- Review Price: £2099.00
If you’re in the market for a pre-built PC, Mesh is definately a company that deserves consideration, if only for the fact that it exists. What I mean by this is that Dell’s dominance is such that Mesh has done well just to still be here, when over the last ten years, so many PC builders have gone to the wall. Clearly it must be doing something right. However, I wasn’t completely blown away by the X-treme FX-60.
When a system costs over £2,000 you’d expect something special and there’s certainly a lot of impressive hardware in this system. The housing is fairly standard though, with no funky blue lights and other distinctive design features of note, but the silver and black colouring is perfectly inoffensive. However, when holding down the power button it once got stuck inside the case, and the reset button can only be accessed with something like a pen nip, which I find frustrating.
I’m also not completely convinced that the mix of components is right. There’s no doubting the credentials of the AMD Athlon 64 FX-60 that’s at the heart of the system. Running at 2.6GHz, this is the fastest dual-core processor that AMD currently offers, coming in 200MHz faster than the X2 4800+. Both offer 1MB of Level 2 cache for each core, and aside from the clock speeds the difference is that AMD’s FX range is multiplier unlocked. This enables enthusiasts to overclock without having to adjust memory or HyperTransport speeds. It’s simply a case of changing the multiplier and seeing how far the system will go.
This is a good thing in the case of this system as Mesh has only fitted standard PC3200, which isn’t really suitable for overclocking. On the upside 2GB is installed over two DIMMs, leaving two slots free for moving up to 4GB. It’s known that with 4GB fitted the integrated memory controller in the Athlon 64 can only run the memory at the slower 2T setting. However, this system proved to have problms with 1T even with two DIMMs. When we ran PCMark 05, we found that the Mesh locking up in the memory test. When we dropped down to 2T it ran without problems. The fact that it completed our game benchmarks with 1T though indicates that you’d be unlikely to have any issues with most games, but it could be a problem in some cases and that’s a worry. We also found that SYSmark kept locking up, preventing us from getting a score.
The motherboard is an Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe. This is a decent board but doesn’t feature the silent cooling as used on the Asus A8N-Premium or the Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe x16, which we looked at here and here respectively. The main downside to this is the noise from the fan sitting over the Northbridge. As its so small it runs very fast and actually makes more noise than the two GeForce 7800 GT cards. The tonal level makes it quite distracting. The two cards are the next noisiest followed by the CPU cooler. You’ve also got a rear 120mm fan and there’s an 80mm fan at the side of the case too. Obviously, there’s also a fan in the PSU. That’s a lot of fans and there’s no getting away from the fact that this is one noisy system as a result.
The two graphics card supplied are from Leadtek and are running at stock speeds, 400MHz for the core and 1GHz for the memory, so you’d probably want to experiment with overclocking. Below the graphics card is Creative’s finest in the form of an X-Fi offering 7.1 channels of sound and CMSS 3D headphone technology for that sense of extra immersion when playing on headphones. Mesh has included a set of 7.1 Creative speakers. These is a smart looking set with a volume control dongle that can be left on the desk. They’re not the most powerful speakers in the world though at eight Watts RMS per channel but they’re good enough to get you involved in the game.
The hard disks are also doubled up – with both a 300GB and a 200GB drive, both from Maxtor. The former has 16MB of cache and the latter has 8MB. Both spin at 7,200rpm. As you would imagine considering the disparity in size, they’re not RAIDed with the 300GB drive set up as the C partition and the 200GB as the D. This makes sense but for a two grand system a super fast Raptor wouldn’t have gone amiss.
There are also two optical drives, both from Sony, one a DVD-ROM and one a DVD-Writer, handy for direct disc-to-disc burning. The latter is capable of burning dual-layer DVD+R s at 8-speed and dual layer DVD-R at 4-speed.
As this is a complete system Mesh has supplied at 20in widescreen TFT monitor. This is Viewsonic branded and has a native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050. Widescreen is definitely the way to go, so it’s a good choice, though game’s developers need to hurry up and provide widescreen resolutions as standard in all titles. Style wise the Viewsonic takes some getting used to with a somewhat dated looked chassis with a row of silver buttons at the base. Speakers are also built in, though you’d be unlikely to use them instead of the supplied Creatives or a set of headphones with the X-Fi. The response time is given as 8ms, which should satisfy most. Image quality was fine. There’s no high contrast coating and the image isn’t the most vivid I’ve seen but it’s sharp, clear and easy to live with.
As this monitor is supplied with the system we limited the resolutions that we tested with to 1,280 x 1,024 and the native resolution. As this is the first time we’ve run our new suite of tests on a PC and SYSmark failed to run it’s not possible make any direct comparisons save for 3DMark 05 and PCMark 05. In the former, the Mesh at 1,280 x 1,024 with 4x FSAA and 8x AF achieved 8,868, whereas the four and a half-grand Alienware Aurora 7500, stuffed with an FX-60 and two 7800 GTX 512 cards hit 11,563. Of course the other advantage of the Alienware was that it was much quieter, even though it used the same motherboard, in no small part due to its massive case, but then again it does cost around £4,206.09, which is officially insane.
The Logitech keyboard and mouse supplied are both wireless, which is helps declutter the desktop, but I still wouldn’t trust a wireless mouse for a gaming, especially as this isn’t one of Logitech’s faster response time laser mice.
As you would expect from the components the Mesh performs very well in our test suite delivering around 60fps in Counter-Strike: Source at the display’s native resolution with FSAA and AF enabled, 105fps average in Quake 4 and a decent 50.4fps in the demanding Call of Duty 2. However, I think the choice of an FX-60 makes no sense in this system. The only reason to supply one over an X2 is that it’s easily overclockable but that doesn’t tally with the bog standard RAM and the stock heatsink. The 200MHz stock advantage over a 4800+ hardly seems worth the extra cost, especially considering that the FX-60 costs over £700 inc VAT (!) at retail.
The killer for me though is simply the noise. I am fortunate enough to have a SLI 7800 GT system at home, and it’s noisy but its still quieter than this Mesh. If I spent over £2,000 on a PC I wouldn’t be happy with this much noise. This is espeically true if you’re just using Windows and not using the speakers or headphones. Using the Asus SLI Premium motherboard and fitting a quieter CPU cooler would have been great improvments, and going for a cheaper CPU would have more than paid for it.
Mesh has filled this system with great components and the performance is there, but the balance isn’t right in places. The FX-60 is a misguided choice considering the choice of memory, graphics cards and display and it’s also too noisy to live with on a day to day basis.
Score in detail
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