Mesh Matrix Elite Blast Pro review

£1199
Price when reviewed
We’ve come to expect three things from Mesh: a system that’s well built, aggressively priced and housed in its standard dull-but-worthy black-grille case. After all these years then, we were surprised to see a conspicuous silver grille on the front of this machine.

The new front adds a bit more interest, even though it’s just the usual case with a new fascia. That’s no bad thing, as it means the Elite Blast Pro still mounts its hard disks perpendicular to the optical drive for easy removal, it still has an 80mm side-vent for a fan to blow cool air directly onto the CPU, and there’s still a 120mm mounting at the rear for a large and quiet exhaust. Mesh has used both mountings with effective results: the exhaust pulls enough air through the front grille to keep the hard disk cool, with the system happily running our Far Cry benchmark for several hours.

It’s far from silent, sounding rather like an underpowered vacuum cleaner, but then there are a lot of expensive, hot-running components inside. One of the main culprits is the Pentium 4 650; requiring 84W, it has a top operating temperature of 67C. The Enhanced SpeedStep technology helps keep heat down by throttling back the frequency when possible, though. There’s also support for the forthcoming Windows x64, thanks to the addition of EM64T instruction extensions.

It’s a decent performer, although it lags a little behind our test scores for the Pentium 4 660. This is partially because we spec our test rig to minimise potential bottlenecks. Mesh has used a 300GB Maxtor DiamondMax 10 hard disk instead of our ultra-fast 36GB Western Digital Raptor, for example. But the Maxtor disk is still acceptably fast, offers far more storage for the money, and operates significantly cooler and quieter. Mesh has also used PC3200 (400MHz) DDR2 RAM instead of the maximum supported PC4300 (533MHz). It leads to an overall performance of 1.88, which certainly isn’t sluggish, but it isn’t as fast as Mesh’s comparably priced Fireblade SLI.

The other main heat source is the Radeon X850 XT from ATi. It’s a powerful card, capable of taking on a GeForce 6800 Ultra in practically any deathmatch and walking away the victor. However, we’d expect a little more than 47fps in Doom 3 and 63fps in Half-Life 2 at our standard 1,280 x 1,024 test resolution with 4x AA and 8x AF. Ramping up the resolution to 1,600 x 1,200 brought only a small drop to the frame rate, down to 33fps and 56fps in Doom 3 and Half-Life 2 respectively, implying that the X850 XT is limited by the CPU. Both games were still playable, though. If the ATi-powered Mesh can get over 30fps in the nVidia-based Doom 3 at 1,600 x 1,200, it’s capable of playing anything we’re likely to see in the near future.

The extreme 1,600 x 1,200 resolution setting is only an indication of performance headroom, as the 19in ViewSonic VX912 TFT can only display up to 1,280 x 1,024 pixels. The electronics behind the panel help to provide decent picture quality, aided by the bright backlighting. It isn’t perfect, with slightly narrow vertical viewing angles, but there’s very little discernible lag on moving images, letting you enjoy games and DVDs. DVDs are handled by the dual-layer Sony DW-D22A, with a Sony DVD-ROM to let you write on-the-fly.

The Logitech keyboard and mouse aren’t particularly extravagant, but have a solid, robust feel about them. They both feel comfortable and should withstand the most aggressive of typists and the most frustrated of gamers. The standard warranty of the Elite Blast Pro is also a sign of quality. The initial two years of on-site cover is great to see, and there’s a third year of return-to-base cover too.

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