So far we’ve only seen a few affordable Athlon 64 PCs, with the Multivision reviewed a few weeks ago offering the most compelling price. The Mesh Matrix64 3200+ Extreme is not as cheap as the Multivision system, but it does have some extras on offer.
As the name implies, the Matrix64 3200+ Extreme is based on the Athlon 64 3200+ processor. Along with the processor, 512MB of PC3200 DDR SDRAM has been fitted to an Asus K8V Deluxe motherboard, based on the VIA K8T800 chipset. There is a wide range of integrated features on the motherboard and Mesh has made the most out of them.
There is a pair of S-ATA connectors courtesy of the VIA southbridge, as well as integrated FireWire, 5.1-channel sound with optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs and onboard Gigabit Ethernet. This is a comprehensive set of features and there really nothing missing.
Most interesting is the two 120GB Maxtor hard drives that are connected to the onboard Promise S-ATA/IDE RAID controller. This gives you a total drive capacity of 240GB and amazingly fast hard drive performance in PCMark 2002.
A Sony DVD writer capable of handling DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW media as well as CD-R/RW and a Sony DVD-ROM drive is also fitted. The Sony DVD writer is however a slightly older model, so you can’t write DVD+R or +RW media at four-speed.
What makes this machine a bit special is its graphics card, as it’s one of the new nVidia FX5700Ultra cards. Although a reference card was included with this review system, retail machines would feature production cards. The FX5700Ultra is an excellent mainstream card that will run most popular games at more than adequate speed and it’s a huge improvement on the FX5600Ultra. It will also beat the Radeon 9600XT in most benchmarks and games, which is a real feat by nVidia.
A 17in NEC TFT display is also provided, which appears to be a much better display than the 18in units supplied by Mesh in the past. It’s less bulky and the stand feels a lot sturdier and even the picture quality appears to be much better. As both the graphics card and monitor features a DVI connector it’s great to see that Mesh supplies a DVI cable to connect the two together.
Other accessories include a set of Creative Labs Inspire 6700 6.1-channel speakers as well as a Logic3 joystick and game pad. The joystick and game pad are both of mediocre quality and I would’ve preferred something a bit better here. The software package consists of a copy of Microsoft Works 7.0, Pinnacle Studio 8SE and three games – Splinter Cell, IL-2 Sturmovik and Championship Manager 4. All in all not a bad accessory bundle and it should at least get you started with your new PC.
Features wise, this is an excellent PC and the build quality is exemplary, which is exactly what I’d expect from Mesh. But what about performance? Well, there’s little to complain about here, as the system behaves in a very similar manner to the Multivision and Evesham Athlon 64 systems.
It performs well in SYSmark 2002 just beating the Multivision, but it’s not quite as fast as the Evesham. As expected in the 3D benchmarks the FX5700Ultra had no problem beating the FX5600Ultra in the Multivision and should be a fine choice for everyone apart from high-end gamers. It will also make an excellent base for a video editing system for the home enthusiast, especially if you own a DV camcorder that connects via FireWire.
Overall this is a well built PC that comes with everything you would expect; however the price is just a little too high and that costs Mesh a Recommended Award. At over £1,500 including VAT the Mesh is over £200 more expensive than the Multivision. Of course the Mesh does come with a better graphics card and some other extra features, but even so the price difference is too great.
It doesn’t come cheap, but the Mesh Matrix64 3200+ Extreme offers great performance, massive amounts of hard drive space and solid future proofing. If you feel that the asking price meets your budget, this is an excellent PC that should last for quite some time.