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Mesh Xtreme GTX300 - Mesh Xtreme GTX300
At the GTX300's back there's an even better selection on offer: six USB ports, another e-SATA and FireWire, a handy PS2 port for a keyboard if your BIOS is having trouble with USB models, and a selection of analogue and digital audio ports made redundant by those on the X-Fi Gamer dedicated soundcard.
The goodness continues on the inside, where CoolerMaster has made installation of a lot of the components tool-free. There are five plastic hard drive caddies which slide in and out smoothly, and five 5.25in optical drive bays with a simple switch for retention. Expansion cards are also held in with plastic clips, which work rather better than those I've come across on many other systems. If you do really want the security of screws though, there are plenty included.
Aside from the glowing fan at the front, there are a further two 120mm fans, one in the removable side panel and one at the back drawing hot air away from the CPU. If that's not enough for you, there are mounts for four more 120mm fans. Mesh has done a good job on the GTX300's insides, with all cables neatly bound together and routed out of the way.
Getting onto components, they're again generally impressive. A CoolerMaster SilentPro modular 700W PSU provides plenty of juice for the various bits, most of which are seated in an ASUS M3A32-MVP Deluxe 790FX CrossFire X motherboard. Like the very similar Asus M3A32-MVP WiFi-AP Deluxe, there is plenty of copper heatpipe cooling, although there is still a standing fan which I feel Mesh could have left out since the fins it cools are right next to one of the case fans.
For the processor, Mesh has made the somewhat unusual choice of going for an AMD chip (it'd have a hard time fitting an Intel CPU in an AMD board - Ed.). I say unusual because most gaming machines we get in use Intel Core 2 Duo processors, which usually trump Phenoms by a large margin. However, this system uses a Phenom 9950, which is essentially a 9850 Black Edition but a whole 100MHz faster. The 'Black Edition' moniker refers to the fact the CPUs clock multiplier is unlocked, which gives you many more options for overclocking - something that will be made easier by the use of a copper based Akasa AK-876 heatpipe CPU cooler, which gives a nice balance between noise and cooling performance.
So, while the Phenom 9950 might not be the most impressive processor for gaming, you should be able to tweak it a fair amount to bump up its performance. Also, by saving money on the CPU Mesh has been able to keep the rest of the GTX 300s specifications pretty nice for the money.
The CPU is backed by 4GB of good old 800MHz DDR2 RAM, which is plenty for any game or application, and this is complemented by the, fast becoming essential, 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium.
Meanwhile, the generous 1TB storage is provided by the inclusion of a 1Terabyte Samsung SpinPoint hard drive with a 32MB buffer. SpinPoint's not only perform well when it comes to speed, but also offer excellent thermal and noise performance, so again it's a great choice, and with that kind of capacity even the largest game collections should fit.