Mesh X-treme Essential X-Plode review
While it would be wrong to judge a PC on the grounds of its case, it’s an easy way for manufacturers to distinguish their products. Mesh’s choice of the Cooler Master 732 ATX is a canny one: compared to most chassis, it isn’t only more interesting to look at, but more functional and certainly more befitting a PC of this price.
The heart of the X-treme is AMD’s Athlon 64 X2 4400+, just a step down from the top-of-the-range dual-core processor. It made light work of our multitasking application benchmarks, resulting in an overall score of 1.16, helped by 1GB of PC3200 RAM and the Asus A8N SLI motherboard.
Mesh has proved that it can include nVidia’s latest GeForce 7800 graphics in systems around the £1,500 mark, so it’s surprising to see a pair of last-generation 6800 GTs inside the case of this even more expensive offering. In Far Cry, at 1,600 x 1,200, the X-treme pushed its way to an average of 61fps. However, turn on High Dynamic Range rendering (HDR) – a feature appearing in many games – and you’ll wish you’d bought the Evesham Axis Blaze 1800 X. This managed 27fps with HDR, with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering: the Mesh managed 23fps, and that’s without anti-aliasing. Although the Evesham got lower scores than this Mesh without HDR in both Half-Life 2 and Far Cry, it uses a single ATi X1800 XL on a CrossFire-ready board – far more flexible in terms of upgrade options.
In terms of gaming, the accompanying 20in ViewSonic VP201b monitor is a good choice too. Its viewing angles and response times are among the best we’ve seen, making this a good panel for films too. However, it isn’t up to the quality of the NEC 2170NX supplied with the Evesham. By today’s standards, contrast is adequate rather than good; digital-imaging enthusiasts will find that particularly dark or bright images will lose detail, and solid colours often exhibit a perceptible grain. It’s a very flexible panel though. You can adjust its height, pivot it and link up to three video inputs: two DVI and a D-SUB. There’s also a four-port USB hub on the underside. The hub isn’t placed well for continuous adding or removal of devices, but it’s useful nonetheless.
More convenient is the layout of the case. The power and reset switches are located on the top, as are a pair of USB ports, a FireWire port and microphone and headphone sockets. If you keep your PC on the floor, you’ll appreciate being able to add and remove devices without scrabbling under your desk. We can’t see anyone other than inveterate tweakers getting serious use out of the sound, temperature or exhaust fan voltage gauges built into the front panel, but they’ll be a talking point if nothing else.
Internally, Mesh has taken care to ensure that things are tidy, and the cooling system provides ample airflow. A 120mm fan on the front of the case draws in air, and the fan on the Akasa Evo 133 heatsink draws air over the cooling fins, before a pair of blue LED illuminated fans expel the warm air through the back. Added to the fans on the two 6800 GTs, plus those in the PSU, it makes for a PC that won’t win any awards for discretion. We’ve heard noisier machines come through our labs, but you might not want the X-treme next to the monitor if you plan on concentrating.
One stand-out aspect of the X-treme is its hard disk – the 500GB Maxtor DiamondMax 11 makes this the most capacious single-disk PC we’ve ever seen. It’s certainly enough storage to be getting on with, and the fact that it’s on a single disk (rather than a RAID array), means that just one of the eight SATA ports on the motherboard is taken, and there are still four 3.5in internal bays free. A 16x dual-format, dual-layer DVD writer and a DVD-ROM drive look after removable storage, and there’s even a floppy drive.