Back in the early days of home computing there were a plethora of UK based PC manufacturers and system builders competing for your hard earned cash. Over the years many of them merged or were bought out by larger competitors, while others were just rubbish and rightly went the way of the dodo. However, one manufacturer has managed to stay competitive and independent after all these years.
Evesham Technology is a UK based manufacturer of desktop/server/workstation computers and notebooks as well as a reseller of miscellaneous peripherals and electronics items including sat-nav, headphones, and, LCD TVs. We receive a steady stream of its computers for review, including the first Vista PC we ever reviewed, and they’ve consistently proved a solid option for everyone from the budget constrained student to the gaming enthusiast – and that’s not to mention to the servers and notebooks. Well, today we have one of its newest systems in for review, the Solar 8600GTS.
As you may have guessed, the 8600 GTS in the Solar’s name refers to the graphics card which it uses and also gives you a clue as to its projected market – gamers on a budget. This assertion is backed up by the inclusion of an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 (2.13GHz, 2MB cache, 1,066MHz FSB) CPU coupled with 2GB DDR2 RAM running at 667MHz - both midrange components. Altogether these components should be capable of playing any current games at 1,680 x 1,050 (the native resolution of the included monitor) and will be able to keep up with any games that come out within the next couple of years. Rounding off the raw specifications is a 320GB hard drive, multi format dual-layer DVD writer, a set of Creative Inspire 3100 speakers, a cordless Logitech mouse and keyboard, and the aforementioned 22in monitor all included for the £899 asking price. Notable by their absence, however, are any Windows Media Center extras like a remote or TV tuner card; further emphasising the gaming, rather than multimedia, leanings of this PC.
The entire Solar range comes with a choice of three chassis', a silver and black mini tower, a 'sleek design' mini tower, and a sleek design midi tower all of which are the same price. The one I have here is the silver and black mini tower. The case is made from steel rather than lighter aluminium, as would be expected for a budget system, and is finished with a thin coat of tough black paint. The front fascia is all black plastic with some painted silver highlights. Across the bottom of the fascia are two inset strips that provide some ventilation for the lower part of the case. Two USB, one Firewire, and 3.5mm jack sockets for microphone and headphones can be found about half way up the front of the case - always a good place, as some people like to have these at the top while others prefer at the bottom, having them in the middle is a good compromise. The left side of the case houses two grills for added ventilation above the expansion ports and CPU. On the back things are pretty sparse - due to the lack of an additional sound card or tuner card - but there are still a few notable additions. First is the inclusion of a 120mm fan to suck air out the back of the case, this ensures the most airflow for the least noise. The second is a key lock that locks the removable side panel in place, which is always useful if you're taking your computer to a LAN event or other public gathering.
Moving inside the case we again see it's quite bare but, of course, that means plenty of room for future expansion. The hard drive cage is removable and the front fascia has easy release tabs so upgrading is made slightly easier still. The motherboard is the same as the one in the previous Evesham we looked at, the Evesham Solar Storm 731. It is the Foxconn P9657AA-8EKRS2H, which is built around the P965+ICH8R chipset and has one PCIe x16 slot, six SATA II ports, one eSATA port, onboard HD audio, Gigabit Ethernet, and, Firewire support. The 2GB system memory comes courtesy of two 1GB memory modules so there are two spare slots available if 2GB proves too little.