April 20, 2018 // 6 p.m.
UK price (as reviewed): £1,950.30 (inc. VAT)
US price (as reviewed): N/A
Balancing value for money and premium features is a never-ending battle for PC enthusiasts. Some of us choose to maximise the former, pairing the fastest possible chip with the cheapest motherboard that supports it and buying reference-cooled graphics cards, while others demand features that, while not necessary for the day-to-day function of their rig, are great for tuning the look and performance down to micro-details. As manufacturers have cottoned on to the fact that there is a healthy market of people willing to spend considerable sums on doing just that, the gap between a strictly utilitarian build and one that has attention-grabbing aesthetics has continued to widen. With that in mind, we present to you the AWD Narcissus. With a mirrored chassis, RGB everywhere you look, and premium component selections, this £2,000 system is very much about having that little bit extra just because you can.
The Corsair Crystal Series 570X is already a lavish case with tempered glass panels on both sides, the front, and roof, but the mirrored version used here is really unique. Each glass panel here has a thin silvering layer on the outside that makes it much more reflective than normal tempered glass (and a pain in the arse to take photos of). If your PC has no internal lighting, the brightly lit exterior surroundings are simply reflected back at you. As such, this version of the case is made for users who want to maximise their use of RGB lighting; light up the inside, and suddenly it becomes visible in a really rather satisfying way. This isn’t the chassis’ only strong point, as it also has great dust filter coverage and both Type-A and Type-C USB ports, although these are limited to USB 3.1 Gen 1 speeds (i.e. USB 3.0).
Sadly, AWD-IT did not send us the Narcissus in the same way it would do to a real customer. The chassis arrived with rather obvious fingerprints all over the outside; no internal foam packaging to protect the components in transit; no accessories like manuals, spare cables, or even Wi-Fi antennas; and with a Windows installation that still had the testing tools installed. Obviously, this is a bit of an oversight; the company has admitted it was a sincere mistake and stated that it obviously does not send systems out to customers in this fashion. For what it’s worth, we absolutely believe this to be true, but it does leave us unable to accurately assess the customer experience.
Moving on, the specs of the Narcissus are at least very promising. The Core i7-8700K has just had its dominance challenged by the venerable Ryzen 7 2700X, but it overclocks better and still wins at gaming. Thankfully, AWD-IT has taken full advantage of the overclockability, applying an impressive all-core overclock of 5GHz, which is guaranteed with this system. In our case, it uses a vcore of 1.3530V, PCH voltage of 1.1V, load-line calibration level 4, and a CPU current capability setting of 110 percent. Clearly, then, attention to detail has been paid, and the dual-channel 16GB Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR4 was correctly set to its XMP profile for 3,200MHz – AWD-IT has 8GB, 32GB, and non-RGB options available too. Our only concern is that the BIOS was not saved to a slot on the board for easy retrieval.
The CPU and memory are installed in the Asus Strix X370-E Gaming, which features both Wi-Fi and LAN connectivity, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A and Type-C rear ports, and onboard RGB lighting.
A 5GHz overclock requires some serious cooling; thankfully we know the Corsair H150i Pro RGB to be a very competent killer of heat. The monstrous 360mm radiator is front-mounted with the tubes neatly positioned, and AWD-IT has boosted the cooling potential by adding three extra fans for a proper push-pull configuration.
The extra fans on the cooler aren’t just any fans, either; they’re Corsair’s LL120 RGB models. Each one has 16 independently addressable LEDs split across inner and outer light loops, and frankly they look awesome. They’re mounted to the cooler such that they shine through the front panel, and AWD-IT has added another trio of these for exhausting air out of the roof and front. These can all be controlled through Corsair’s Link software.
The GTX 1070 ensures gameplay at 1080p and 1440p and in VR will be excellent. Not only that, but AWD-IT uses the Asus Strix version for a host of benefits: a great looking backplate, lots of RGB illumination that can be synchronised with the motherboard, and a fantastic cooler that runs cool and quiet (silent when idle). Despite the PCIe slot’s reinforcement, there is a small amount of sag thanks to the weight of this card, but without a big support bracket this is pretty much unavoidable. This version of the card doesn’t come with an overclock, though, and AWD-IT does not apply one. If you want a faster card, the Strix versions of the GTX 1070 Ti, GTX 1080, and GTX 1080 Ti are all available.
For storage, we have a 500GB Samsung 960 Evo NVMe M.2 drive. This is a fantastic option, although we’re not sure why it wasn’t installed in the slot that has a heatsink on it. Our particular configuration has no extra HDD, so the total capacity is a bit limited, but the AWD-IT configurator easily allows you to add one, so this is of no concern; if you need it, the option is there.
The Corsair RM650x PSU is a fine choice thanks to its 80 Plus Gold rating. The 750W, 850W, and 1,000W versions can all be selected instead.
Internally, the cable routing job is very professional and neat on both sides. AWD-IT also uses custom black and white power cables for the mainboard, CPU, and GPU, with cable combs that prevent them getting mixed up. These complement the internal neutral colour scheme nicely, and this is an important consideration given how much RGB there is. One issue, however, is that one of the non-RGB fan cables arrived disconnected.
With the motherboard, memory, graphics card, CPU cooler, built-in case lighting, and six fans all supporting RGB lighting to one degree or another, the Narcissus makes full use of the latest trend, and this is a good thing given the mirrored chassis. It arrived very much in full rainbow mode, but you can reign it in using a combination of Asus Aura Sync and Corsair Link. There are some oddities, such as Corsair’s software being overridden by Asus’ for memory lighting control, and the Asus software not always synchronising the GPU properly, but this is a sign of the RGB ecosystem in general rather than a fault with AWD-IT. You may have to click around a bit more than you’d like to get your desired effect(s), but it is possible, and the LL120 RGB fans are a particular highlight, because you can apply effects in a daisy-chain fashion. If you’re into tinkering with this sort of stuff, the Narcissus is real playground.
AWD-IT’s warranty is generous at three years, especially as that includes both parts and labour. Shipping costs are covered for six months – not the best we’ve seen, but far from the worst.