We've been asking manufacturers to send us their Core i7 and i5 systems for a while now, and Altech delivered the goods with its "entry-level" Typhoon system, which features a Core i5 processor and 5000-series ATI Radeon card for under $2000.
Despite the nice price, the rig is also a really stylish looking setup. The Typhoon is packed into an Antec Mini P180 case, which is a decent piece of kit. It's constructed of aluminium and plastic panels, with steel internals adding solidity while helping to dampen noise.
At front, there are two USB, eSATA, and mic/headphone jacks, while the top allows airflow for a huge 200mm fan through a thick honeycomb mesh.
At the back you'll find fan speed for the top and rear (120mm) fans. Even on the highest speed, the fans are not much louder than a satisfied sigh. The power supply resides at the base of the case in its own chamber, helping to isolate heat and lower system noise overall.
You may be getting the impression that this is a quiet system - it is, and that's even more apparent when you compare its whisper-quietness to the excessively noisy Elite.
The mid-tower size - large for a micro-ATX setup - still allows enough room for full-size graphics cards, and there are plenty of spare bays for both 2.5in and 3.5in drives.
The motherboard Altech includes with the NRG Typhoon is a Gigabyte GA-P55M-UD4. It has SLI capability, and provides two PCI-Express 2.0 x16 slots, which can be used as either one x16 or two x8.
Up to 16GB of memory is supported in a dual-channel setup, and our rig had 4Gb of Corsair RAM taking up two slots.
You can't overclock the Core i5 to maximum speeds due to limitations of the board, but you can overclock both processor and RAM to reasonable levels.
To help in that endeavour, the Zalman CNPS10X Flex Ultra Quiet CPU cooler helps reduce heat, and we found that, along with the fans, it kept the system cool no matter how much performance we asked of it.
The CPU cooler only has one fan set up in our rig, but you could add a second for more cooling if you overclocked the system.
The Six 3Gbits/sec SATA ports support RAID 0, 1, 10, 5 and JBOD, but in the most basic setup, you'll only get a single Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB drive. That's a fast drive, nonetheless, with plenty of capacity, but it's tempting to spend a little extra for a second hard drive to go with it.
Paired with the 2.66GHz Core i5-750, performance was zippy even with no overclocking applied to the processor. In our Real world benchmarks, the Typhoon crushed every test we could throw at it, racking up a 2.64 overall score.
That pips the Trinity International system that currently holds our A-List position, and the NRG has a better case and internals to accompany its superior price and bang-for-buck. Particularly impressive was the 3.15 score for multitasking - the more you ask of it, the more it delivers.
At the rear, there are eight USB ports, Firewire, 2 eSATA ports, two DVI provided by the Radeon HD 5850 and Realtek 7.1-channel High-Definition audio codec with Dolby Home Theatre support.
The HD 5850 is fast enough to pair well with the Core i5-750 , and in our Crysis benchmark testing we found ample gaming power. On Medium detail settings, for example, it clocked up an impressive 107fps, and got close to 60fps on high settings.
When we pushed everything to maximum for our Very High test, it still came in at a very playable 38fps. We're confident that even without a card upgrade or SLI, this will tackle most games you can throw at it.
Adding a second card would push the limits of space inside the case, but it's definitely possible if you need even more grunt - just take care with cabling if you do, as routing around the existing components causes some arrangement issues.
Rounding out the value is Gigabit Ethernet - albeit only a single socket - Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit and a DVD-DL drive. The Typhoon is a reasonably-priced, high-performing system, with scope for upgrading and room for additional overclocking to stretch the performance further. As an off-the-shelf system it's hard to go past.