Evesham Axis Decimator 78 review

Price when reviewed

If you were specifying your dream PC, the dual-core AMD Athlon 4800+ is a great start. As this PC from Evesham shows, it’s fantastically fast in both single and multithreaded applications – an overall benchmark score of 2.60 belies its true power. In our multithreaded 3ds max rendering test, we saw one of the fastest scores ever, taking only 80 seconds to render a frame – an Athlon 4000+ machine took 156 seconds.

Evesham Axis Decimator 78 review

The CPU sits in an MSI MS-7185 motherboard, based around the nForce4 SLI chipset. Evesham has made full use of both graphics slots with two new GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards. With claims from nVidia that each has the rendering power of two 6800 Ultras in SLI mode, it’s an incredibly powerful setup. None of our tests proved much trouble. Half-Life 2 still exceeded 100fps at a 1,600 x 1,200 resolution with 4x AA and 8x AF. Far Cry with HDR (High Dynamic Range) rendering ran at an unbelievable 44fps at 1,600 x 1,200 with 8x AF (HDR rendering is still in beta and occasionally refuses to run with AA).

So you’ll get some stunning results in today’s games, but the 7800 series is designed with the next generation of hugely demanding Unreal 3-based games in mind. Due to bring ultra-realistic visuals and modelling to gaming at the end of the year, you can be assured this system will set you in good stead for some time.

This high-resolution gaming and rendering power isn’t wasted either, as the Decimator 78 comes with ViewSonic’s excellent VP201b 20in TFT. Its 1,600 x 1,200 resolution gives you more screen space over a 1,280 x 1,024 19in panel and lag is barely noticeable – even in high-tempo gunfights – and only the darkest of shadows start to lose detail. Colour accuracy is good too, making skin tones appear natural, and you’ll be able to edit your digital photos with confidence. Should you still prefer your CRT, you can drop the ViewSonic for a saving of £450.

All this power does come at a price. While the system is reasonably priced for such a generously specified PC, there are hidden costs. For example, when running our 3D tests, power consumption levelled off at around 340W for the system unit alone. That’s a lot of power to draw, which necessitates a lot of cooling. Evesham uses four case fans. Add the PSU, CPU heatsink and twin graphics fans and that’s eight fans to keep temperatures down. They certainly work well – we looped a gruelling benchmark overnight with no problems – but the Decimator 78 was so loud we only turned it on when we absolutely had to.

The Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS helps to produce some quality audio for drowning out the fan noise, but it’s slightly wasted on the Inspire T7900 7.1 speakers. They’re loud enough to mask the noise from the fans, but audio quality from the sub and satellites isn’t up to scratch.

Another downside to the system arises from the impractical case. The front screen might report hardware temperatures, but viewing angles are so shallow we had to get down on our hands and knees to read it – and the noise output precludes having the Decimator 78 on a desk. The temperature sensors require extensive wiring inside, so while there’s room for an extra two sticks of RAM you’ll have to remove a cable feeding a thermistor buried in the CPU heatsink to install them. Mind you, the 1GB of PC3200 RAM installed should be enough for a while. The 250GB Western Digital Caviar 2 is spacious enough, but if you find it restrictive adding another drive will prove tricky. You’ll need to piggyback a power connector and fiddle around under the large graphics cards for the Serial ATA 2 headers.

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