Manufacturer: Utopia UK price:£2,007.56 (inc VAT) US price: Currently unavailable
With Haswell having launched over two months ago now, Intel's latest chips have been finding homes in the PCs of system builders for some time, and Utopia is one such company to offer fully customisable pre-built rigs. We're looking today at its Ballista Limited Edition, which has been codenamed Project Hulk for reasons that should be obvious from the pictures below.
While the regular Ballista has a multitude of options for users to tailor the system to their needs, the Limited Edition has, appropriately, a more limited selection. Utopia is keen to point out, however, that they'll happily incorporate any hardware you like into the PC if you request it by phone or email. Nevertheless, the model we've been issued with has a retail price of £2,007.56, which includes a £25 discount.
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The chassis used for Ballista PCs is the SilverStone Fortress FT03. We found the FT03 to be a great micro-ATX case when we reviewed it over two years ago, and Utopia's stunning paint job breathes new life into the chassis. The Lamborghini Murcielago green is one of six car themed colours that can be selected. Sadly, the paint job hasn't been extended to the interior of the chassis (although this is a selectable option), but the external coating has a lovely smooth and metallic finish. The front SilverStone logo has also been replaced by a black stensil of Utopia's one.
Utopia has made use of two of the four FT03 fan mounts, and has done so with Corsair's SP120 fans. The bottom intake fan mount is occupied, providing airflow predominantly for the graphics card, while the top spot is filled by the water-cooling loop's exhaust fan. Meanwhile, the side mount has been replaced by a thick acrylic window that's emblazoned with 'Ballista' in the lower right corner. The window is fitted nicely and held in place by four black screws, although its thickness makes the side panel a little more difficult to get on and off, as it presses slightly against the case fittings.
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The heart of the Ballista LE is Intel's top of the line Core i7-4770K paired with a Gigabyte G1.Sniper M5 motherboard and 16GB of Patriot Black Mamba 2,133MHz memory. Utopia has also overclocked the CPU from 3.5GHz to 4.3GHz (43 x 100MHz). This is less than we managed in our review, but the reduced overclocking potential of retail Haswell chips compared to pre-production variants is something that quickly came to light post-release, and Utopia's overclock is still a substantial speed boost.
Nvidia's GeForce GTX 780 3GB ensures that graphics performance is also top notch. A 240GB SSD is used for the boot drive, and comes with Windows 8 64-bit pre-installed, while a 2TB Seagate Barracuda should provide adequate storage space for most. Completing the spec sheet is a slot loading DVDRW drive, the button for which is rendered inaccessible by the FT03's front panel, and juice is provided by Corsair's TX750M PSU.
Click to enlarge - The Aurora coolant looks stunning when lit up, but it's not designed to last a long time
The EK CPU water-cooling loop has a single radiator and a small reservoir next to the window. It's filled with Mayhems' Aurora Extinction Green coolant, and the mesmerising, pearlescent swirls of the metallic particles look doubly awesome under the glow of the internal green LEDs, which are further complemented by the GTX 780 lighting. There are valid concerns about Aurora's longevity, however. Mayhems told us that it's not designed to last “more than a couple of months” and you can already see a metallic build up forming inside the reservoir in the image above. Utopia's 10 year labour warranty covers cleaning and refilling loops as necessary, but even so sending your PC back and forth every few months or even doing it yourself that regularly is far from ideal, so offering a more traditional UV coolant may well be in Utopia's interests.
With a generous helping of cable ties, Utopia has also ensured that the Ballista Limited Edition is kept very tidy indeed, completing the look of a case that's just begging to be shown off. The FT03's hot-swap bay is also wired and ready to go for those who still make use of such bays.
CPU Intel Core i7-4770K, overclocked to 4.3GHz
Motherboard Gigabyte G1.Sniper M5
RAM 16GB (2 x 8GB) Patriot Black Mamba 2,133MHz
Graphics card Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 3GB
Case SilverStone Fortress FT03
CPU Cooler EK custom CPU loop w/ Mayhems Aurora Extinction Green coolant