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Puget Deluge-i L2 review: Puget Deluge-i L2

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If we've learned anything about the first part of this year, it's that you can get an outstanding gaming PC for about $1,500. That's why we're so stymied by Puget Systems' Deluge-i L2. For $4,877, this system only barely edges out its midrange competition. It also can't compete with a high-end Maingear PC that plays in the same multi-thousand-dollar ballpark. We suspect the Deluge gets its name from the elaborate liquid cooling hardware built into the case, but we'd rather that Puget put more thought into this PC's overall value. As its pricing stands, we can't recommend it.

5.7

Puget Deluge-i L2

The Good

Liquid cooling hardware integrated into the case; solid <i>Crysis</i> scores; lifetime labor warranty.

The Bad

Overpriced; underperforming.

The Bottom Line

We've seen too many speedy, sub-$2,000 gaming PCs this year to get excited by Puget's near-$5,000 desktop, as elaborate as its liquid cooling may be. Its performance doesn't separate it enough from the midrange pack, and it's outclassed by its other high-end competition.

The Deluge-i L2 is a customizable gaming system that starts at around $3,860. Our review config includes a handful of upgrades to the default build, but even at its base price, we find this PC too expensive.

With regard to this system's configuration, Puget took a similar approach to one we've seen from other vendors recently. Rather than relying on very high-end CPUs, you can turn Intel's more affordable 3.0GHz Core 2 Duo E8400 into a monster with overclocking, as Puget has done here by ramping it up to 3.5GHz. We usually associate some cost savings with overclocking, however, even if you need to support your speed boost with pricer cooling hardware. And while we wouldn't expect the the Deluge-i L2's Koolance liquid cooling setup that runs through the CPU as well as both graphics cards to come for free, this system still seems more expensive than it should be.

  Puget Deluge-i L2 Maingear Ephex
Price $4,877 $5,184
CPU 3.5GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 4.0GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 2GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3870
Hard drives 150GB 10,000rpm hard drive, 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive (2) 150GB 10,000rpm hard drives, 750GB 7,200rpm hard drive
Optical drive Dual-layer DVD-RW Blu-ray/HD-DVD combo drive
Networking Gigabit Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Operating system Windows Vista Ultimate Windows Vista Ultimate

You'll notice that the Maingear Ephex we reviewed came in at about $300 more than the Puget system, but considering what you get, the Maingear is a much better deal. Unlike the Deluge-i L2, the Maingear Ephex includes a high-end, quad-core CPU (also overclocked), faster DDR3 RAM, two 10,000rpm hard drives to the Puget's one, as well as a larger 750GB storage drive. Maingear also includes a Blu-ray/HD DVD combo drive. We don't imagine you'd want either of these full-size desktops sitting in your living room, but we'd still rather have the option to watch HD movies.

We should point out that we're also a bit confused by Puget's 4GB memory configuration, given that it uses a 32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate operating system. In order for this system to use the full 4GB of RAM, Puget would need to have included the 64-bit version of Vista. As it stands, the Deluge-i L2 recognizes only 2.5GB of memory. We suppose purchasing more RAM ahead of time would make sense if you plan to upgrade to 64-bit Windows later, and Puget requires you to e-mail its sales department to make that upgrade to this system. But paired with the 32-bit version of Vista, 4GB is more RAM that you need and a waste of money.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Puget Deluge-i L2
124 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Puget Deluge-i L2
101 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Puget Deluge-i L2
534 

CineBench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Maingear Ephex
15271 
4408 
Uberclok Ion
11481 
3773 
Dell XPS 630
8482 
2459 
Puget Deluge-i L2
7517 
3920 

From a performance standpoint, the Puget falls similarly flat. Given its faster CPU clock speed and faster memory, it's no surprise that the Maingear system beats the Deluge-i L2 on almost every test. What's more disturbing is that systems like the Uberclok Ion, the Falcon Northwest FragBox 2, and Dell's XPS 630, each of which costs less than $2,000, are all within striking distance, depending on the benchmark.

Unreal Tournament 3 (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,920 x 1,200  
1,280 x 1,024  
Maingear Ephex
129 
181 
Puget Deluge-i L2
110 
160 
Dell XPS 630
106 
128 
Uberclok Ion
84 
146 

Crysis (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,600 x 1,200 (high quality)  
1,280 x 1,024 (medium quality)  
Puget Deluge-i L2
17 
69 
Dell XPS 630
14 
40 
Maingear Ephex
13 
22 
Uberclok Ion
9 
35 

If it looks like the Puget has an out due to its Crysis scores, don't get too excited. True, its 1,280x1,024 Crysis test is the highest we've seen this year, and it's the only PC with a frame rate higher than our 60-frames-per-second standard for consistently smooth play. We suspect this is due to its overclocked CPU and its pair of GeForce 8800 GTS graphics cards, which are the slightly faster version of the already speedy GeForce 8800 GT. Consider, though, that the $1,600 Dell XPS 630 has a pair of GeForce 8800 GT cards, as well as some wiggle room in its very overclockable--although still factory-pure--2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 chip. And while the Maingear we tested suffered due to its pair of Radeon HD 3870 graphics cards, which don't work well on Crysis, you can also configure a Maingear Ephex system that's nearly identical to the Deluge-i L2 for $3,800, and that includes a beefier power supply, a more up-to-date motherboard, and more aggressive overclocking of the E8400 CPU. We expect either an overclocked XPS 630 or a reconfigured Maingear Ephex would post similar Crysis scores to the Deluge-i L2's, and at significant cost savings.

Puget incorporates a Koolance PC-4 1000 liquid cooling system directly into the Deluge-i L2's Antec case, with a built-in reservoir/pump unit that slides into a 5.25-inch front panel drive bay. The tubing connects to the CPU, as well as to both graphics cards, which means it's a good thing that Puget routed the cables smartly, or else upgrading would be very difficult. The liquid cooling apparatus as a whole is not particularly quiet, nor did Puget overclock its 3D cards, so we can't help feeling that this configuration is a bit of overkill for this case. Higher-end models of the Deluge would likely benefit more.

For the rest of the system, it's easy enough to move the tubes to get at the free expansion and memory ports. The hard drive configuration is irritating, however. In order to get at the drives, you need to remove a screw and pull back a drive cage that faces the drives inward. What that means is that it's challenging to add or replace a hard drive without disconnecting the drive cables. Complicating matters, the current drive cables are hot-glued in place. You could yank them out with enough force, but we don't understand why they're glued in to begin with. We've never considered hard drive cables to be that jostle-prone, and even if they do come loose, they're easy enough to reconnect. Our last gripe with the system design is that you have to open the front panel door to get at the power or reset buttons, a design choice we always frown upon.

You can configure the Deluge-I L2 with a variety of extras, although to give you a taste of the price disparity between Puget and the rest of the world, the 28-in-1 media card reader that came with out review system is a $52 upgrade. At Newegg.com, that same reader costs $32.

Like many boutique PC shops, Puget makes a big deal about its customer service, offering to walk you through the purchase process over the phone or via e-mail. Its Web site offers all kinds of advice and help on what hardware to pick and why. It also included all of the manuals, cables, screws, software, and other extras that came with this system's parts. And although it does have a support line, in as much as the company publishes its phone number, Puget discourages phone support, instead offering e-mail-based help, but only from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST. It promises quick e-mail response times, but that's little help if you're computer doesn't work to begin with. A lifetime labor warranty takes the edge off, although Puget covers the parts only for the first year.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell XPS 630
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Q6600; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows Vista Home Premium; 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8400; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics cards; 500GB 7,200 rpm Samsung hard drive

Maingear Ephex
Windows Vista Ultimate; 4.0GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9650; 2GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics cards; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm hard drives; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

Puget Deluge-i L2
Windows Vista Ultimate; 3.5GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Duo E8400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics cards; 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm hard drive; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

Uberclok Ion
Windows Vista Home Premium; 3.2GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive

5.7

Puget Deluge-i L2

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 5Performance 6Support 7