- Review Price: £519.99
When we received Advent’s PQG9002 PC in the office, I was prepared to be moderately impressed. After all, a Quad Core Phenom backed by 4GB of RAM, a 640GB hard drive and an ATI Radeon 4350 for £519 might not be stellar, but would still appear to be decent value.
The first thing I did, being an inquisitive type, was to undo the screws and slide the left side panel off, which required a bit of force. This led to the discovery that the CPU’s fan draws in air from outside through a plastic heat-tunnel attached to the left panel, a nice touch that worked well when I encountered a similar shroud on the Dell Studio XPS.
Good points continued with a passively-cooled Foxconn motherboard, fanless Radeon 4350 graphics card, and a competent-looking CoolerMaster fan over the Phenom X4 9150e (which runs at a modest 1.8GHz). At this stage you’re probably thinking what I was: the PQG9002 is going to be one very quiet machine, despite its extra 80mm case fan and 80mm PSU fan.
Unfortunately, any such illusions were immediately dispelled when I switched the PC on. And not just for me either; people on the other side of the office were wondering aloud who had turned the air-conditioning on. To put it simply, this small, innocent-looking PC is the loudest non-gaming machine we’ve had through the labs in years, and it appears that the CoolerMaster fan, of all things, is mostly to blame.
Nor do the PQG9002’s problems end there. Advent has only made the barest of token gestures at cable tidying, though to be fair it’s nothing that will affect air-flow. Getting the side panel back on the case is also a major pain, and requires a lot of experimenting before you get the ‘trick’, something more suited to a Chinese puzzle than a PC.
If you could stick the Advent’s noise you might think this would be an okay base system which you could upgrade later on, but though there are plenty of free drive bays (one free 5.25in bay, one external 3.5in and four internal ones) and even a bit of motherboard expansion (one PCI and one PCIe x4), you can’t upgrade the RAM because both slots are filled, and the generic 350W power supply won’t handle a powerful graphics card.
Admittedly this is not a system aimed at the kind of consumer who would upgrade, so let’s take a look at the peripherals. The keyboard is a matte black PS2 model with a completely bog-standard layout, lacking even basic multimedia controls like volume. The keys are quiet but rather mushy so if you do plan on doing a lot of typing, you’ll want to replace this keyboard straight away.
The optical ambidextrous mouse is a lot better. First of all it’s USB rather than PS2 and its shape is fairly comfortable, while the combination of matte and gloss black plastic isn’t too unattractive. Its two-way rubberised scroll wheel is also quite comfortable, and offers notched feedback so you could even use it for some light gaming. Both of the mouse’s main buttons have a nice positive spring, but the wheel’s click is a bit stiff.
Back to the PC, and sitting behind the sliding brushed-metal panel on the machine’s front – one of the few really classy touches – is a memory card reader that will take all the popular formats, two USB ports plus headphone and microphone jacks. Above this is the DVD-Rewriter while below it resides a large power button that’s nicely backlit in blue when the machine is turned on. Below this again is a small but far too easily-pressed reset button.
Around the back is a basic selection of connections including two PS2 and four USB ports, an Ethernet connection and three analogue 3.5mm audio jacks – no sign of eSATA here. VGA, DVI and HDMI outputs are provided by the video card, and Advent definitely deserves some praise for covering the motherboard’s integrated VGA and DVI ports with removable rubber seals to prevent confusion for the less tech-savvy consumer.
Getting back to specifications, the 1.8GHz Phenom X4 9150e is one of AMD’s low-power quad-core CPUs, with the ‘e’ denoting a maximum thermal envelope of 65W. This TDP is matched on Intel’s side by its ‘S’ series of Core 2 Quads, though its lowest-clocked Q8200S runs at 2.33GHz and thus performs significantly better (depending on the application) despite costing only slightly more at retail. This is not to say the 9150e is a slouch, mind you, and it will certainly handle everything the average consumer would care to throw at it.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the passively-cooled ATI Radeon 4350. While it will do a great job of decoding and enhancing high definition video and should be able to handle old games, relatively modern titles leave it struggling severely. In Call of Duty 4 – hardly the most demanding of games even at maximum detail – it produced a measly 13 frames per second (fps) at 1,920 x 1,080, and we had to bump things down to 1,024 x 768 to get a remotely playable 26fps.
Of course, 4GB of DDR2 RAM is perfectly sufficient, especially since the included version of Windows Vista Home Premium is 32-bit and thus can’t even use that much. The 640GB WD Caviar Blue hard drive with 32MB of cache is also reasonable, for though it’s not too difficult to find budget systems sporting 1TB (1,000GB) drives, 500GB is more common. Certainly for this PC’s intended market it’s more than adequate. Things are rounded out by a Samsung SpeedPlus DVD-Rewriter on the hardware front.
Advent’s choice of installed software is fairly common. We have the usual suspects like Adobe Reader and Google Toolbar, a 60-day trial of Microsoft’s Office and Works SE 9.0. As some of you might already know, the ‘SE’ designation means you’ll get ads while performing any task within Works, but as long as you have a screen with a resolution that’s higher than 1,024 x 768 they’re fairly unobtrusive. Also worth a mention is the detailed and well-illustrated manual, which should make setting the PC up manageable for anyone.
Overall then, how does the £520 Advent PQG9002 hold up in the value stakes? Well, quite frankly, I wouldn’t even bother caring, as only those who are hard of hearing will get a moment’s peace with this turned on. To top things off, it’s not even cheaper than the competition.
Dell, for example, offers largely the same specification on its Inspiron 546 (including 4GB of RAM, a 640GB HDD, Radeon 4350, a card reader and USB peripherals) plus a superior 2.4GHz Phenom X4 9750 for only £484 including delivery, and if you can still find it or a similar model, Medion’s Akoya-P36888 will not only get you a Core 2 Quad, but a 1TB hard drive, TV Tuner with remote and Blu-ray drive into the bargain for under £500.
Advent’s PQG9002 should be a really silent PC, but due to some unfortunate choices it’s one of the noisiest machines around. Considering it’s also not exactly well-built and the competition offers more for less, there’s very little to like here.
Score in detail
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