Evesham Axis FX-60 Firestorm review

Price when reviewed

Like the Mesh, this latest high-end system from Evesham is based on AMD’s new super-fast FX-60 chip, with a mouth-watering specification to match. Combined with a luxurious 21in monitor and a pair of ATi’s X1800 XT GPUs in a CrossFire configuration, it’s an exceptionally desirable system.

Evesham Axis FX-60 Firestorm review

Even the case has a touch of the unusual. Evesham has abandoned its usual case in favour of a rather funky brushed aluminium chassis. A blue display on the front shows internal, CPU and hard disk temperatures, alongside fan speeds. It isn’t something most people will find terribly useful, and restricted viewing angles make it hard to read, but it’s an interesting addition.

However, it’s the internals that make the machine exciting. The FX-60 and 2GB of RAM saw the Axis power its way to a score of 1.36 – a smidgeon faster than the Mesh. However, you’ll need to be timing your intensive tasks with a stopwatch before you’ll notice the difference between the two – watching both flash through our benchmarks was an impressive sight.

Evesham has installed a pair of X1800 XT cards, making this the most powerful CrossFire PC you can currently buy, and the 3D performance is as we’d expect. In Lost Coast, at the monitor’s native resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, we saw a frame rate of 66fps, while Call of Duty 2 was similarly impressive at 40fps. Far Cry was CPU-limited at every resolution we tried it at, even scoring 86fps at 1,600 x 1,200 with HDR turned on. Considering that all of these demanding games were run at the highest detail settings with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering, these scores are every bit as sensational as the Mesh with its pair of GeForce 7800 GTs.

Games and films will look spectacular too thanks to the 21in NEC 2170NX monitor. With a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, it produces a fantastic image. A contrast ratio of 900:1 means that no detail is lost in either very bright or very dark areas of the screen, and the image produced is rock-steady. It’s also height adjustable, unlike the Philips 200W6CS widescreen that accompanies the Mesh. Although the 16ms response time is a theoretical disadvantage, in real-world use we saw no motion blur or lag whatsoever.

Like the Mesh, the Axis has a pair of optical drives: one a DVD-ROM drive and one capable of burning DVDs. Again, these share an IDE channel, making disc-to-disc copying potentially slower. Compared to the Mesh, there’s a little less storage – 400GB instead of 500GB, on a single Western Digital hard disk. For this much money, and on such a high-performance system, it’s surprising not to see a RAID array of some kind. The choice of Windows Media Center Edition 2005 is great if you plan on maximising potential uses for this beast of a PC by adding a TV tuner.

You won’t want to use the Axis as a living room PC, though, as unless it’s producing sound, either from a game or music, it’s much too noisy to run unobtrusively in the background. That’s largely because of the case, which has an astonishing nine fans inside, including those on the CPU, twin GPUs and power supply. In fairness, the fans run at a constant speed, so you might be able to get used to it, but it certainly drowns out the similarly powerful Mesh machine.

Creative Labs supplies the T7900 Inspire speakers, which are fine for gaming and watching films. The high-end Creative X-Fi sound card that comes with the Axis is a little wasted on what is essentially a budget 7.1 surround-sound set of speakers, though.

The Evesham is £595 more expensive than the Mesh, but our benchmarks show that the Mesh and Evesham are broadly similar in the performance stakes. The difference between the two is likely to become more pronounced as more power-hungry games hit the market, but even our Call of Duty 2 test does little to prove that the Evesham is much superior. The Evesham does have a nicer-looking case, but we’d sooner live with a dull-looking, quiet machine than a boy-racer-styled PC that sounds like a small air-conditioning unit.

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