- Review Price: £823.45
Mesh PCs have a pretty good track record here at TrustedReviews, with all the systems we’ve looked at recently (such as the Mesh Xtreme GTX300) winning themselves Recommended Awards through sheer value for money. And at a mere £799 (£823.45 including delivery) for a system sporting a Black Edition AMD Phenom II X4 955 BE CPU, 4GB of RAM, a Radeon 4870, Blu-ray drive and Full HD 22in monitor to get the best from them, the Matrix II 955BE Hush looks like it might do it again. The only thing that’s missing is a decent set of speakers, unless you’re planning on putting up with the monitor’s poor inbuilt efforts, which we really wouldn’t recommend.
Starting off with the least interesting bit, the peripherals are the same ones that Mesh has been bundling with its desktops as far back as the G92 Pulse Pro in 2007. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, as at least this Logitech branded set is better than a lot of the junk that often comes with PCs. For one thing, both the mouse and keyboard – or rather, their wireless dongle – are USB. For another their matte black finish actually looks okay, and apparently an optical sensor on the mouse is something to be grateful for since only recently we had a PC in that came with a ball-mouse!
Despite this, the peripherals are only the best of a bad bunch: the keyboard isn’t exactly pleasant to hold extended typing sessions on, with noisy keys and uncertain feedback. The ambidextrous mouse is likewise not the most comfortable shape around, though its buttons work well – as does its four-way notched scroll-wheel. The dongle, finally, is large and clunky: a far cry from the sleek little efforts on more modern sets such as Microsoft’s Wireless Desktop 3000.
Mesh’s choice of monitor is slightly more inspired, with the award-winning Iiyama ProLite E2208HDS making for a competent choice. Admittedly a lot has changed since we reviewed it and it would now score lower, but it’s still a fairly decent TN-panel screen and about the best you can expect for the Matrix II’s price.
It’s certainly not lacking in resolution, sporting a Full HD badge in a film-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio to let you make the most of the computer’s Blu-ray drive. Style isn’t this Iiyama’s strongest point, but nevertheless its glossy black bezel and blue power LED match the Mesh’s piano-black case with its blue front lighting quite nicely.
As is usual with cheap TN monitors the E2208HDS doesn’t offer much in terms of adjustability, and also hooking up a console might pose a problem as this monitor doesn’t have an HDMI connection – for that you need to move up to one of the 24in models Mesh offers with its PCs, a £60 upgrade.
In terms of image quality, again it’s about what you would expect. There’s slight backlight bleed, the monitor has trouble handling subtle shadow detail and darker shades tend to have a slight colour tint to them, but it will still gives you a decent experience if you’re not particularly picky. If you’d like a little more detail on its looks, build and performance, please see the full review.
Getting onto the core of this Mesh system, the PC itself is an attractive unit thanks to the sculpted lines of its NZXT Hush case. NZXT is a well-established player in the PC case market, so we’re expecting good things here.
Aside from its front the Hush’s look is restrained, with its steel side panels and top featuring no ripples, waves or other embellishments, and no fan openings either which is not a great sign for performance but certainly adheres to the case’s emphasis on silence.
The Hush’s front door, meanwhile, does almost everything right. It only goes two-thirds of the way down, so it shouldn’t catch on the floor the way my Antec P180’s full-length door does and the action is super smooth. The hinges are also mostly metal, with just the door-side attachments being plastic, so it should be reasonably sturdy. The panel set into the door is a fetching brushed black metal, subtly lit by a blue glow from both a vertical LED strip and the front 120mm fan.
One minor downside is that both power and reset buttons are hidden if the case is stood on the floor, and since they are similarly-sized and close together you could easily press the wrong one. Another small issue is that the solid door covers part of the front mounted fan, which could have been alleviated by adding a grill or some other air channel in the door.
Unfortunately there’s no sign of eSATA on the case’s front or back, but other connectivity is abundant. The Matrix II 955BE Hush offers headphone and microphone jacks, a FireWire and two USB ports (a bit too close together) on the right side. Set into the one of the free 3.5in drive bays is a memory card reader for every variant of CF, MD, SM, SD, MMC and MS card, and this also houses a third USB port.
At the back we find eight USB ports, two PS2 connections, standard and mini FireWire ports, Gigabit Ethernet, co-axial and optical digital audio outputs plus six analogue audio mini jacks. There are of course also the usual dual DVI and seven-pin DIN analogue video outputs courtesy of the ATI graphics card.
Opening the case up requires a screw-driver, where on a high-end model like this we would ideally like to see thumb-screws. However, there’s little reason for complaint on the Hush’s insides with plenty of room for air to circulate and all cables tidied away neatly. The majority of unobstructed areas are covered with noise-dampening foam, and fans are kept to a minimum with only two 120mm units; one at the front and one at the back.
Though its back-plates feature standard screws, the Hush’s four 5.25in and seven 3.5in bays all have tool-free clip systems which work brilliantly. Oddly, Mesh has elected to screw all the PC’s drives in the old-fashioned way and while this may arguably make them just a tad more secure, it also negates the noise-dampening effect of the rubber grommets fitted to the clips – not a good move Mesh.
The Mesh Matrix II 955BE Hush’s Gigabyte GA-MA770T-UD3P is a budget AM3 motherboard, using the 770 chipset rather than the higher-end 790 ones, but you can’t really tell from its looks. It has a nice blue PCB that goes well with that of the video card and sports a fancy blue heatsink. Features are where it has been curtailed a little, with the main caveat being the lack of CrossFireX – so you’re stuck with a single graphics card.
In terms of expansion there are two free PCI slots, three PCI Express x1 ones, four SATA ports and two free memory slots supporting DDR3 of speeds up to 1666Mhz.
The rest of the insides are dominated by an Akasa CPU cooler, whose fan presses down on the installed memory modules – so if you want to replace these generic sticks with DDR3 modules fitted with heat-spreaders you’ll have to remove the cooler first. Still, at least the cooler does a good job of keeping the 3.2GHz quad-core processor humming along at just below 50 degrees even under load, and it does so very quietly.
Things get even more interesting when overclocking. As you might know, AMD’s Black Edition (BE) CPUs are very overclock-friendly thanks to their unlocked multipliers. Popping into Gigabyte’s excellent BIOS, under its MIT (which stands for Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker) you can easily adjust all the overclocking parameters, and raising the multiplier to 18x gave a quick and easy overclock to 3.6GHz with CPU temperature never exceeding 55 degrees and case temperature marginally up from 45 to 47 degrees. We didn’t go to town on the overclocking front but these chips are easily capable of running at 3.8GHz and at a push 4GHz with a cooler like the one in this PC.
This excellent-value AMD processor is paired with an AMD ATI Radeon HD 4870 for handling the graphics (i.e. gaming) side of things and as an added bonus, the model Mesh has used here is an HIS – which, as the HIS 4670 IceQ Turbo we reviewed demonstrated, has a reputation for producing quieter cards than the stock-cooled equivalents.
It was quite shocking then to discover that the HIS HD4870 Fan (H487FN512) was actually the noisiest part of the PC by a long stretch! Without it active, the Matrix II 955BE Hush lives up to its name by producing a low, unobtrusive hum. With the card’s fan active though, it becomes quite a loud PC. We tried for quite a while to see if we could adjust the fan speed in some way but to no avail.
In terms of the Mesh’s gaming performance, while the 4870 was a very impressive card and received our prestigious Editor’s Award when we reviewed it, it is now over a year old and starting to show its age – plus the model we reviewed had double the RAM of the HIS card used here. Thus this 4870 won’t run Crysis at high resolutions with all the details turned up to ‘high’ (30fps at 1,680 x 1,050 was about the limit) as does its successor, the 4890, but it will still stomp its way through most other games without too much difficulty.
In Call of Duty 4, for example, the Matrix II 955BE Hush returned an average of 72 frames per second (fps) at 1,920 x 1,200 with details set to maximum and two samples of anti-aliasing (AA). The aforementioned overclock didn’t have too much of an effect on most games as this PC is limited by its graphics card rather than the CPU.
The rest of the Mesh’s specifications include 4GB of basic Samsung 1333MHz DDR3 RAM, fully used by a 64-bit version of Windows Vista Premium, and a fairly generous 750GB Samsung Spinpoint F1 HD753LJ hard drive with a 32MB buffer – both more than adequate for the average consumer.
At this price point the LG Blu-ray reader (which will also read the now defunct HD-DVD format and of course write to CD and DVD) is a great inclusion, helping to turn the Matrix II 955BE Hush into a well-rounded package for most of your entertainment needs. The only minor downer is that the non-modular generic 550W PSU Mesh has used is hardly likely to have high efficiency ratings.
Finally on the software front we have the usual additions such as a trial version of Microsoft Office and a full version of Works 8.5, Bullguard Internet Security (90 day trial) and the less usual, but welcome inclusion of Cyberlink’s OEM Video Editing Suite. Mesh’s RTB one-year warranty is nothing to write home about, though the company does offer a warranty upgrade of one year on-site plus two years RTB parts and labour as a £42.54 option.
Overall then we have a PC that, while not a stunner in any area, performs well across the board and generally uses quality components. Unfortunately one of those, the HIS graphics card, means the machine is far from quiet. It’s a pity too, since the £799 Matrix II 955BE represents excellent value for money – a similarly-configured system from Dell, for example, will set you back well over £1000 without a monitor. As long as you alleviate the noise issue by upgrading the graphics card to a 1GB HD4890 (which should cost around £30 when this configuration becomes available on Mesh’s website) this PC package is easy to recommend.
If you can get around the noise issue by upgrading the HIS graphics card, the Mesh Matrix II 955BE Hush offers excellent value and generally good performance, making it well worth considering for gamers on a budget.
Score in detail
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