The day the coffin arrived, everything changed.
I suppose I need to explain myself a bit before we get into this review. I have a four year degree in information technology specializing in hardware repair and have had computer related jobs for the past ten years. I’ve been more or less aware of the PC hardware scene for a while now. For the longest time, the rule of thumb was “always buy and build your own rig, avoid pre-builds.” This was due to the relative and increasing simplicity of building computers, much more customization options, and the ease of obtaining parts. Why would you pay someone to do it for you? This was my thought process for the longest time, until the plague hit. Suddenly, between PC enthusiasts getting stimulus money they wanted to burn, electrical component shortages, and the “scalp ocalypse,” PC component scarcity was at an all-time high, especially GPUs.
It’s no exaggeration to say that for the vast majority of 2021, you could buy a new 3080 TI for the same price as a used car. For PC gamers, getting the parts for a decent gaming rig without selling an organ to scalpers has been an economic and logistical nightmare. I got lucky and upgraded my PC just before the pandemic, so I could watch news reports pouring in from a comfortable distance about the difficulty of sourcing components, glad I avoided the major drought. This was my mindset when I got the news that we were getting a pre-built PC to review by the very nice folks at CLX Gaming. CLX offers both turnkey machines with a range of different specifications and configurations, as well as bespoke offerings, so you can choose from a surprisingly extensive list of options and features.
When CLX contacted us for a review, we were very generously given a choice of their off-the-shelf or custom configuration computers as a loaner. The team at CLX hand-picked one of their prebuilds for us when we expressed an interest in high-end gaming, twitch streaming, video editing, and 3D modeling to test, resulting in a link to the CLX RA. We have received confirmation of the PC separation and shipping details. The computer ordering process and delivery went off without a hitch, with a huge shout out to the Max Borges Agency reps and our ever-suffering local UPS guy who had to drop off our eighty pound monolith.
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To be completely honest, I wasn’t convinced these transactions would be real until I heard my dog howling at the window, only to look out and see him in our driveway. It came fantastically packaged, armored for transport in a sturdy wooden box and foam wrapped both on the outside and inside the PC case behind the glass panel, to prevent damage to the graphics card and AIO from any mishaps in transit. Once I was pried out of the plywood sarcophagus, my brain immediately kicked into gear as I realized what I had in front of me. We started taking a cursory look at the PC once. The first thing I noticed was that the RTX 3090 was a Founder Edition model in the graphics card slot, and after triple-checking to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating, I was able to confirm that not only was it real, but also pretty. My own PC build uses an RTX 2070 Super that had that what I thought was a more than adequate 8 GB of VRAM, which never gave me any problems except for the latest games. The 3090 with 24 GB vram changed all that, but more on that later.
There is a custom flame decal on Lian-Li’s 011 dynamic case on the glass side panel. It felt a bit much right out of the box, but it really grew on me when I ran my tests on the rig itself, catching the glow of the remote LED lights in the corner of my eye, making it almost a “fake” became. hotel fireplace” kind of charm. But once the initial inspection was over, we hooked her up to officially kick the tires and see what she could do, and man oh man, she didn’t disappoint. Another fun fact about yours truly, I am what I like to think of as a “messy perfectionist” as I will with pleasure sacrifice tertiary factors such as human comfort and any kind of emergency savings for optimal performance of my electronics.
The next thing I noticed when I looked through the case was how well everything was measured out. The custom case fits the motherboard and graphics card perfectly, leaving just enough room for any future expansions, yet snug enough to promote improved airflow through the case’s headroom with the absolutely exaggerated 10 RGB fans. One more minor mention, but the cable management was impeccable, with all wires zipped together and out of the way. The debate over how much thermal difference causes bad cable management will no doubt survive me, but it helps to keep any computer looking sharp and clean.
I’m also very picky when it comes to gaming performance as I usually shelve a game that I’m having graphical issues with until I upgrade the hardware rather than refusing my graphics settings like a farmer. So suffice it to say there are a handful of games that I haven’t actually touched despite being quite high on my never-ending to-do list. (Soon, Metro Exodus, I promise I’ll be back for you!) The 3090 was the solution I never knew I needed. It absolutely destroyed everything we threw at it. Shadow of the Tomb Raider? Maximum settings, locked 144hz at 1440p. hitman 3? Maximum settings, locked 144hz at 1440p. Quake2 RTX? Locked. Eternal fate? Locked. crysis remake on the famous uncapped “can it run Crysis” settings? The PC asked back “did I stutter?” I even threw Star burger on it, just to see what would happen. 144hz locked. Check? locked up with all that wonderful Ray Tracing we’ve come to expect.
Thinking I could trip this beast with modern benchmark games was as pointless as thinking I could derail a freight train on a dime. To his credit, the ONLY game that could stump the beast was Cyberpunk 2077and even with that it never dipped below 40 FPS with all settings on Psycho (this was with DLSS OFF because I wanted to see what it would take to choke this thing), but I blame the performance more on poor optimization of the game itself more than any fault of the rig.
To test video editing and streaming capabilities, we requested a top-shelf processor. The answer was the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, an absolutely overkill 16-core processor, as well as 32 GB of DDR4 from G.SKILL Trident Z Neo. On top of all that rendering power, the aforementioned looper of an Nvidia 3090 graphics card had 25GB of GDDR6X under its hood, which could very well be the secret weapon of this whole rig. We were completely unprepared, without even a 4K resolution video to edit with. As for Adobe Premiere Pro (the program that led us to choose the AMD processor in the first place), these components made render times and screen sharing happen with ease and crisp bitrates.
Even simply sharing 1080p or 60fps gameplay during a Discord call, with webcams running, had no impact on game stability at all. It no doubt helps that we have a local ISP that provides 1 Gbps fiber optic internet, for which we ran a cable directly to my PC desk. Combined with 4 TB of cold storage and the OS storage a whole Terabyte MVMe M.2 SSD, it’s clear this machine is meant less for an avid content creator and more for a Pixar animator or one of Marques Brownlee’s collaborators compiling 8K source video.
I’ve seen what the bleeding can do, and I don’t know if I can ever go back. But one of the things that slowly crept up on me while doing all this was just how good it all was worked. Right out of the box I had no issues with crashes or configuration errors, we just plugged everything in, ran driver updates and that was it. The entire process took about 10 minutes and required absolutely no technical skill or knowledge to get started. And with all the custom configuration options that CLX gives you for its system creation tools, it’s safe to say that anyone who wants the latest top PC can now get one without ever touching a screwdriver. The CLX RA is a fantastic machine that sets the benchmark for everything from running the most advanced games to graphic design to video editing and rendering. While it’s definitely overkill for most people’s daily driver, if you want to crush a project you’re working on, look no further.
My aforementioned personal PC with the 2070 GPU isn’t even close to the horsepower of this unit, and I actively try to refresh components as often as I can. The catch is that this unit is valued at $5123 from the CLX website, and while an enthusiast like myself, or maybe even you, can go to PC Parts Picker and find these components cheaper or MSRP, what you’re paying for is build quality , high end service and ease of use, because the purchase even includes repairs and service for your components. The biggest boon for CLX is the sheer versatility of these builds. Just because we reviewed the best maximum overdrive PC they had available doesn’t mean this boutique PC store doesn’t have builds available for regular consumers. The CLX RA has great components, even at a competitive $1789, and there are others available as well. The user interface of the website is simple and provides clear lists of available components with extensive customization and concise information so that even a novice can shop for their own custom build.