Moving inside the case, everything is well laid out and there is plenty of room to spare. There are no sharp edges and there are even a few little extras like screw-less 5.25in drive mounts (with a holder for spare mounts in the bottom of the case), a removable hard disk rack and an easy open front panel. Cable routing is adequate and while its done tidily enough to help with airflow throughout the case, it’s by no means a masterpiece of organisation.
One hard disk is included with the system and there is room for three more (one in the hard disk rack and two just below the 5.25in bays) so your upgrade path is clear all the way up to a RAID 5, if you felt so inclined.
Speaking of which, the motherboard is capable of supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, and, 0+1 and includes six SATA ports to choose from. The motherboard is the Foxconn P9657AA-8EKRS2H, which is a very capable board based on the P965+ICH8R chipset. It also includes one eSATA port, onboard HD audio, Gigabit Ethernet, and, Firewire. Memory comes via two 512 MB DIMMs, which leaves two slots free to add more memory at a later date.
The included Logitech Deluxe 650 Cordless Desktop mouse and keyboard are wireless. However, they don’t come with a charger so you’ll need to keep a supply of spare batteries ready for when they randomly cut-out – and it will be random as there’s no software installed that would give any indication of battery level. They are both responsive and perfectly usable but are definitely towards the budget end of the spectrum and I would’ve preferred to see the extra few pounds spent on better quality wired input devices. I also feel I must point out the ugliness of the Vista start logo on the windows key of the keyboard, though, it really is awful.
Unfortunately the Creative iTrigue 3220 speakers don’t improve the peripheral situation as they also suffer from being generally poor quality. They certainly look the part but unfortunately don’t play the part. On their own, the satellite speakers are completely devoid of any midrange. Try and balance them by turning up the sub-woofer and you just add distorted thudding bass to the mix. They would be adequate for casual gaming or listening to low quality mp3s but anything more demanding really shows their weaknesses.
Thankfully, the monitor goes a long way towards making up for the system’s other misgivings. It’s a 20inch widescreen from Viewsonic that has a native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050 and, in terms of features, is identical to it’s bigger 22inch brother the VG2230WM. Performance was good with sharp text and full and even colours.
Finishing off the hardware side of things, a Media Center remote and IR receiver are included. So, you’re only a decent TV signal away from Media Center heaven – yes I am a fan of the whole Media Center concept.
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