEN CrossFire Full Load

OMEN CrossFire No Load

We observed that the system with both GPUs and the CPU fully loaded, while overclocked at 2.95GHz, still only reported a 51oC CPU temperature and a 40oC system board temp.  CPU voltages required for this level of performance were in the 1.54 - 1.55 range.  The system exhibited excellent stability during our stress testing and never faltered during our forthcoming benchmark analysis.  At idle the system dropped back down to a cooler 40oC CPU core temp.  Clearly the OMEN CrossFire's liquid cooling system was performing very well.  

From an acoustics perspective though, the OMEN CrossFire a121x certainly isn't the quietest machine we've ever tested. It's fairly quiet, relatively speaking, versus most water or liquid-cooled setups we've come across, however.  At these speeds and feeds, we're certain virtually any air cooling setup you could put together would be louder, so ultimately we're satisfied with the OMEN's balance of performance and relatively quiet operational characteristics. 

Test Systems Specifications
A Voodoo Chile
Voodoo OMEN - SYSTEM 1:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 FX-60 overclocked
 (2.95GHz)

Asus AN8R32-MVP
(ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200)

2x1GB Corsair PC3200
CL 2-3-2-6

2X Radeon X1900 XT - CrossFire
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

2X Hitachi 400Gig HD - RAID 0
7
,200 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
ATI Catalyst 6.4 Drivers
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 2:
AMD Athlon 64 FX-60
(2.6GHz)
AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ (2.4GHz) (Non-gaming tests only)

Asus AN832-SLI
(NVIDIA nForce 4 SLIX16)

2x1GB Corsair PC3200
CL 2-3-2-6

2X GeForce 7900 GTX - SLI
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
NVIDIA Forceware v84.26
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 3:
AMD Athlon 64 X2 FX-60


Asus AN8R32-MVP
(ATI CrossFire Xpress 3200)

2x1GB Corsair PC3200
CL 2-3-2-6

2X Radeon X1900 XT - CrossFire
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
ATI Catalyst 6.4 Drivers
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 4: (Non-gaming tests only)
Pentium Extreme Edition 965
(3.73GHz)
Pentium Extreme Edition 955
(3.46GHz)
3.73GHz Pentium Extreme Edition

Asus P5WDG2-WS Motherboard

(i975x Chipset)

2x512MB Corsair DDR2-667
CL 3-2-2-8

GeForce 7800 GTX
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD "Raptor" HD
10,000 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
NVIDIA Forceware v84.26
DirectX 9.0c

 


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SANDRA Stats - CPU, Memory & Hard Disk

 

Preliminary Benchmarks with SiSoft SANDRA 2005 SR3
Synthetic Testing

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. SANDRA consists of a set of information and diagnostic utilities that can provide a host of useful high-level information about your hardware and OS. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2005 suite (CPU, Multimedia, Memory and File System) with the Voodoo OMEN CrossFire.

All of the scores reported below were taken with the OMEN's processor running at its shipping clock speed of 2.95GHz, which is a Voodoo PC factory set overclock backed up with a 1 year warranty.

 


CPU 2.95GHz


Multimedia 2.95GHz

Memory 420MHz

Hard Disk - RAID 0
400G X 2

Things ran pretty much as expected with SANDRA.  The CPU and Multimedia score were some of the fastest on the list of reference systems, in some cases by a wide margin.  Also, the memory bandwidth afforded by the 2GB Corsair 3500LL kit Voodoo installs in the OMEN's default configuration, was best in its class without question at its stock settings of 420MHz (210MHzX2) - CAS2 set out of the box. 

What was probably more impressive for us, was the file system performance reported by SANDRA for the OMEN's 800GB RAID 0 array, built on a pair of Hitachi 400Gig HDS724040 drives.  Although these huge drives are 7200RPM, in RAID 0 mode, they come within striking distance of a pair of 10K RPM 74Gig WD Raptor drives. Incidentally, you can configure one of these OMEN rigs with a pair of WD's new WD1500 Raptors as well but you'll sacrifice the spaciousness of nearly a terabyte of storage that these Hitachi drives offer together.

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PCMark05 Tests

For our next round of synthetic benchmarks, we ran the CPU and Memory performance modules built into Futuremark's PCMark05.  We incorporated PCMark05 into our benchmark suite soon after its release, and have found it to be even more robust in terms of test features than its predecessor.  That said, the CPU and Memory test modules we use for comparison are very similar to the 04 version of the test suite.  For those interested in more than just the graphs, we've got a couple of quotes directly from Futuremark that explain exactly what these tests do, and how they work.

Futuremark PCMark05
More Synthetic CPU and Memory Benchmarks

"The CPU test suite is a collection of tests that are run to isolate the performance of the CPU. The CPU Test Suite also includes multithreading: two of the test scenarios are run multithreaded; the other including two simultaneous tests and the other running four tests simultaneously. The remaining six tests are run single threaded. Operations include, File Compression/Decompression, Encryption/Decryption, Image Decompression, and Audio Compression" - Courtesy FutureMark Corp.

 

The hyperthreaded dual-core Pentiums take the lead in this test versus the Voodoo OMEN, since they can process up to 4 threads simultaneously, but the OMEN easily boasts the fastest CPU score against the Athlon 64 based reference systems.  It takes the lead by a comfortable 500+ points versus our stock FX-60 setup.  No surprises here, an overclocked 2.95GHz processor is faster than a stock 2.6GHz processor obviously.


"The Memory test suite is a collection of tests that isolate the performance of the memory subsystem. The memory subsystem consists of various devices on the PC. This includes the main memory, the CPU internal cache (known as the L1 cache) and the external cache (known as the L2 cache). As it is difficult to find applications that only stress the memory, we explicitly developed a set of tests geared for this purpose. The tests are written in C++ and assembly. They include: Reading data blocks from memory, Writing data blocks to memory performing copy operations on data blocks, random access to data items and latency testing."  - Courtesy FutureMark Corp.

 

Here we see similar results in the Memory Performance module of PCMark05, but only the 1066MHz FSB based Intel rigs can compete with the OMEN.  However, PCMark05 is largely a synthetic benchmark, so we encourage you to look more closely at the read-world application testing that we'll provide next.

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WB5 Office XP & Photoshop 7 Tests

PC World Magazine's WorldBench 5.0 is a new breed of Business and Professional application benchmarks, that has replaced the aging and no-longer supported Content Creation and Business Winstone tests in our suite. WorldBench 5.0 consists of a number of performance modules that each utilize one, or a group of, popular applications to gauge performance. 

PC World's World Bench 5.0: Office XP SP2 & Photoshop 7 Modules
Business And Content Creation application performance

Below we have the results from WB 5's Office XP SP2 and Photoshop 7 modules, recorded in seconds.  Lower times indicate better performance here, so the shorter the bar the better. 

A 5% margin of victory was afforded to the Voodoo OMEN CrossFire, although its system processor is overclocked about 13% higher than our stock 2.6GHz FX-60 reference system.  WB5's Office XP benchmark is also fairly disk performance dependent as well.  Our reference test rigs have single 10K RPM WD drives installed, so that may have made up for some lost ground against the OMEN.  Still, the OMEN posted up the fastest Office XP score we have ever recorded to date.

The same can be said for our PhotoShop 7 results.  With a 16 second advantage over our stock FX-60 system, the OMEN posts up yet another HH benchmark record.

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3dsMax & WME / Mozilla Multitasking

We continued our testing of the new OMEN CrossFire with a few more tests that are part of the Worldbench 5.0 suite.

PC World's Worldbench 5.0: 3ds Max
More Real-World Application Performance

Up next we have some performance results of WB 5.0's 3ds Max (Direct 3D) test. A number of different 3D objects are rendered and animated in this test, and the entire time needed to complete the tasks is then recorded. As is the case with all of the individual Worldbench tests, a lower score here indicates better performance.

Chalk up another land-speed record for the OMEN.  If you're a Workstation CAD type, there's no question the power under the hood of this new Athlon 64 FX-60 based machine, is more than up to the task and you'll have gaming prowess (as you'll see later) to boot.

Windows Media Encoder 9 & Mozilla Multi-Tasking
More Digital Video Encoding

We continued our testing with another Windows Media Encoder benchmark. In this test, which is also part of the Worldbench 5.0 suite, a video is encoded using Windows Media Encoder, while an instance of the Mozilla browser is running and navigating through various cached HTML pages. Because the system is multi-tasking with two different applications, this test is more taxing of the system overall.

With a 15 second advantage over the fastest test score we've ever recorded in this test, there really isn't much more to say that the numbers don't already offer.  It's fast boys and girls, real fast. 

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Lame MP3 Multi-Threaded

In our custom LAME MT MP3 encoding test, we convert a large WAV file to the MP3 format, which is a very popular scenario that many end users work with on a day-to-day basis to provide portability and storage of their digital audio content.  In this test, we created our own 223MB WAV file (a never-ending Grateful Dead jam) and converted it to the MP3 format using the multi-thread capable LAME MT application in single and multi-thread modes.

LAME MT MP3 Encoding Test
Converting a Large WAV To MP3

Processing times are recorded below. Once again, shorter times equate to better performance.

With our multi-threaded the LAME MP3 encoding tests, the landscape changed a bit.  Intel's HyperThreading technology allowed it to maintain an edge for the dual core Pentium Extreme Editions, even versus the highly overclock 2.95GHz OMEN CrossFire a121x.  In single-threaded mode, the OMEN sneaked past the Pentium EE 955 but who runs single-threaded anymore?

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Kribibench 3D Modeling

For this next batch of tests, we ran Kribibench v1.1, a 3D rendering benchmark produced by the folks at Adept Development

Kribibench v1.1
3D Modeling And Rendering sans the GPU

Kribibench is an SSE aware software renderer.  A 3D model is rendered and animated by the host CPU and the average frame rate is reported.  We used two of the included models with this benchmark: a "Sponge Explode" model consisting of over 19.2 million polygons and an enormous "Ultra" model that is comprised of over 16 billion polys...

Flat out, the OMEN takes a solid lead with the "Sponge Exploded" model, offering a 15%+ performance advantage over the fastest FX-60 reference score.  When bogged down with 16 billion polygons however, the cache size advantage of the Pentium EE 965 and 955 allow then to offer stiff competition to their AMD-based rival from Voodoo PC.

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Cinebench 3D Rendering

The Cinebench 2003 benchmark is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test, based on the commercially available Cinema 4D application. 

Cinebench 2003 Performance Tests
3D Modeling & Rendering Tests

This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The time it took each test system to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below (listed in seconds). 


Once again, if 3D Rendering is your bag, the Voodoo OMEN CrossFire delivers the goods. This test is largely CPU dependent so we'll offer the caveat as well, that if you want real 3D Workstation rendering horsepower, your better off going with an OMEN a221, which offers the option of NVIDIA Quadro or ATI FireGL graphics cards.  However, from a CPU perspective and for gaming, the OMEN CrossFire a121x once again gives up the fastest command performance we've seen in this test.  Consistent, if nothing less...but of course there's more.

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3DMark06 & FarCry

 

If you stepped up to the price range of the OMEN CrossFire (and your wallet feels like it was just worked over "prison style"), you most likely are hell-bent on the best gaming performance money can buy.  Gaming benchmarks are next, Zen Pony...

Futuremark 3DMark06
DirectX Gaming Performance

3DMark06'stest is a multi-threaded "gaming related" DirectX metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of different 3D scenes that are generated with a software and hardware GPU renderers, which is also dependant on the host CPU's performance. In its CPU tests, the calculations normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the central processor.  GPU rendering tests employ a mix of SM2.0, SM3.0 and HDR techniques and effects.

Since the OMEN CrossFire a121x has a 300MHz+ CPU clock speed advantage over either of our Athlon 64 FX-60 reference systems here (one with X1900s in CF and the other with 7900GTXs in SLI), it puts all competitors out to pasture, since 3DMark06 also weighs-in heavily with respect to CPU resources.  We need to note however that both of our CrossFire test systems, including the OMEN CrossFire, showed graphical anomalies in the Canyon Run section of this benchmark.

Performance Comparisons with FarCry v1.33
DirectX 9 Gaming In SM3.0
FarCry
If you've been on top of the gaming scene for some time, you probably know that FarCry was one of the most visually impressive games to be released on the PC last year. Courtesy of its proprietary engine, dubbed "CryEngine" by its developers, FarCry's game-play is enhanced by Polybump mapping, advanced environment physics, destructible terrain, dynamic lighting, motion-captured animation, and surround sound. Before titles such as Half-Life 2 and Doom 3 hit the scene, FarCry gave us a taste of what was to come in next-generation 3D gaming on the PC. We benchmarked the graphics cards in this article with a custom-recorded demo run taken in the "Catacombs" area checkpoint, at various resolutions without anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering enabled, and then again with 4X AA and 16X aniso enabled concurrently.

 

Far Cry, even at 1600X1200 with 4X AA is still very much CPU bound and as a result, although our reference CrossFire rig loses out against the 7900GTX SLI setup, the OMEN CrossFire is able to eek out a few extra FPS over the fastest NVIDIA has to offer.  Although again, we'll point out the OMEN's factory CPU speed of 2.95GHz versus our test system's stock A64 FX-60 at 2.6GHz.  Faster CPUs are great but gamers need more emphasis placed on GPU power obviously.  We'll see how things stack up in some of our more challenging gaming tests, next. 

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Splinter Cell Chaos Theory & Quake 4

Splinter Cell Chaos Theory is a game that definitely can tax single GPU architectures, but multi-GPU setups have a fairly easy time with it.  The game engine also seems to heavily favor ATI's core GPU at the moment as well. 

Performance Comparisons with Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory v1.05
DirectX 9 and Shader Model 3.0

SC: Chaos Theory
Based on a heavily modified version of the Unreal Engine, enhanced with a slew of DX9 shaders, lighting and mapping effects, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory is gorgeous with its very immersive, albeit dark, environment. The game engine has a shader model 3.0 code path that allows the GeForce 6 & 7 Series of cards and the X1000 family of cards to really shine, and a recent patch has implemented a shader model 2.0 path for ATI's X8x0 generation of graphics hardware. For these tests we enabled the SM 3.0 path on all of the cards we tested. However, High Dynamic Range rendering was disabled so that we could test the game with anti-aliasing enabled (a future patch should enable AA with HDR on the X1K family). We benchmarked the game at a resolution of 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA and 16X anisotropic filtering enabled.

With Splinter Cell:CT, the game still exhibits a fair amount of GPU dependency and the two CrossFire-based systems pull out 25-30 fps better frame rates than our GeForce 7900 GTX SLI setup.  The Voodoo OMEN system doesn't get to stretch its legs too much though and only beats our standard FX-60 test-bed by a few extra frames. 

Performance Comparisons with Quake 4
OpenGL Quad-Damage

Quake 4
id Software, in conjunction with developer Raven, recently released the latest addition to the wildly popular Quake franchise, Quake 4. Quake 4 is based upon an updated and slightly modified version of the Doom 3 engine, and as such performance characteristics between the two titles are very similar.  Like Doom 3, Quake 4 is also an OpenGL game that uses extremely high-detailed textures and a ton of dynamic lighting and shadows, but unlike Doom3, Quake 4 features some outdoor environments as well. We ran this Quake 4 benchmark using a custom timedemo with the game set to its "High-Quality" mode at a resolution of 1600 x 1200 with 4X AA and 8X aniso enabled simultaneously.

If ever there was an Achilles' heel for ATI, OpenGL would have to be it.  Here, both the OMEN CrossFire and our reference CrossFire X1900 XT system fall victim to NVIDIA's 7900GTX SLI setup.  That's not to say that things weren't playable by any means though.  80+ fps is more than enough to get you by and at a 1600x1200 resolution with 4X AA and high quality AF on, the visuals are very impressive.  The OMEN's factory tweaked overclock doesn't afford it much here in this test, however.

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F.E.A.R. Gaming Tests

By now you've gotten the gist that we have no intention of testing the new Voodoo CrossFire OMEN a121x at anything less than 1600X1200 resolution, and why should we?  Again, with the multi-GPU and CPU horsepower under its hood, along with its stiff price point, you should expect nothing but ultra high-end performance in ultra high-end test conditions.

Performance Comparisons with F.E.A.R
More Info: http://www.whatisfear.com/us/

F.E.A.R
One of the most highly anticipated titles of 2005 was Monolith's paranormal thriller F.E.A.R. Taking a look at the minimum system requirements, we see that you will need at least a 1.7GHz Pentium 4 with 512MB of system memory and a 64MB graphics card, that is a Radeon 9000 or GeForce4 Ti-class or better, to adequately run the game. Using the full retail release of the game patched to v1.03, we put the graphics cards in this review through their paces to see how they fared with a popular title. Here, all graphics settings within the game were set to the maximum values, but with soft shadows disabled (Soft shadows and anti-aliasing do not work together currently). Benchmark runs were then completed at a resolution 1600x1200, with anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled.

 

 

At these settings F.E.A.R. really invokes horror into even the most powerful of GPUs, even tag-teamed in SLI, CrossFire or otherwise.  The game does also possess a fair amount of physics rendering workload, with its impressive particle system, sending shrapnel and other foreign objects flying.  The GeForce 7900 GTX SLI reference system we tested had an easier time with our benchmark than the OMEN CrossFire did but you'll notice that the OMEN in turn posted ~10% better performance than our reference CrossFire system.  Again this is due in part to the Voodoo OMEN's faster CPU clock speed.

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Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Frame-Rates & Screenshots

Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion has to be one of the most talked-about games on the market right now and for good reason, the 3D visuals in this game are nothing short of amazing.  While we're not completely comfortable testing this game as a benchmark as of yet, we did take some screen shots with FRAPS enabled to give you a sense of how the OMEN CrossFire a121x performed within the game's vast, lush environments.  We intentionally have not provided comparable scores in this test, however, due to our unwillingness to accept FRAPS run-throughs as a sound benchmarking vehicle when not using an identical in-game path.  There are just too many variables that can factor in, even though the tester can closely match the test path of a timed run when benchmarking. 

Elder Scrolls IV - Oblivion Screen Shots And FRAPS Testing
CrossFire Enabled And Gorgeous

Below you can view some screen captures of Oblivion running at 1280X1024 resolution with both HDR rendering and Anti-Aliasing turned on.  This was achieved by installing ATI's recently released "Chuck Patch" which allows both High Dynamic Range Rendering and AA to be turned on simultaneously in this game.  If you look closely in the top right corner of each shot, you'll see the FRAPS frame-rate counter results during that current captured frame.

  

   

The game looks absolutely fantastic, and as you can see HDR with full 4X AA provides for very impressive image quality.  Our frame-rates ranged from a low of about 50fps to a high of about 150fps.  Running HDR with AA is something you can only do with ATI hardware currently and with a system like the Voodoo OMEN CrossFire a121x, you can actually still get silky-smooth frame-rates to go with it all.

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Performance Analysis & The Final Word

Benchmark And Performance Analysis:
The Voodoo OMEN CrossFire a121x posted some of the fastest general application benchmark scores we've seen to date.  In fact, many times the system produced the top benchmark score we've ever recorded from an off-the-shelf setup, especially in our Office, Windows Media Encoder, and Cinebench testing.  From a gaming perspective, and frankly that's what we need to focus on when considering this product's overall value, the OMEN CrossFire also offers up best-of-class performance, trading punches with our ever-potent GeForce 7900GTX SLI reference system.

There are a few caveats that are more or less intrinsic to the base technologies the system is built upon, however - those being its dual Radeon X1900 XT graphics cards in CrossFire mode.  Here's where the OMEN CrossFire unfortunately isn't quite as shiny as its impressive chassis and cooling system. During testing, we saw graphical anomalies with 3DMark06 when CrossFire was enabled, but perhaps more discouraging was the somewhat flaky behavior of ATI's drivers, which occasionally hung while loading the Catalyst Control Center, requiring a reboot of the machine.

Then of course there's ATI's more limited support for CrossFire over a broad list of gaming titles and their somewhat cumbersome CrossFire dongle hanging out the backside of this utterly gorgeous machine, like a blemish frankly.  While CrossFire definitely has come a long way, it's not as bullet-proof as NVIDIA's SLI technology. And you can't get around the fact that you are at the mercy of ATI to release CrossFire support for a new game title, versus SLI which can be enabled by manually configuring a game profile and selecting a multi-GPU rendering mode in their driver control panel.  That said, ATI has been spot-on with very frequent driver releases. Also, conversely, with ATI GPUs you have the ability to run HDR simultaneously with AA in upcoming and even a few current game titles, as we've shown you with our Oblivion testing.  This is a feature that simply isn't supported in current NVIDIA hardware when certain types of HDR are used.  There are obvious pluses and minuses depending on which side of the competitive 3D palette you fall.

Again, however, we can't fault Voodoo for these small shortcomings of the OMEN CrossFire.  Prospective customers that are interested in the Ferrari-like performance and Cadillac build-quality that the OMEN line has to offer, should be well aware of what makes a CrossFire solution tick.  And if you're not comfortable dropping $6K on a dual-GPU OMEN CrossFire, there's always an OMEN SLI (with dual GeForce 7900 GTX SS cards) but you'll have to fork out a bit more cash for a similar build configuration.

Regardless, it's hard to imagine a better built machine than what was shipped into us from the folks at Voodoo PC and the incarnation they call OMEN.  What you should know about the Voodoo OMEN line of systems is that you can pick and choose your own configurations, much like many on-line system builders, but the product you'll receive is anything but ordinary.  In fact, it's extraordinary in many ways - extraordinary custom chassis design - extraordinary cooling systems - extraordinary cabling and lighting - extraordinary system components - extraordinary build quality. Backed up with performance metrics that will have your buddies green with envy, the Voodoo OMEN CrossFire a121x is just what the Witch-Doctor ordered, if you have the cash to "get in the game".

 

.  Industrial strength build
.  Killer custom chassis w/ lighting
.  Amazingly tight, self contained liquid-cooling
.  Factory overclocked to 2.95GHz
.  Smoking-HOT performance
.  HDR With AA in (Oblivion)
 
. CHA-CHING! - Pricey
. CrossFire not as mature as SLI
 

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