Mountain Steel, a workstation with Intel Core i9 CPU and license to work … and play!

Mountain Steel

The official launch in the middle of last year of Intel’s Core i9 microprocessor family further stimulated competition with AMD. Without a doubt, it’s great news for users. But perhaps the most interesting is that it gave rise to an exciting debate that raises to what extent it is preferable in terms of the execution of video games to have a higher clock speed compared to a higher number of cores.

I have decided to start the analysis of this Mountain workstation talking about the Core i9 processors because, as the title of the article anticipates, the CPU that governs this equipment is a Core i9-7900X chip with 10 cores and capable of simultaneously processing 20 threads of execution (threads). There is no doubt that one of the incentives of this machine is to check how this microprocessor performs, but this is not the only feature that is interesting. Not much less. If you want to discover much more about this proposal, you just have to keep reading.

Mountain Steel

Mountain Steel: Technical specifications

Just take a look at the table below these lines to realize that Mountain has bet on insurance regarding the configuration of this equipment. The CPU is the most striking component in the first instance, but there are also others that are worth paying attention to, such as its motherboard, a Gigabyte model with very interesting enlargement capabilities. Or its graphics card, also assembled by Gigabyte and governed by a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 GPU.

It is also worth paying attention to the modules that make up the main memory of this PC, four Corsair DDR4-2666 modules that add up to a capacity of 32 GB, and that should allow this team to feel comfortable in most of the scenarios use. For its part, the subsystem of secondary storage has been solved by Mountain with the two usual units: a 275 GB SSD of Crucial and a mechanical unit of 1 TB manufactured by Seagate. Here you have all the details:

MICROPROCESSOR Intel Core i9-7900X (14 nm, 10 cores / 20 threads, 13.75 MB of L3 cache and up to 4.30 GHz)
MOTHERBOARD Gigabyte X299 Aorus Gaming 3 with Intel X299 chipset (Kaby Lake)
GRAPHIC CARD Gigabyte NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 with 8 GB of GDDR5 memory
PRINCIPAL MEMORY 32 GB DDR4-2666 / PC4-21300 Corsair
STORAGE 275 GB SATA600 Crucial SSD Disk + Seagate 1 TB 7200 rpm SATA600 mechanical disk
OS Windows 10 Home
REAR PORTS 6 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2, 1 x USB-C, 2 x PS / 2, 1 x RJ-45, 6 x audio jacks, 1 x HDMI 2.0b, 3 x Display Port 1.4 and 1 x Dual Link DVI-D
FRONT PORTS 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 1 x microphone jack and 1 x headphone jack
POWER SUPPLY Be Quiet! 1000 Watt Power Zone 80 Plus Bronze
DIMENSIONS 496 x 507 x 235 mm
WEIGHT 15.5 Kg
PRICE 3,843.15 dollars

Mountain Steel

The heart of the team: An Intel Core i9 with 10 cores

Before moving forward, we are interested to keep in mind that Mountain has introduced this equipment in its range of workstations, and this decision is consistent with the choice of an Intel Core i9 microprocessor. And is that, as we explained when the company of Santa Clara officially presented these chips, its most relevant feature is the large number of cores that incorporate (the model 7980XE has 18 cores and is capable of processing no less than 36 threads of execution).

The CPU that has this team is a little more modest than the 7980XE model, but still incorporates the not inconsiderable amount of 10 physical cores, which enables it to manage 20 threads concurrently. This high number of cores causes these chips to reach their maximum performance potential in those scenarios of highly parallelization use, such as applications for image processing or animation and creation of 3D content, among others.

Mountain SteelHowever, when faced with the execution of video games the presence of a greater number of cores usually has a smaller impact on the overall performance than the clock frequency at which they work. This means, simply, that in general terms the games benefit more from one processor faster than from another with many cores.

Even so, the configuration of this equipment shows that Mountain has conceived this PC so that it is able to function with ease both in a scenario of use in which content creation, image processing, video editing and development prevail. Of applications, as in a ludic nature scenario. And the base clock frequency of 3.30 GHz worked by the Core i9-7900X chip that “fits” this equipment, together with NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 1070 GPU graphics card, should allow it to achieve a remarkable performance in most of the games both at 1.080p and higher resolutions. We will check it a little later in the analysis section dedicated to our test bench.

Mountain SteelDesign and finishing

The chassis of this PC is an Enthoo Evolv ATX manufactured by Phanteks, a company based in the Netherlands that little by little has managed to build a solid reputation among overclocking enthusiasts for the quality of its cooling systems and the careful finishing of its chassis. The one of this equipment is entirely manufactured in aluminum and, as you can see in the photographs, it has a sober design, but “result”.

Its aesthetics is more serious than that of computers with an unequivocal vocation to attract the attention of gamers, something that, on the other hand, reflects their spirit of workstation and not so much of equipment for gaming. Of course, the left side panel when looking at it from the front is methacrylate, so it is enough to install inside a base plate for gamers and some LED lighting to give that striking and personal touch that so many fans of games like.

Mountain SteelThe machining of the chassis of this PC is impeccable. And we can forcefully pass the yolk of any of our fingers by its edges with the peace of mind that we will not cut ourselves. I also like the high quality of the hinges used in the mobile parts of the equipment, as, for example, in the side panel of methacrylate and in the small door of the front that hides the additional USB ports and the two connectors of type jack for headphones and microphone.

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But, without doubt, the two characteristics of the Phanteks chassis that I liked the most are the considerable thickness of the aluminum panels that make it up, which have a thickness of 3 mm and cause its weight to exceed slightly 10 Kg, and, As we will see in more detail later, also the great cleaning of its interior. This last characteristic is very important because it directly affects the efficiency with which the cooling system manages to evacuate the hot air inside the equipment.

Mountain SteelIn the photograph that you have below these lines you can see how careful are both the design and the finish of the chassis of this equipment. These small ventilation holes contribute to the proper evacuation of hot air from the inside of the PC, a crucial property in current computers given the high temperature that can be reached under stress some critical components, such as the CPU and the GPU.

This is the interior of the work station

The work done by Mountain in the assembly of this team is impeccable. Inside there is not a single cable out of place, which has a direct impact on the cooling of PC components. And is that the absence of physical barriers within the chassis allows cold air introduced by the front fans to move to the rear, causing a circuit that favors the expulsion of hot air through the back panel of the computer.

Mountain SteelIn the section in which we will talk about our test bench we will check to what extent this air cooling system manages, or not, to maintain the critical components of the PC working in its optimum temperature range.

The image you have below this paragraph reveals in more detail the size of the fan responsible for the correct cooling of the CPU, as well as the design used in the heatsink. As you can see, this last component is aluminum and has a respectable size. I am in favor of the dissipates associated with microprocessors with a high TDP (Thermal Design Power) being copper because this metal has a higher heat conductivity index than aluminum. Even so, the truth is that if the cooling system is well designed an aluminum heatsink can perform without major problem. We’ll check later.

Mountain SteelThe last image of the interior of this equipment allows us to clearly see the two fans of 140 mm in diameter housed in the front panel, which are responsible for the initiation of the cooling circuit by introducing a constant flow of cold air into the interior of the chassis.

Connectivity: At height

As you would expect from any PC of a certain size today, the connectivity of this equipment is well resolved. On the back panel we have 6 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, one more port of type 3.1 Gen 2 and one last USB type C link. OK so far. In addition, as usual, in this panel, housed directly on the motherboard, also reside the RJ-45 port, the PS / 2 and the audio jacks.

Mountain SteelThe only thing I miss when it comes to the connectivity of this equipment is the presence of a wireless controller compatible with the 802.11ac WiFi standard. It is true that many of the users of a desktop PC choose to connect it to your router with a network cable. In fact, if we need to transfer an important volume of data or if we are going to use it to play, for the moment it is still the best option. Even so, I think it’s a good idea that the Wi-Fi controller is always present because its impact on the price is small and wide the PC connection options.

Housed under a small sliding cover on top of the front panel two USB 3.1 reside Gen 1 Extra ports as well as a jack for microphone and a jack extra that is quite useful so we can connect our headphones comfortably. Of course, when this small lid is closed it goes almost completely unnoticed, a quality that benefits the aesthetics of the PC when we observe it from the front.

Mountain SteelOur test bench

We come to one of the most interesting parts of this analysis. To check how is the Intel Core i9 processor with 10 cores that “fits” this PC when faced with the execution of applications with a high degree of parallelism, which, on paper, is one of the scenarios of use in which should offer an important performance, the Cinebench R15 test is still very revealing. And this team does not disappoint.

In the capture you have below these lines you can see that in this test has reached no less than 2,153 points, a great result that leaves no doubt about the high productivity of this CPU in a scenario of parallel use. In fact, it has even beaten a Xeon processor equipped with more cores (12), but, of course, with a clearly lower clock frequency, a feature that has been decisive in this test with a similar number of cores. In the other Cinebench test, the one that uses the OpenGL API, also showed some very interesting 137.10 FPS.

One of the most interesting modifications introduced by Futuremark in PCMark 10 has to do with the analysis of the performance of the microprocessors equipped with a greater number of cores, and, therefore, capable of throwing a higher productivity in scenarios with a high degree of parallelism. This is what explains why in this test this Mountain team has clearly exceeded 5,000 points, a great mark that to a large extent reveals how comfortable it feels in multimedia scenarios and content creation.