Aria Halo Rampage Review
Many retailers offer water-cooled PC these days, and the range of off-the-shelf components is now huge, so building one is easier than ever, even if it can still be a faff. However, it isn’t often you see a water-cooling loop as instantly accessible as the one in Aria’s Halo Rampage. The company is working in partnership with Thermaltake, which recently delved headfirst into the custom watercooling scene with a range of its own radiators, fans, pumps and other accessories. It’s sure to shake up the market a little, but for now, Aria has used Thermaltake gear for all but the GPU waterblocks system in the Halo Rampage’s water-cooling system.
None of the rest of the hardware is Thermaltake-made, though, and the first part you notice is the test bench chassis. Aria has used DimasTech’s Easy V3 test bench, which provides a mass of water-cooling support, including mounts for two triple 120mm-fan radiators, pumps and reservoirs. However, Aria also states that this particular system is more of a showcase of its water-cooling skills, and if customers would prefer the hardware to be built into a normal chassis, you would just need to request as much from the sales helpline. In fact, a near-identical system sat next to it, built into a Thermaltake Core X9 case, in Aria’s warehouse when we visited the company recently. That’s perhaps just as well – the Halo-Rampage might look gorgeous, but dust is always a problem with open-air cases. It’s nothing a Dyson can’t fix, of course, plus if you’re a continual tinkerer, having your PC on a test bench makes your work easier when you’re changing coolant or swapping out hardware. It’s good to have the option, either way. There isn’t a lot going on in terms of customisation, at least not when compared with the similarly priced systems we saw in our recent Dream PC Labs. However, there’s some very swoonworthy hardware packed in to this compact test bench system. Aria has opted for Intel’s 8-core/16-thread Core i7-5960X, which has been overclocked to 4.5GHz using a vcore of 1.25V; this should enable it to batter pretty much any other CPU into submission. Memory has become much more widely available since our Labs test too, and while most systems in that test used DIMMs clocked around the 2666MHz mark, the Halo Rampage uses 3000MHz Corsair Dominator Platinum, with its 32GB capacity spread across four modules to make the most of the CPU’s quad-channel memory controller. At this price, you’d expect not one, but several graphics cards and the Halo Rampage doesn’t disappoint. Three monstrous Nvidia GTX Titan X cards are included, from EVGA’s Hydro Copper range, so they’re factory watercooled using EKWB full-cover waterblocks. They’re also overclocked out of the box, with the core standing at 1152MHz (1,241MHz boost) compared to the 1000MHz (1075MHz boost) stock frequency. The trio of GPU waterblocks are connected in series and look great, with custom EVGA cut-outs enabling you to see the coolant. The rest of the water-cooling system is extensive and comprises two massive Thermaltake RL360 triple 120mm-fan radiators, which use six of Thermaltake’s new Ring LED fans. There are two loops too – one deals with the CPU while the other loop cools the trio of graphics cards. Each loop is powered by a Thermaltake P1 pump, which is based around a D5 pump section with a custom Thermaltake top – both pumps are mounted on the base. These pumps are fed by two Thermaltake T22 tube reservoirs, which are mounted horizontally on the top of the test bench and are filled with Thermaltake’s 1000 Blue coolant. The CPU waterblock is – you’ve guessed it – also made by Thermaltake and is called the W1, although it’s definitely a very attractive piece of kit that fits in well with the silver and chrome details on the motherboard. The final piece of the cooling jigsaw is Thermaltake’s own branded silver compression fittings. Despite the fact that cable-routing options are extremely limited and the case is wide open, Aria has done a pretty good job of hiding away anything unsightly. The illuminated SLI bridge also looks fantastic, although we’d have liked to have seen some custom braided cables at this price. Storage is top of the range too, with Aria opting for Intel’s SSD 750 PCI-E SSD, which comes in 400GB capacity. That’s plenty of space for an OS and games, although we’d have liked to see a hard disk or second slower SSD to give you a little more space for other programs and data. Finally, powering the system is a top-end Corsair AX 1200i SPU, and at the heart of it is a Rampage V Extreme motherboard. Despite its open air chassis and powerful hardware, the Halo Rampage is very quiet, even under load. In fact, the only indication it’s been switched on, in terms of noise, is the slight waft of heat from the side-mounted radiators that draw in air from the front and rear and exhaust it out of the sides. As expected, the Halo Rampage is really fast too. Let’s start with the Intel SSD, which managed blistering read and write speeds in CrystalDiskMark of 2,327MB/sec and 1,035MB/sec respectively – four times as fast as most SATA 6Gbps SSDs, and the read speed is ahead of plenty of M.2 drives we’ve tested too. The 4.5GHz CPU and 3000MHz memory did a good job of punching their way through our benchmarks too, with an image editing score of 58,323, a massive video encoding score of 518,355 and a heavy multi-tasking score of 214,154 – all much faster than your average PC, although the higher overclocks of some of the 2015 Dream PCs allowed them to grab a small lead in some tests. The Halo Rampage’s final system score of 209,435 showed this situation clearly – only the 6-core CPUequipped Scan 3XS Cyclone and moderately overclocked Chillblast Arkham Knight Dream were slower. Our game tests were then undertaken at 4K and also 2,560 x 1,440. With three GTX Titan X cards at the helm, we didn’t expect there to be any issues achieving playable frame rates, and the Halo Rampage delivered in spades. It managed a minimum frame rate of 113fps in the Shadow of Mordor at 4K, rising to 126fps at 2,560 x 1,440. Battlefield 4 was brushed aside too, with a minimum frame rate of 87fps at 4K and a rather ridiculous 161fps at 2,560 x 1,440. Finally, our toughest test was Crysis 3, and 4K fans won’t have any issues here, with a minimum frame rate of 89fps and 122fps at 2,560 x 1,440. Battlefield 4 was a tad behind the top-scoring result of OcUK’s 8Pack Supernova, though, with its fourth GTX Titan X and monstrous overclock powering ahead to a minimum frame rate 14fps faster at 101fps. We weren’t able to get any power consumption numbers due to our testing conditions at the time, but Dino PC’s almost identically specced T. Rex drew around 1,100W from the mains, so we’d expect the Halo-Rampage to be similarly power-hungry. Despite our reservations about using a test bench as the basis for a retail system, the Halo Rampage looks fantastic. The subtle lighting and awesome exposed hardware make it quite different to any of the Dream PCs we saw this year, although if we had £7,500 to spend, we’d still ask Aria to install all the kit in a traditional case for the sake of maintenance, as well as proofing it from dust and drink spills. The core hardware is generally solid too, the Titan X costs an awful lot of money for a card that’s only negligibly quicker than the GTX 980 Ti, and that cost really adds up in threecard setups. In this case, that money could have been better spent on increased storage space and more customisation. We’d usually expect hardline acrylic tubing at this price too, but we agree with Aria that in this case, curved flexible tubing looks better on a test bench. You can’t directly compare the Halo Rampage with any other PC we’ve tested recently, as our two Dream PC price tiers were both significantly above and below its £7,499 price tag. However, the winner at the lower end was Overclockers’ Infin8 Emperor, which has similarly good looks, an equally quick CPU, more storage and acrylic tubing – all for £2,100 less. The downside is that it only has two GTX 980 Ti cards compared to the Halo Rampage’s three Titan X cards, but then Scan’s 3XS Carbon Extreme SLI offers three GTX 980 Ti cards for just £4,799 too. Nevertheless, it’s great to see experimentation in highend PCs, and the Halo Rampage is a striking machine with great performance. For this money, we’d like to see a better balanced storage system, though, and using GeForce GTX 980 Ti cards would shave a significant amount off the price without hampering gaming performance. The Halo Rampage is a cracking bit of design, though, and we look forward to seeing what else Aria can do in the future. ANTONY LEATHERThe Halo Rampage looks great, but it could do with a more balanced storage system, and the Titan X cards needlessly push up the price. We’d also take up Aria’s offer to install it in a traditional case. CPU Intel Core i7-5960X overclocked to 4.5GHzMotherboard Asus Rampage V ExtremeMemory 32GB 3000MHz Corsair Dominator Platinum DDR4Graphics 3 x EVGA Hydro Copper Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan XCooling Thermaltake W1 CPU waterblock, EKWB/EVGA Hydro Copper water-cooled graphics cards, Thermaltake T33 reservoir, Thermaltake P1 pumps, Thermaltake Tubler 4T tubing, Thermaltake RL360 radiators, Thermaltake 1000 Blue coolant, Thermaltake blue Ring 120mm fansPorts Front: none; rear: 10 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 6 x audio, PS/2Operating system Windows 10 64-bitWarranty One year parts and labour (including two months collect and return), followed by three years labour only return to base.