Mesh X-Treme FX-60 review
AMD’s dual-core processors took PC performance to new heights last year, but its flagship FX series clung on stubbornly to its single-core roots. The argument was that with so few games taking advantage of sophisticated multithreading, the key force behind high frame rates and smooth gameplay was to throw raw speed at the problem.
But with more and more applications geared towards multicore CPUs, the announcement of the dual-core FX-60 is timely. It’s still primarily a chip aimed at gamers and ultra-power users, and so the benchmark score of 1.34 is of no surprise. With each core clocked at 2.6GHz, the FX-60 has lost 200MHz of clock speed compared to its single-cored predecessor, the FX-57, but each core retains 1MB of Level 2 cache.
Luckily, the Mesh is powered by a set of components that are of the same calibre as the CPU. There’s 2GB of RAM, as well as a pair of hard disks: one 300GB unit for storing Windows and program files, and a 200GB unit for data. It’s a slightly unbalanced arrangement, but 500GB of storage is nonetheless a generous proposition. A pair of optical drives grace the front of the smart chassis, but for this price it’s a slight disappointment that one is a DVD-ROM drive. Another minor drawback is that both drives share an IDE port on the motherboard, which could hold up operations when using both drives at once.
But it’s one compromise in a machine that devoured every task we placed before it. If you work with RAW image files, or edit music or video, the X-Treme FX-60 has the potential to revolutionise the way you work – it simply didn’t blink while we were using it. Photoshop CS 2 opened instantaneously, and we couldn’t get it to slow down no matter how complex the effects we applied to an image.
And, as befits the FX series of processors, the X-Treme is also a superb choice for gamers. A pair of nVidia’s GeForce 7800 GTs, coupled with the CPU and RAM, meant that the X-Treme FX-60 charged through our 3D benchmarks – even at the TFT’s native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050 you’ll get playable frame rates from the latest games. Half-Life 2 ran at the native resolution at an average of 110fps, while the HDR Lost Coast add-on ran at 66fps. Even the punishing Call of Duty 2, at the highest settings, 1,680 x 1,050 and with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering, managed an impressive 38fps. Far Cry, at 1,680 x 1,050 with 4x AA, 8x AF and HDR, ran at a smooth 38fps too.
Elsewhere, Mesh has gone all-out with the Philips’ 200W6CS 20in widescreen TFT, which is currently enjoying a spell on our A List. A native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050 means that Windows remains legible while still allowing you to fit two A4 pages into Word at 80 per cent. There’s little to gripe about with viewing angles – images take on a slight red caste towards the extreme edges, but not enough to notice during day-to-day use. There’s also a single USB port, which will be handy for plugging in the base station for the Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse. Colours were accurately reproduced in our technical rundown, and even the quoted 16ms response time wasn’t a huge handicap in our tests. That said, consider specifying a TFT with a lower response time if gaming is your number one priority, as there is some visible lag.
Creative’s Inspire 7900 7.1 surround speakers are overkill for most, but they’re of reasonable quality and fine for gaming and movie watching. They’re complemented well by a Creative X-Fi sound card occupying one of the PCI slots on the motherboard.