Mesh Matrix2 CrossFire X16 Pro review

Price when reviewed

For a mid-range PC, the Mesh Matrix2 CrossFire X16 Pro packs a mighty wallop. Tucked away in Mesh’s unassuming chassis is a dual-core CPU, a huge hard disk and an ATi X1600 Pro graphics card. And, delivery notwithstanding, it’s all yours for less than a grand.

Mesh Matrix2 CrossFire X16 Pro review

The Matrix2 is more of a general-purpose PC than the media centre-orientated Evesham Knockout Pro, but you won’t find it wanting in the slightest when it comes to performance. The Socket 939 AMD Athlon X2 4400+ is a dual-core monster with a core speed of 2.2GHz, and paired with 1GB of PC3200 RAM it’s very difficult to saturate the system. Most notably, an overall benchmark score of 1.13 means the Matrix was 13% faster than the Evesham in our benchmarks.

A general-purpose PC will have the odd game thrown at it as well, and the ATi X1600 Pro graphics card is both a blessing and a curse. At our medium benchmark settings, the Matrix2 scored average rates of 23 and 17fps in Call of Duty 2 and Far Cry respectively. Unfortunately, the X1600 Pro is one of noisiest cards we’ve seen for some time. The tiny cooling fan produces a high-pitched, airy whine, which can easily be heard over the top of the system’s four other fans. Replacing it with a quieter card proved that it’s the greatest source of noise in the system, and we’d think twice before buying the Matrix2 as a system for a quiet environment.

It’s good to see that Mesh has included ViewSonic’s VA1912w with the Matrix2. This 19in widescreen panel has a native resolution of 1,440 x 900 and is a great all-round choice. The 8ms response time means you won’t spot any blurring on edges in fast-moving frames, and an after-hours gaming session proved that the VA1912w is as comfortable playing as it is working with Word documents and spreadsheets. We were also pleased with the colour reproduction in our test photos.

Included in the package are a set of Creative T6060 speakers. This 5.1 set produces good sound for both games and background music, but we’d prefer a decent stereo pair instead.

Those looking for a more sophisticated audio setup will be pleased to know that the Asus A8R32-MVP Deluxe motherboard offers both optical and co-axial S/PDIF ports, as well as the usual assortment of 3.5mm jacks. The motherboard also offers a range of extra features, most of which will prove their worth when it comes to upgrading. There’s an extra 16x graphics card slot for adding another ATi card in a CrossFire configuration, as well as four SATA ports courtesy of the ULi M1575 south bridge. One of these is taken up by the 300GB Maxtor DiamondMax 10 hard disk, but add a few more drives – there’s room in the case for two more – and it will also support a RAID array. Elsewhere, there’s dual Gigabit Ethernet, as well as an external SATA port. There are also three PCI slots spare plus a PCI Express 1x port, although the latter sits a little too close to the X1600 Pro’s cooling fan to be of much benefit.

There’s a dual-layer DVD writer onboard, as well as a DVD-ROM drive for disc-to-disc copying. Elsewhere, the external ports are numerous and well-placed – two USB ports on the front and four more on the back, as well as both full-sized and mini-FireWire ports.

The main problem is that the £850 PC market is tightly packed at the moment. There’s little arguing with the Mesh’s superb power, but unless you prioritise performance over absolutely everything else you’ll be pushed to notice the difference between it and the 200MHz slower Evesham Knockout Pro on our A List. The Evesham has the same excellent screen, but it’s quieter, has more 3D power, and even has Windows Media Center Edition and twin digital TV tuners, giving it a clear edge.

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