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Wired2Fire HAL 4000 review

Verdict

Benchmark-busting speed crammed inside a classy mini-ITX chassis that’s half the size of most desktop PCs

Review Date: 27 Feb 2013

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £1,166 (£1,399 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

We’ve come across many powerful, full-sized desktop PCs from Wired2Fire in the past, but this is the first small-form-factor system to emerge from its factory in Surrey – and the HAL 4000 is a barnstormer.

It gets off to a great start thanks to the Fractal Design Node 304, which is one of the best small-form-factor enclosures we’ve laid eyes on. The brushed aluminium panels make for a classy, understated PC, and the sturdy build quality is a cut above budget cases. If we were to be picky, there’s a little flex in the side panels, but it’s no worse than we’ve experienced on other high-end PCs; the HAL 4000 will easily survive regular trips to gaming events and LAN parties.

Wired2Fire HAL 4000

The removal of two screws is all it takes to access the PC’s insides, and while the interior is cramped, it’s sensibly organised. The front half of the machine houses the Xigmatek Tauro power supply, and its cables cluster around the Nvidia GeForce GTX 680 graphics card, which extends along one side of the chassis.

The back of the case is dominated by the Antec Kuhler H20 water-cooling unit, which is clamped between two 120mm fans and is attached to the rear exhaust mount. Its liquid-filled cables spiral down towards the Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe motherboard, which is so tiny that many of its VRMs, capacitors and heatsinks are deployed to a daughterboard that lies perpendicular to the black PCB.

Wired2Fire HAL 4000

Accessing the board is tricky – you’ll have to remove the cooler at the very least – but there will be little need to delve into the Wired2Fire’s innards. The single PCI Express slot is home to the graphics card; both memory sockets are occupied; and the one empty SATA socket runs at the slower SATA/300 speed, so it’s suitable for only a mechanical hard disk. There’s limited room for additional storage: while the Node 304 includes a trio of removable hard disk caddies, one contains two SSDs, another houses a hard disk, and the third is used for keeping extra cables out of the way.

Small-form-factor machines used to lack the power of their full-sized counterparts, but this is no longer the case. Wired2Fire has crammed in an overclocked Intel Core i7-3770K CPU, boosting it from 3.4GHz to 4.4GHz. That’s enough to push the Wired2Fire’s application benchmark score up to 1.25, a result that trounces our A-List machine - the PC Specialist Vortex Destroyer’s Sandy Bridge-E chip scored 1.16.

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User comments

"The processor’s top temperature of 85°C ducks in just below the level we’d consider dangerous"

Yikes.

Let's hope none of the fans fail/get stuck or there's not a heatwave.

Shame, I was quite taken with this system otherwise.

By Alfresco on 27 Feb 2013

Thanks for the feedback Alfresco! Of course if any PC has a CPU fan fail, you're going to see problems!

The system is installed with Antec Chill Control, which allows the fans to speed up as the system gets hotter. If it were to get hotter outside for example, the cooler will compensate.

The tests are under extreme test conditions inside the PC Pro enclosed test labs, running highly demanding stress tests. 85 is well within Intel spec, (the TjMax for this CPU is 105!!) and the test result is the absolute max, 85 isn't anywhere near the temp it would actually run 24/7. (Unless you're running hours of folding but even then Antec Chill control will negate any worry).

But, if you wanted to have the system to run cooler, we are able to do so. We're a custom PC builder so you can chop and change the parts/overclock as you see fit.

By HalWired2Fire on 27 Feb 2013

The temp isn't a problem..

The cpu has been overclocked to as high as it sensibly could go - if it was at 75C while running prime etc it would have been overclocked higher possibly(stability allowing)! Buy it as it is and change the clock to 4.2GHz and the temps will be lower!

By Geddy3001 on 27 Feb 2013

The CPU isn't the risk here the PSU is.

Historically mini ATX shuttle boxes cooked their PSU as regularly as any other component. Over time I would expect that to be the fail point not the OCed i7. Has the HAL got a radiator fitted there too?

By gpzjock on 28 Feb 2013

Efficient thermal design

Hi gpzjock,

Yes, you're right! The majority of small form factor PCs use smaller non-ATX Power Supplies. These generally have lower maximum loads (usually 3-500Ws), so if you're putting high end kit into it, you'll force the PSU to run nearer to it's maximum, which is less efficient. This creates more heat and more chance of failure.

The great thing about the Fractal Node is it can accommodate a full ATX PSU. If you look at the photos above, you can see the PSU is actually mounted at the front, in a sideways configuration. This clever chassis design allows it to pull cold air in from the front and then vent it directly out of the side of the case. It also means you can fit a full ATX PSU, which means it runs efficiently and so stays nice and cool.

The radiator is fitted at the back, but does not interfere with the PSU at all. In fact, the design even allows the graphics card to pull fresh air in directly and then vent it out of the back (better than most full size case designs, which use warm air from inside the case).

Overall, we're extremely confident that this system, as designed, is very thermally efficient. We wouldn't sell it if we weren't ;-)

By spbctjr on 28 Feb 2013

high end graphics

While comparing the graphics capabilities of various high end pc's by frame rates, in games is all well and good. And does give good comparisons.
it would be useful for some kind of indication as to how these cards cope with large CAD files. So far as I am aware, the stresses on the card are different, resulting in purpose built work stations employing a different class of card. But those work stations are often beyond the means of us poor mortals and gaming cards are what we are stuck with. How about it pcpro?

By nickallison on 1 Mar 2013

Wired2Fire know what they're doing

I bought a Wired2Fire system with a heavily overclocked Core i7 in July 2009 as a work PC. I work mainly with Adobe Creative Suite. At the time the performance of this PC blew away even the most expensive Mac available (which was vastly more expensive). After almost four years of daily use this PC has never put a foot wrong and still feels fast. Before owning this PC I would replace my desktop machine every two years, but I just haven't felt the need to replace this system. If Wired2Fire hadn't implemented proper cooling for both the CPU and case then this PC would never have lasted so long. These guys know what they're doing and I will be looking to them first when I do finally decide to replace my current PC.

By twiga on 4 Mar 2013

SATA Data Incorrect.

Hi,

The review states

'and the one empty SATA socket runs at the slower SATA/300 speed, so it’s suitable for only a mechanical hard disk.'

This is incorrect. You could install a device such as an SSD on this interface. It would be fair to say that you may not get the full performance gain of the more modern SSD which sport SATA/600 interfaces, but you could do it none the less.

It wasn't *that* long ago that SSD's only came with SATA 300 interfaces.

Cheers.

By truepicture on 7 Mar 2013

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