There are obviously some corners that have to be cut and the graphics card is the most obvious one. Filling the AGP slot is a Radeon 9600XT from Connect3D with 128MB of onboard memory. This is in no way a cutting edge graphics solution, but it will still play all but the latest games. The monitor is another area that often suffers from cost cutting with budget PCs, but the 17in Sharp TFT that Mesh has supplied is a far better display than I had expected to see. If there’s one issue with this screen it’s the lack of DVI input, but the picture is still clean and crisp through an analogue D-SUB connector.
On the plus side, the Sharp monitor has built-in speakers – handy if you like a clean and tidy desktop. If however you’re looking for a better audio experience, Mesh also bundles a set of Creative Labs Inspire P5800 5.1-channel speakers, so you’ll be able to watch DVDs in full surround as long as you have enough space to set all the speakers up.
The final few parts worth mentioning are the 56K V.90 modem – in case you don’t have broadband yet, and a Logitech keyboard and optical mouse. The software bundle is thin, with only a copy of Microsoft Works 8.0 in the box, but at least it will get you started.
Strangely Mesh has included a rear mounted 120mm fan inside the system case – this is odd because there is no real need for the extra cooling since the Sempron 3100+ doesn’t run as hot as the Athlon 64 processors and the fan will only add extra noise to the system. However, it does of course mean you’re ready for future upgrades without fear of overheating.
In terms of performance the Mesh Matrix S3100 Plus came out a couple of points slower in SYSMark 2004 than when I had one of these chips in a test rig a couple of weeks back. However, this is to be expected as the test rig used 1GB of memory which would account for an extra point or two. With a score of 144 the Matrix S3100 Plus is still a good performer and by far the fastest budget PC we have tested to date. The 3D scores are unremarkable but most games should still be playable at 1,024 x 768 resolution as you can see from the graphs, although it did struggle in Doom3 and 3DMark05.
So how cheap is the Matrix S3100 Plus? Well, it’s not the cheapest PC around, but at £799 inc VAT it’s a cracking deal. Of course you need to factor in £45.83 for delivery, but you can collect the machine directly from Mesh and save yourself that cost. You also get a two year on-site warranty with the third year return to base. The warranty covers all the hardware so it should offer piece of mind to nervous first time buyers. It’s hard to fault the Mesh Matrix S3100 Plus, it’s a great little machine at a very reasonable price.
The Matrix S3100 Plus is an excellent PC for the money. Despite the low price, Mesh hasn’t cut too many corners and has produced a machine worthy of a Recommended award.