Evesham Axis Dominator 79GT review

£935
Price when reviewed
If evidence were needed that the line is blurring between mid-range and high-end PCs, the Axis Dominator 79GT is it. The main components read like a gamer’s wish list, yet the price above is no misprint: we kept on looking for obvious compromises but they simply failed to materialise.

The fun starts with ViewSonic’s 19in widescreen TFT, which, with a decent native resolution of 1,440 x 900, offers the benefits of the wide format without being so large as to need a high-end graphics card to power it. But Evesham has decided to stick one in anyway, opting for the lesser of nVidia’s two new top-end cards. The 256MB 7900 GT doesn’t quite have the muscle of the GTX and probably wouldn’t be able to handle a higher resolution such as 1,680 x 1,050 with all the settings turned to maximum. But at 1,440 x 900, it will handle most games with ease, making it a perfect companion to this monitor.

To demonstrate this, we ran Far Cry at native resolution with 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering and it averaged 68fps – more than enough for perfectly smooth gameplay. The same Half-Life 2 test was even less of a problem, as the Dominator 79GT raced away to an average of 95fps. It’s unlikely with the current crop of games, but if you really do need more power there’s always a second PCI Express 16x slot on the motherboard for an SLI setup in the future. For now, though, you can safely switch on all effects and still get playable frame rates, and the 16:10 aspect ratio makes things all the more cinematic.

The monitor itself is a good addition, with its 8ms response time making it fine for games and DVDs, and the wide aspect really does make office work more bearable. We found it had a slightly restricted colour gamut at the high-end, but otherwise it’s a great choice that doesn’t push the price up excessively.

It helps that the graphics aren’t limited by the processor: an Athlon 64 X2 4200+ gives plenty of dual-core capability without costing a fortune. Backed up by 1GB of PC3200 memory, our application benchmarks didn’t pose a problem, as a score of 1.10 shows. And when you’ve finished with the bundled Microsoft Works, you can switch to Windows Media Center Edition to play your music or watch a DVD. There’s no TV tuner installed, but it’s good to see Evesham continually including the entertainment OS as standard.

As for the music, you’ll get plenty of enjoyment out of the Creative I-Trigue 3220 2.1-channel speakers. It isn’t the ugliest set we’ve seen and the sound is rich and deep enough to make them worth using. If not, there’s always the option of hooking up a superior sound system via the optical or coaxial S/PDIF sockets. You can also use the DVD writer to burn backups at 8x or just keep everything on the large 250GB Western Digital hard disk.

Elsewhere on the back panel, you’ll find dual-Gigabit Ethernet ports, serial and parallel ports for legacy devices, one FireWire and four USB ports. The graphics card sports two DVI connections and also offers S-Video. Easier access is provided by the front panel, which houses a further two USB ports, one FireWire port, plus the usual microphone and headphone mini-jack ports.

The chassis is the standard Evesham two-tone black and grey number, which is unspectacular but solid for a system at this price. You’ll find one 120mm case fan at the rear taking care of airflow, but in truth there’s plenty of open space inside so overheating won’t be an issue. It isn’t the quietest PC, though, even with just the one slow fan. Expansion is also an option thanks to two PCI Express 1x slots (note that one is tight up against the graphics card, so may not be usable) and a further three standard PCI slots. An obvious upgrade would be to add a TV tuner to take advantage of the installed Media Center.

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