X

Asus Tytan CG8890 review: Asus Tytan CG8890

The Asus Tytan CG8890 is phenomenally powerful, looks ridiculous and costs an astounding £4,000.

pp
Andrew Lanxon
pp

Andrew Lanxon

Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

See full bio
7 min read

Some desktop computers are built to quietly help you get on with office work while others, like the Tytan, are there to shout about their power, swear at your parents and tear the face off of anyone who claims that their games look better on the Xbox.

orig-asus-tytan-cg8890-2.jpg
6.5

Asus Tytan CG8890

The Good

Phenomenal performance; Outstanding gaming prowess; Plenty of storage; Handy external volume control; Transforming chassis is daft but fun.

The Bad

Astronomical price; Very flimsy build quality; Did we mention the price?.

The Bottom Line

The Asus Tytan CG8890 packs in some of the most powerful components a non-military professional has access to. It can tackle the glossiest games with the sort of cool ease most desktops can only dream of but it does demand £4,000 in return. If you custom built a similar rig elsewhere, you could save yourself a bundle.

This monstrous beast packs in a six-core Intel Core i7-3960X processor overclocked to 4.2GHz, 16GB of 2,133MHz GDDR3 RAM and a stonking Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 graphics card with 4GB of VRAM.

It's liquid cooled to stop it erupting like Vesuvius, has opening side vents plucked straight out of a bad sci-fi movie and comes with a mind-blowing price tag of £4,000.

Should I buy the Asus Tytan CG8890?

Do you love ridiculously slick gaming performance? Have a penchant for plastic moving parts? Recently struck oil? If the answer to all of the above is "yes", then the Tytan is probably a good option for you. If not, you might want to consider looking elsewhere.

Its mighty processor and souped-up graphics card do deliver truly outstanding performance on even the most demanding of games. You can be sure that your mate's £900 gaming rig or even his £1,630 gaming laptop won't even come close to the power you'll have.

Its shocking price does mean that it'll only be an option for the most dedicated -- and wealthy -- polygon pounders among you and its cheap-feeling plastic parts didn't leave me with the impression that it's particularly hard-wearing.

Unless you really want the opening panels on the case, you might want to look at building your own rig in a different shell. I specced up a similar machine over at ComputerPlanet, which came to just over £3,000. It's still super-pricey but saves you a cool grand off the Tytan, which you can spend on monitors, games or crate after crate of Mountain Dew.

Design and build quality

I won't beat around the bush, the Tytan is absolutely huge. Seriously. While all-in-one desktops pack everything they need behind the screen, saving your desk space, the Tytan takes up masses of space, hogging your bedroom and breaking the back of anyone who dares try and lift it.

It's 640mm deep, 520mm high and 330mm wide. Sure, 330mm isn't so wide as to stretch that cubby space under your desk, but bear in mind that the Tytan has a shape-shifting trick up its sleeve. Hit the power button on the top and the side panels open up, increasing the overall width to 430mm, so make sure you give it plenty of space to stretch.

Asus Tytan CG8890
Move aside, stuff! Budge along, things! The Tytan needs to spread its wings.

When closed, the Tytan has a hulking, monolithic appearance that numerous fans of our Facebook page thought looked a headless K-9 -- the robot dog from Doctor Who. It might not have the transparent sides and flickering array of LEDs that adorn the sides of many gaming towers, but make no mistake, it's still every bit as barmy as the rest.

That silliness is exacerbated somewhat when the sides buzz open. They reveal six fans, spinning behind a metallic red grille with a large flap lifting at the back for good measure. It makes me think of teenage boy racers opening the boots of their Ford Fiestas in car parks to show off the new speakers and lights they've fitted. If you could add hydraulics to make it bounce on your desk I'm sure you'd fit right in with the car-modding crowd -- especially as your computer no doubt costs around four times as much as their decade-old banger.

Asus Tytan CG8890
Those fold-out panels might be cool, but they aren't super sturdy.

If you've just dropped four grand on a PC you'll no doubt be hoping for pretty top-notch build quality. Unfortunately, the Tytan just doesn't deliver. The fold-out panels feel extremely plasticky, and rattle and bend distressingly in place. Similarly, the front panel that slides down to reveal the Blu-ray drive feels extremely cheap.

It really wouldn't take much effort to snap something off, and in fact one of the supporting arms on the sliding front panel of my review model had indeed broken off when it arrived. It was easily fixed, but it did leave me with the distinct impression that it's a rather fragile beast. I'd certainly want to treat it gingerly to protect my whopping investment.

Ports, keyboard and mouse

You'll find a whole hotchpotch of ports scattered around the Tytan's casing. On the front you get two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, headphone and microphone jacks, two SD card readers, a CompactFlash card reader and a Blu-ray drive, all hidden beneath the sliding panel.

Around the back there's an additional five USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA ports, SPDIF out for a theatre system, PS2 for your keyboard, Ethernet out, audio ports for a 5.1 speaker system, three DVI outputs and a display port, allowing you to connect up to four monitors at once for some truly immersive gaming action.

Storage comes courtesy of two 128GB SSD drives for installing system files to for quick access and a 2TB hard disc to dump all of your non-essential files like photos and videos.

There's an Asus Xonar Phoebus sound card around the back too which makes use of an external control. It lets you quickly change the volume of those brutal headshots without needing to pause the game or jump into menus.

Asus Tytan CG8890
Tucked around the back of the beast is a Xonar Phoebus sound card.

Included with the Tytan is an Asus gaming keyboard and mouse. The keyboard uses mechanical keys that are extremely easy to press. It's perfectly comfortable to type on for long periods and will no doubt be equally pleasant for those long fragging marathons.

There's no monitor included as standard so you'll need to hook it up to your existing display or invest in a set of four HD panels -- if you've got the spare cash for the tower itself I doubt you'll struggle to afford a decent screen.

Power and performance

I'm sure it will come as no surprise that that hulking frame packs in a seriously potent amount of kit. At its heart is a six-core Intel Core i7-3960X -- the X stands for extreme, obviously -- which has been overclocked by Asus to 3.8GHz, up from the stock 3.3GHz. That's paired with a hearty 16GB of DDR3 RAM with an impressive 2133MHz speed.

The gaming grunt is powered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 690 graphics card with 4GB of VRAM. Those are some monstrous specs and make up the lion's share of the Tytan's price tag -- the processor and graphics card alone retail for around £800 each. Unsurprisingly, liquid cooling is employed along with 10 fans to keep everything from melting like an ice-cream in the midday sun.

To see just how this processor stacks up, I booted up the Geekbench benchmark test and was quickly given the extremely impressive score of 20,975, making it easily the most powerful machine I've tested. Better yet, when you hit the power boost button, the clock speed increases to 4.2GHz and it was able to post 23,087 on the same test. It's not a wild improvement, but every bit helps.

It managed to encode my 11-minute 1,080p video file into 24fps H264 in the lightning fast time of 2 minutes 57 seconds. Again, that's the best result I've personally seen in my reviews. Of course, making my way around Windows 8 was free of any kind of delay and activities like multi-tasking, HD video streaming and photo editing were handled without the slightest issue.

Asus Tytan CG8890
There's pretty much nothing this monster can't chomp through.

You're not paying four grand just to scoot around Windows though -- you're going to want to boot up the games and put that graphics card to the test. Thankfully, it handled the polygons just as well as everything else.

At full 1,080p resolution, it was able to produce up to around 200 frames per second on Skyrim, with all quality, shadow, reflection and anti-aliasing settings ramped to the max. That naturally is a bit overkill and you'll likely want to use VSync which syncs your gameplay to the refresh rate of your monitor, resulting in smoother graphics and fewer random glitches.

You might want to use a multi-screen setup which will of course be more demanding as you're drastically increasing the resolution, but the Tytan has plenty of power to maintain an enjoyably smooth frame rate.

It coped similarly well with Metro 2033, a game that pushes most computers beyond their limits. When all settings were turned up to ultra it still managed to achieve around 140fps. By comparison, Asus' own G75W gaming laptop achieved only 10fps with similar settings. I had to significantly tone the quality down to get it to be even remotely playable.

Action-packed shooter Battlefield 3 was also tackled with ease, achieving around 160fps in normal scenes and around 120fps in particularly intense action.

Conclusion

There's no question that the Asus Tytan CG8890 is an absolute powerhouse. With its super-charged processor and monstrous graphics card, it's poised to tackle the most demanding tasks and games without question.

It's rather let down by its unimpressive build quality, however. Those moving panels might look fun, but they feel extremely flimsy -- which is rather a problem considering the whopping price tag.

If you're absolutely set on having the best gaming performance of all your friends and regularly dream of high frame rates, the Tytan is no doubt going to please. It's important to bear in mind though that you can build a similarly specced rig for almost a grand less.