The Vulcan delivers performance we’re not used to at this price, thanks to AMD’s amazing Ryzen chips
- Low price
- Excellent 3D capabilities
- Large chassis
AMD’s barnstorming Ryzen processors have proved hugely popular in the world of desktop PCs, and the Vulcan X 02’s core attraction is its Ryzen 5 1600X CPU – nominally a mid-range model, but still a very powerful chunk of silicon. It comes with a base clock speed of 3.6GHz, boosting to 4GHz as load demands, and when AMD’s XFR technology decides that there’s enough room in the “thermal envelope”, you can get an extra 100MHz on top of that. Those are the same speeds as the top-end Ryzen 7 1800X, and the 1600X has the same internal cache configuration too.
The difference is the core count. Where the 1800X features eight physical cores, the 1600X offers “only” six, with AMD’s SMT technology allowing them to handle 12 simultaneous threads. That puts this CPU on par with Intel’s eighth-generation Coffee Lake Core i7 processors when it comes to parallelism, but at a much lower price.
To back up the powerful processor, PC Specialist has equipped the Vulcan X 02 with a full 16GB of 2,133MHz DDR4 RAM. This is thoughtfully provided as a pair of 8GB DIMMs, leaving two free slots in the Asus RoG Strix B350-F Gaming motherboard, should you want to add more.
Storage comes in the form of a 256GB M.2 WD Black SSD – a speedy drive offering sequential read rates of over 1,200MB/sec – plus a 1TB Seagate hard disk. It’s not a generous provision, so it might be worth upgrading to a larger hard disk at the time of purchase.
With such powerful internals, it was no surprise to see the Vulcan romp through our benchmarks. It scored an excellent 142 in our image-editing test, putting it almost on par with a typical Ryzen 7 1800X system: Yoyotech’s 1800X-powered Redback N6 scored 151 in the same test.
Predictably, the Vulcan dropped further behind in more heavily multithreaded benchmarks. In the video-editing and multitasking tests, it achieved scores of 203 and 237, versus the Redback’s 260 and 317. Even so, it’s one heck of a performer: we’d expect a top-end Core i7 system to nudge slightly ahead in single-threaded tasks, but the Ryzen 5 1600X wins hands down when it comes to multithreaded computing.
Compare the Vulcan’s overall benchmark score of 210 to the 185 scored by the Core i7-7700K-powered Chillblast Fusion Strix. Then remember that this PC costs half as much, and the extent to which AMD has shaken up the market becomes clear.
To be fair, as well as a cost-effective CPU, PC Specialist has chosen a cheaper graphics card – a 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060. This isn’t an enthusiast-grade card, but it’s still perfectly capable of delivering an immersive experience. In Metro: Last Light Redux we enjoyed a smooth 52fps at Full HD with high detail settings. Anything more ambitious is probably out of reach, though: switching to 2,560 x 1,440 saw the average frame rate fall to 30fps, marred by visible hiccups and stuttering.
Perhaps our least favourite aspect of the Vulcan X 02 is the InWin 101 enclosure. The eye-catching design avoids straying over the line into gaudiness, but it’s not a versatile case. It won’t take an optical drive nor a card reader, and the diagonal power button (tucked beneath the InWin logo) is plain weird. The chassis is also larger than necessary, with the clip-on glass side exposing swathes of empty space inside.
On the upside, that Asus motherboard provides excellent connectivity. You get two front-facing USB 3 ports, and a further four at the rear, plus two 10Gbits/sec USB 3.1 sockets, twin USB 2 and eight-channel audio. If you want to upgrade the Vulcan X 02’s gaming capabilities, there’s a second full-speed PCI Express 3 x16 slot sitting next to the first. Three PCI-E x1 slots complete the lineup – helpful, perhaps for adding a Wi-Fi card, since the board lacks a wireless controller of its own.
In the Vulcan X 02, PC Specialist has put together an exceedingly tempting package. The case isn’t our favourite, and it would have been nice if the budget had stretched to a 2TB hard disk. Intel’s Coffee Lake chips have the edge in single-threaded tasks, and for multitasking there’s nothing to beat AMD’s Ryzen 7 series. Overall, though, this is still a seriously high-performance PC, with 3D capabilities to satisfy all but the most die-hard gamer, for a price that very recently would have seemed unthinkable.