The day the crate arrived, everything changed.
I suppose I should explain myself a bit before we get started with this review. I took a four year course in Information Technologies, specialized in hardware repair and have been working computer related jobs for the last ten years. I have stayed more or less on the pulse 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 computer building, vastly more customization options and 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 obtaining stimulus money they were itching to burn, electrical component shortages and the “Scalp-ocalypse,” PC component scarcity was at an all time high, GPU’s especially.
It’s no exaggeration to say that for the bulk majority of 2021, you could buy a new 3080 TI for the same price as a used car. For PC gamers, getting a hold of the parts for a decent gaming rig without selling an organ to scalpers was an economical and logistical nightmare. I had lucked out and upgraded my PC just before the pandemic, so I was able to watch news stories roll in about the difficulty of component sourcing from a comfortable distance, happy to have avoided the great drought. This was my mindset when I got the news that we were getting a pre-build PC to review from the very lovely folks over at CLX Gaming. CLX offers both ready-to-ship machines over a range of different specs and configurations, as well as bespoke offerings, allowing you to pick and choose from a surprisingly comprehensive list of options and features.
When contacted by CLX for a review, we were very generously given a pick of any of their ready-to-ship or custom configuration computers as a loaner review unit. The team at CLX hand picked one of their prebuilds for us when we conveyed interest in high end gaming, twitch streaming, video editing and 3-D modeling to test, resulting in a link to the CLX RA. We got confirmation of the PC secession and shipping details. The process of ordering the computer and its delivery went flawlessly, with a huge shout out to the representatives from Max Borges Agency and our ever-suffering local UPS guy who had to drop off our eighty pound monolith.
To be completely honest, I wasn’t convinced these transactions were going to be real until I heard my dog crying at the window, only to look out and see it in our driveway. It came fantastically packaged, armored for transit in a sturdy wooden crate and foam packed both externally and inside the PC’s case behind the glass panel, preventing damage to the graphics card and AIO from any accidents in transit. Once pried from its plywood sarcophagus, my brain immediately kicked into gear realizing what I had in front of me. We began giving the PC a cursory once over. First thing I noticed was the RTX 3090 was a founders 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 it’s beautiful. My own PC build uses a RTX 2070 Super that had what I thought was a more than adequate 8GB of VRAM, which never gave me any issue on all but the latest games. The 3090 sporting 24GB of vram changed all that, but more on that later.
There is a custom flame decal on the 011 dynamic case from Lian-Li on the glass side panel. It felt a bit much right out of the box, but it genuinely grew on me as I ran my tests on the rig itself, catching the glow of the remote controlled LED lights in the corner of my eyes, giving it an almost a “fake hotel fireplace” kind of charm. But once the initial inspection was over, we plugged her in to officially kick the tires and see what she could do, and man oh man, she did not disappoint. Another fun fact about yours truly, I am what I like to consider a “messy perfectionist”, as I will gladly sacrifice tertiary factors like human comfort and any kind of emergency savings for optimal performance from my electronics.
The next thing that jumped out at me looking through the case was how well everything was sized out. The custom case perfectly fit the motherboard and graphics card, leaving just enough room for any future expansions, but still being snug enough to promote improved airflow through the case’s main bay with the absolutely overkill 10 RGB fans. Another small mention, but the cable management was immaculate, with all the wires zip tied together and out of the way. The debate on how much of a thermal difference poor cable management creates will no doubt outlive me, but it does go a long way to making any computer look sharp and clean.
I am also very fussy when it comes to game performance, as I will usually shelf a game that I am having graphical issues with until I upgrade hardware rather than turn down my graphical settings like a peasant. So, suffice it to say, there are a handful of games I basically have not touched despite being rather high on my infinite to-do list. (Soon, Metro Exodus, I promise I will come 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? Maxed out settings, locked 144hz at 1440p. Hitman 3? Maxed out settings, locked 144hz at 1440p. Quake 2 RTX? Locked. Doom Eternal? Locked. Crysis Remake on the famously uncapped “can it run Crysis” settings? The PC asked back “did I stutter?” Hell, I even threw Star Citizen at it, just to see what would happen. 144hz locked. Control? locked with all that beautiful Ray Tracing we come to expect from it.
Thinking I could trip up this beast with modern benchmark games was as futile as thinking I could derail a freight train with a penny. To its credit, the ONLY game that could stump the beast was Cyberpunk 2077, and even with that it never dipped below 40 FPS with all settings cranked to Psycho (this being 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 out 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 32GB of DDR4 from G.SKILL Trident Z Neo. On top of all of that rendering power, the aforementioned looper of a Nvidia 3090 graphics card had 25GB of GDDR6X under the hood, which very well may be the secret weapon of this whole rig. We were wholly unprepared, without even any 4K resolution video to attempt to edit with. As far as Adobe Premiere Pro was concerned (the program which led us to picking the AMD processor in the first place) these components allowed render times and screen sharing to occur with ease and crisp bitrates.
Even simply sharing 1080p or 60fps gameplay on a Discord call, with webcams running, didn’t affect the game stability at all. Undoubtedly it helps that we have a local ISP that provides 1gbps fiber internet which we’ve run cable for directly to my PC desk. Combined with 4TB of cold storage and the OS Storage a whole Terabyte MVMe M.2 SSD, it is clear this machine feels less meant for an enthusiast content creator and more intended for a Pixar animator or one of Marques Brownlee’s staff compiling 8K source video.
I have seen what the bleeding edge 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 running all this was how well it all just worked. Straight out of the box, I didn’t have a single issue with crashing 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 running. Plus, with all the custom configuration options CLX gives you for its system creation tools, it’s safe to say that anyone who wants the latest top of the line PC, you can get one now without ever touching a screwdriver. The CLX RA is a fantastic rig that showcases the benchmark for everything from running the most cutting edge games to graphic design to video editing and rendering. While absolutely overkill for most people’s daily driver, if you need to crush any project you’re working on, look no further.
My aforementioned personal PC with the 2070 GPU doesn’t even come close to the horsepower of this device, and I actively try to refresh components as often as I can. The catch is, this unit is valued at $5123 from CLX’s website, and while an enthusiast like myself, or maybe even you, can go to PC Parts Picker and find these components for cheaper or MSRP, what you pay for is build quality, high end service and ease of use, as a purchase even comes with repairs and service available on your components. The biggest boon to CLX is the sheer versatility of these builds. Just because we reviewed the top of the line, maximum overdrive PC they had available doesn’t mean this boutique PC shop 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 website’s UI is simple, and makes clear listings of components available with deep customization and concise information so that even a beginner can shop for their own custom build.