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Aquila Computer Systems Gamezilla
Reviewed by Rob Scott

Upgrading your system is one of the most expensive and frustrating areas of our hobby. Each time we upgrade we do so knowing that in a couple of months the system we have just bought will already be out of date. Yet we continue to chase the ever elusive Flight Simulation Nirvana where frame rates are no longer an issue. But as soon as we have better hardware the developers release yet another add-on that pushes the boundaries of our systems even further and the circle starts again.

I had planned to upgrade my system next year but a few months ago my ageing Nvdia 8800GTX graphics card decided that enough was enough and broke. I was unable to find a replacement card at a reasonable price so had to take the leap and set about upgrading my new system.

The two areas that were not open to negotiation as far as I was concerned was that the processor had to be an Intel Core i7 and the price to be as close to £1,500 as possible. Studies have shown that FSX is more dependant on processor power than any other component of the system. But with an i7 comes a large price tag and parts were juggled around and after a few days the prices didn't come down and I began to think that I wouldn't be able to get what I wanted for the price I wanted.

Tracking Down Auilla
There is a referral system running on twitter, hashtag #msrfr, where people can request help or a recommendation for something and more often than not you will have a reply before the day is out. So that is what I did 'Looking for someone to build a high end FSX specific PC #msrfr'.

Within a couple of hours I had 4 replies. I contacted each company individually and explained what it was that I wanted. 1 company gave me a price that was so low I immediately ruled them out as there was no way it could be done, another company totally ignored what I had asked for an designed me a mega system that cost almost £3,000 and the 3rd company never came back to me. The 4th company were Aquila, who made contact but said that it would take a few days to come back to me because their lead technical expert was away when I made the request.

This immediately got my attention as they had listened to what I wanted and seemed to have someone that would be able to help me. They called me on the day that they said they would and I spoke with their technical guy for 20-30 mins explaining what I wanted from the new system. He explained the services that they offered and that they would not rush a new system out of the door. Each system is built and tested several times to make sure that it is in full working order. They even offered to install FSX and both service packs for me if I wanted (from my own copies). An offer which I took up later on.

After our initial chat I waited for a day or so until they have drawn up the quote for me, which had everything I wanted included and was only just over my budget. I accepted the quote, dispatched my FSX DVD's and waited for a couple of weeks for the system to arrive.

Incidentally, a local company did offer me the same price as Aquila for the same system, but my gut feeling was that Aquila were more knowledgeable about what they do.

System Specifications
  • Asus Asus P8Z68-V PRO Z68 Socket 1155 8 Channel HD Audio ATX Motherboard 1
  • Corsair Corsair Vengeance 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600Mhz CL9 1.5V Non-ECC Unbuffered 1
  • Hitachi / IBM Hitachi 1.5TB 3.5" SATA-II Deskstar Hard Drive - 7200RPM 64MB Cache
  • CoolerMaster Coolermaster HAF X Case 1
  • Intel Intel Core i7 2600k 3.4GHz Socket 1155 8MB Cache Retail Boxed Processor 1
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 BIT OEM 1
  • MSI MSI GTX 570 1280MB GDDR5 Dual DVI MIni HDMI Out PCI-E Graphics Card 1
  • CoolerMaster Coolermaster Silent Pro 850W Modular PSU 1
  • OCZ OCZ 60GB Vertex 2E SSD 2.5" SATA-II

Delivery & Installation
The delivery was the part that I was most worried about. Aquila are located in Weymouth and I am 300 miles away in West Yorkshire – picking up the system myself was not an option. Thankfully the system arrived via courier and was VERY well packaged. It took me close to 30mins just to get it unpacked. The system came in a cardboard box and was wrapped in bubble wrap and then protected by a polystyrene case. Setting up/Installing the new system was a breeze as it is something I've done many times before. The one thing that I was surprised about was the sheer size of it – almost double the height of my last system. I had to disassemble my desk in order to get the system underneath it, then rebuild the desk around it.

Loading Up
The first thing that struck me when I booted up the new system for the first time (apart from it being very green) was the speed of it – thanks to the SSD boot drive. With the previous system I used to go make a drink whilst it was booting up. The next thing that I noticed (or didn't) was the noise – it is practically silent.

When Aquila had installed Windows and FSX for me I had asked that they do so under different user accounts – one account for FSX and one for everything else. My previous system had everything under the same user profile and things became a nightmare to find.

Maiden Flight
Before I installed any of my add-ons I went for a test flight in the default C208 over Northern England (with VFR scenery installed) just to see what sort of performance I was getting, and was the i7 as good as it claims to be. The frame rates were astounding: I was getting over 300fps!

This was not a momentary spike either as was confirmed by several checks during the flight. This was achieved by just using the settings that FSX calculated to be the best for my new system, but even when I started installing add-ons and adjusting the settings I was still getting 40+ fps sat on the ground in the iFly 737 at EGLL with 65% AI running.

Even though I have a large 1.5 TB hard drive to install add-ons onto, I have only installed the ones which I am going to regularly use. After each time I have installed something new I perform a full system de fragmentation using Ultimate Defrag to keep the hard drive running optimally. I usually set this going when I have finished with the PC for that day and let it auto shut down when complete.

After using the system now for the past 2 months it hasn't caused me a single problem. Admittedly with it being so powerful it has been a lot easier to find the sweet spot to get FSX running as I want, but I still have a few different scenery settings saved for different scenarios so that I can get the best out of it.

Whilst the system did not come cheap I am very happy with the price I paid for the service I received from Aquila. They listened to what I wanted and tailor made the system to suit me and my budget. If they hadn't contacted me I would never have used them because I'd not heard of them before and they didn't show up in any of my google searches, but now that I have used them I will gladly do so again in the future.

I'm not going to award a Mutley's Hangar score for this system primarily because if you throw enough money at a system you can build a fantastic machine. But for the service given and knowledge from Aquila they easily score 10/10.

If you are in the market for a new FSX System or system upgrade, please consider Aquila before going anywhere else.