Evesham Axis SLIck 68GT review

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This latest system from Evesham uses high-end components throughout, although it has avoided AMD’s flagship FX-55 processor in an attempt to keep costs down. Plugged into two PCI Express slots on the Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard are twin 256MB GeForce 6800 GT graphics cards, and these give the SLIck some serious firepower. They’re partnered with an AMD Athlon 64 4000+ processor, and the supporting roles are taken by 1GB of PC3200 DDR SDRAM and a Maxtor 300GB 7,200rpm hard disk, which has a massive 16MB buffer.

Evesham Axis SLIck 68GT review

Starting with relatively undemanding 3D tests, the SLIck barely got warmed up with Unreal Tournament 2004 and Halo at our standard 1,280 x 1,024 resolution, returning 77fps and 105fps respectively. Running Far Cry, the processor is the performance bottleneck, giving 66fps at any resolution up to 1,600 x 1,200. Using 4x anti-aliasing (AA) and 8x anisotropic filtering (AF) showed a slight strain, dipping to 61fps at 1,600 x 1,200. Doom 3 had more of an impact on the graphics cards, peaking at 84fps at 1,024 x 768. The SLIck managed an impressive 59fps at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x AA and 8x AF.

Surprisingly, in our 2D tests the SLIck matched only the Mesh Matrix Fireblade SLI with its slower Athlon 3800+, getting 2.48 overall. It lost out in the multimedia tests in particular, but surged ahead with database tasks. Still, there’s more than enough grunt on tap to see out the next few years.

While we’ve no complaints about performance, the same can’t be said for design and layout. The aluminium case looks smart with its blue circular display set into the front door, but the LCD segments are difficult to read from anywhere other than underneath. Cooling isn’t a problem, with two fans mounted on a swing door above the graphics cards. That’s in addition to front and rear case fans, another for the 420W Tagan power supply and one each on the graphics cards. But with all these fans, the SLIck is noticeably noisier than the Mesh system, and it certainly isn’t the best choice for a living room system.

We like the fact that there’s a metal brace to prevent either the SLI bridge or the graphics cards working loose, though. Unfortunately, the two PCI Express 16x slots are separated by two PCI Express 1x slots, but using either of these would seriously jeopardise the airflow to the graphics cards. With their double-width backplates and large heatsinks, they also put two of the three PCI slots out of action, leaving just one free for expansion.

Elsewhere, dual gigabit Ethernet ports are one of the perks of this motherboard, as well as 8-channel audio with co-axial and optical S/PDIF outputs. Evesham supplies Creative T7900 speakers, which plug into the 3.5mm audio jacks. Undemanding buyers will find sound reproduction acceptable for games and watching movies, but purists will want something better than the booming budget sound for listening to music. The case spreads eight USB and two FireWire ports around: two of the USB ports are found behind the front door and two more plus a FireWire and mic/headphone jacks under a small trapdoor on top of the case.

Evesham’s builders have done their best to deal with the mass of wires inside the case, but the length of the power loom necessitates a large clump of cables in the centre. There’s no danger of it obstructing the four memory slots, but it makes the three spare 5.25in drive bays difficult to access, and the connections for the front door’s display also partially obstruct the spare 3.5in hard disk slot. With a 300GB hard disk, a DVD-ROM drive and a double-layer, dual-format DVD writer already installed, you probably won’t need access for some time. A 5-in-1 card reader and a plastic tray containing spare rails fill up the remaining gaps in the front assembly.

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