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9/10

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Mesh Matrix Fireblade TRX - SLi PC

With PCs becoming pretty much commodity items in recent times, a machine has to be something special to attract interest. You’ve either got to be small and cute like the Apple Mac mini, or something with serious gaming power – such as the Mesh Matrix Fireblade TRX.

This is the second SLi system we’ve looked at, the first being the Evesham Duel SLi. While the Evesham was a full system with monitor and speakers, Mesh has gone for the headless approach and hasn’t shipped a screen, though the company will happily sell you one if you wish. The Evesham was based on a pair of GeForce 6800GT graphics cards, whereas this Mesh makes do with a set of 6600GTs, sacrificing ultimate performance for significant cost savings. Nevertheless, the fact that Mesh has been able to offer a system as well featured as this one, while still giving you change from £1,000 is impressive. Admittedly it’s only 1p change, but it can go towards the £39 delivery charge which is somewhat on the steep side.

Processor wise, Mesh has gone for a 3800+ Athlon 64, compared to the 3500+ seen in the more expensive Evesham. This pays a dividend on the 2D scores, generating higher SYSmark 2004 results.

The motherboard is the Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe, which is pretty much a fully featured board. Based on the nForce4 SLi chipset this offers all the goodies nVidia has on offer, such as ActiveArmour and support for 3GB/sec SATA with four connectors coming off the native chipset. There’s also a Silicon Image controller offering another four RAID supporting ports. In addition, there are two EIDE controllers integrated onto the board. This means that the RAID configurations include RAID 0, 1, 0+1, RAID5 and JBOD if spanning cross SATA and PATA. Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of hard disk potential. However, I’m not sure this would be the best case for it as first, there wouldn’t be enough drive bays, and cooling would become an issue - but more of that later.

There are four DIMM slots, two of which Mesh has filled with two 512MB sticks of PC3200 DDR RAM, giving 1GB of total system memory. So you could have up to 2GB in the current configuration, with a maximum of 4GB if you ditched the two 512MB DIMMs.

At the back of the system are four integrated USB 2.0 ports. Attached to headers on the motherboard are two more at the front and another two located on a bracket. There’s also an integrated FireWire port and another coming off a header.

There are actually two Ethernet ports on the motherboard, one offering nVidia’s nForce4 ActiveArmor and Firewall protection features, while the other comes courtesy the Marvell Yukon controller.

Unlike Evesham, Mesh has decided not to double up with both integrated audio and a dedicated sound card. The integrated sound is based on a Realtek ALC850 chip and offers eight-channel audio. And if you need a digital connection, there are both coaxial and optical SP/DIF outputs.


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