Mesh X-Treme G71-X review
This month, the graphics card battleground sees its newest high-end entrant in the form of nVidia’s 7900 Series, and Mesh has been quick to embrace the technology. Having graced the A List for several months now with its X-Treme FX-60, it’s no surprise to see Mesh leading the way with a 512MB 7900 GTX in the new X-Treme G71-X.
Comparing the rest of the components reveals there are both improvements and compromises over the X-Treme FX-60. The most striking change is to the chassis: out goes the familiar plastic Mesh case to be replaced by a more fitting CoolerMaster model. Complete with a system-status dashboard behind the front door, the case’s brushed-metal finish gives it a sturdy feel but, more importantly, it now has the stylish looks to go with the powerful innards.
And those innards are pretty powerful. The processor is a 2.4GHz Athlon 64 X2 4800+ supported by a hefty 2GB of memory, so it had no problems racing through our application benchmarks with a score of 1.24. It’s cooled effectively by a huge Akasa Evo33 heatsink and fan, which come complete with an adjustable fan-control backplate unit. It’s a touch noisy at anything above the lowest speeds, but the superb Asus A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard helps keep noise down by passively cooling the chipset. Airflow is maintained by two 80mm fans expelling air from the rear, which is drawn in by a blue-lit 120mm fan in the front.
But it’s the entertainment aspect that’s most likely to sell the X-Treme G71-X. While not quite up there with the best from rival ATi, nVidia’s 512MB 7900 GTX is a very fast card, as demonstrated by its results in our 3D tests. At 1,280 x 1,024 with 4x AA and 8x AF, Far Cry was brushed aside with an average of 74fps. The 20in widescreen TFT has a native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050, so we shifted up to that and it still ran at a brisk 50fps. Half-Life 2 showed similar results, running at 101fps even at the native 1,680 x 1,050 with everything turned up to maximum.
Despite this, it can’t quite compete with the SLI arrangement of the X-Treme FX-60, but a single card is the only sensible option here as the slower CPU would limit the capabilities of a high-end SLI setup. Should you decide to add a second card later, the Asus A8N32-SLI motherboard has the required second slot, but the 7900 GTX will be fine on its own for a long while yet, especially as you won’t be pushing higher than 1,680 x 1,050.
The ViewSonic monitor itself is clear and crisp, although it lacks vibrancy when compared to models such as our A-Listed Philips 200W6. Also, the stand isn’t very adjustable and the built-in speakers are poor, but you won’t need them as Mesh bundles the 7.1 Creative Inspire 7900 speakers, which are fine for games and films. To make the most of them, there’s also a Creative X-Fi sound card in one of the three PCI slots, so you can enable hardware sound enhancements in many games.
Data can be stored on the 300GB hard disk or burned to dual-layer discs at 8x, and there’s an eSATA port on the rear for external drives. A flap on top of the case conceals a FireWire and two USB 2 ports, as well as headphone and microphone sockets, while the rear of the case houses four more USB ports. There’s dual Gigabit Ethernet, plus optical and coaxial S/PDIF output for more advanced speaker systems, and a rare floppy drive is included just in case. A Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse come bundled and are perfectly fine as usual.
The £1,446 price is reasonable considering the quality of the components. Mesh includes two years of UK on-site support (although check the small print to see what is and isn’t covered), followed by a year of return-to-base cover and lifetime national-rate hardware support. All good so far, so why isn’t it on the A List?