MV Cubik GamePro 1GB review
Small-form-factor (SFF) PCs are coming of age of late. Last month’s group test saw a group of machines able to run the latest games at playable frame rates, even at 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. This month we see a SFF PC from MV that walks all over our intense 3D benchmarks.
MV isn’t shy about declaring its intentions with this system; the GamePro naming has nothing to do with this magazine. Rather, it refers to the powerful GeForce 6800 GT card from Inno3D nestling in the Shuttle SFN95G5’s AGP slot. With space at a premium, SFF systems generally exclude double-height graphics cards, so this is one of the fastest GPUs you’ll see in an SFF case.
MV has taken advantage of the Socket 939 motherboard by supplying a matched pair of 512MB Corsair PC3200 RAM modules. With both sockets full, you’ll have to replace this RAM rather than augment it; though you won’t need to do this for the foreseeable future as the GamePro raced through our benchmarks.
We suspect the Athlon 64 3500+ processor limited Unreal Tournament 2004 to ‘only’ 63fps (1,280 x 1,024 resolution), as Halo wasn’t much slower (56fps). Even the DirectX 9-based games Doom 3 and Far Cry proved no problem. Using maximum detail at the monitor’s native 1,280 x 1,024 resolution Far Cry ran at 51fps, while Doom 3 ran at 53fps at the same resolution with high detail settings. These scores arehugely impressive for such a small system. The GamePro won’t leave you twiddling your thumbs when working either, with our application benchmarks scoring a stomping 2.27.
With all these high-power components we were concerned with the potential for overheating, so we looped our Doom 3 benchmark overnight to test the cooling powers of the GamePro. And we were impressed to see it still demon-hunting away merrily when we came back the next day. Noise is minimal too, as the single 92mm fan is SmartFan controlled. Connected to the CPU with heatpipes, it’s rear-mounted and sucks air through the case’s side vents and over the system’s innards.
As with all SFF systems there’s little scope for expansion. The only practical option, apart from the four USB ports, is using the free PCI slot. With onboard controllers for gigabit LAN, six-channel audio and FireWire (providing for a front mini-FireWire, and a rear full-size port), and the 7-in-4 media card reader, the obvious choice is a TV tuner to turn the GamePro into a media centre. MV will add a Black Gold digital tuner, plus Windows Media Center Edition 2005 and the remote, for an extra £126.
While the 250GB Hitachi Deskstar 7K250 is large enough to hold plenty of games and office files, TV recordings could fill it rapidly. Usefully, MV has included a DVD writer from Sony to alleviate the pressure on the hard disk’s capacity. The DW-D22A drive will even write to dual-layer DVD – handy for comprehensive backups.
Whether or not you choose to take the Media Center upgrade, the GamePro has a great display. The 17in Sharp LL-172G-B is our A-Listed TFT monitor, offering superb image quality and colour handling. The height-adjustable stand and sturdy base make it practical in use too. As with all TFTs there’s a certain amount of lag, though the 16ms response time keeps this to a minimum. When gaming and watching DVDs, the experience is almost equal to that of a high-quality CRT, and at a quarter of the size.
Sound output is handled by the gorgeous Creative i-Trigue 3400 2.1 set. The sound quality is much the same as with the rich and powerful 3300s, but the looks have been updated to fit in with the most stylish of rooms. We’d rather have this set of 2.1 speakers than a more mediocre 5.1 set. Should you wish to usurp them, there’s both coaxial and optical S/PDIF ports at the back.