Sound wise Evesham has gone for a Creative Audigy 2 ZS sound card, despite the fact that the motherboard offers 7.1-channel integrated audio. This also offers both optical and coaxial outputs, so you can switch to that if preferred. Hooking up to the Audigy is a set of Creative T7900 7.1 speakers, which offer reasonable mid-range sound output.
For a display Evesham has chosen an LCD screen that was good in parts. I mean this quite literally as the panel displayed a reddish tinge across one part of the screen. However, we had another example of the same monitor in for review and it didn’t exhibit the same fault – in fact the other model was so good that it walked away with a Recommended Award. The screen is a ViewSonic VP171-2, a 17in model with a 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. The record low 8ms response time makes this a good gamers’ screen but at the same time the resolution means that you won’t be able to make the most of the power of SLi available. A larger higher resolution monitor would have been preferable but inevitably the sensible price point Evesham has hit is the limiting factor. That said, the sweet spot right now definitely seems to be 1,280 x 1,024 with all the image enhancing features cranked up – and the combination of SLi and ViewSonic screen make the most of that.
Finally there’s the keyboard and mouse – a wireless Microsoft set. The keyboard is bolstered by a plethora of handy shortcuts and hot keys but the wheel on the mouse is bulky and has an unpleasant plastic feel. That aside, a wireless combo just doesn’t feel right for a gaming system – personally I can’t play games with a wireless mouse, and most of the TR team agree. However, specifying a wired mouse is only likely to reduce the cost, so it shouldn’t be an issue.
As for performance, the scores reflect the politics on the graphics card market as much as the technology. In Half-Life 2 even SLi can’t match an ATI Radeon X850XT PE, which storms ahead at all resolutions. In Doom 3 however, nVidia’s SLi takes a commanding lead, though not to the same extent.
Far Cry is perhaps a fairer test in that its development isn’t closely linked to one of the two companies, and here SLi comfortably doubles the score of the X850XT PE. In 3DMark03 and 3DMark05 the Evesham SLi system turns in bigger numbers than the X850 though interestingly the tests failed to complete at higher resolution with FSAA and AF enabled, further proof of driver teething troubles. It’s also worth mentioning that the X850 XT PE was benchmarked with an Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.4GHz.
Ultimately, Evesham has built an impressively fast machine based on the latest technology, but somehow managed to keep the price down to an affordable level. If you’ve been holding out for an affordable SLi PC, your wait is over.
The Evesham Duel SLi shows that SLi can be built into an affordable system. It’s not a fully loaded luxury lined box, but the only real compromises that might give cause for second thoughts are the limited screen size and the sheer noise of the machine. But considering the affordable price, it’s pretty much impossible not to recommend the Duel SLi.
When this review was originally posted the price was quoted as £1,399 inc VAT, but Evesham contacted TrustedReviews to say that a mistake had been made and the price should have been £1,399 ex VAT (£1,644 inc VAT). As such, the scores have been adjusted accordingly, but even with the higher price, we still feel that the Duel SLi deserves a Recommended Award.