Mesh Matrix AM2 Pro review
The CPU providing the power in this latest top-end PC from Mesh is the Athlon 64 X2 4800+, featuring two cores running at 2.4GHz. But rather than the Socket 939 processor that we’re used to, this is running in AMD’s brand-new Socket AM2 design. It’s no longer the fastest Athlon 64 X2 – the 5000+ we tested the AM2 motherboards with takes that honour at 2.6GHz, while the FX-62 used in the Evesham opposite runs at a staggering 2.8GHz. It’s still incredibly fast, though, with the 1GB of PC4300 DDR2 RAM helping it to a hefty score of 1.25.
The motherboard helps no end, offering a good set of features to complement its speed. It gives you eight-channel HD audio, six SATA connections, three PCI and two PCI Express 1x slots. There are also two free RAM sockets. Two Gigabit Ethernet ports are present at the rear, both from the Nforce 570 chipset (see p51 for details). This new chipset has a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to networking, letting you use both connections concurrently for a 2Gb connection to your switch or router. This could be handy if you use this PC as a server, or to house media that’s then supplied to the rest of the house.
As an Nforce 570-based board there are two PCI Express graphics slots, although Mesh fills only one. It’s a powerful 7900 GT, capable of rendering the most taxing of current games at the screen’s native 1,280 x 1,024 resolution: average frame rates of 54fps in Far Cry and 41fps in Call of Duty 2 at our highest settings are suitably impressive.
The ViewSonic screen itself is a solid rather than outstanding choice of panel. Games and photos benefit from its ability to display bright, vibrant colours for example. But for anything more taxing, there are significant problems. We saw nasty banding on our colour and greyscale ramps, so photo editing requiring colour accuracy on this screen is best avoided. There’s also a distinct lack of definition between blacks, so shadows are flat and lifeless. For everyday use, it’s fine, especially once we’d adjusted the settings to minimise the noticeable green tinge.
Elsewhere inside, the 120mm exhaust fan is fairly polite and more than enough to keep everything cool. The 80mm side intake fan is much noisier, but it’s easily disconnected and we had no problems running the system at full tilt overnight without it. With the PSU and CPU cooler also quiet, the remaining noise culprit is the graphics card – the Zalman VF900 GPU cooler would solve this for around £25 (see www.quietpc.co.uk), but check with Mesh first to avoid invalidating the warranty.
While the MSI motherboard can feed six SATA hard disks, there’s only room for three disks in the drive caddy. Mesh has used a 300GB Maxtor DiamondMax 10 and two Sony optical drives: a DVD writer that can burn +/-RW dual layer discs and a DVD-ROM drive. Above them is a floppy drive. Mesh does a decent job of tidying all the cables connecting these drives, while not blocking the PSU intake or RAM sockets too much.
The system is supplied with a three-year warranty. The first year is on-site cover, so should a piece of hardware fail you’ll be up and running again in as short a time as possible. The second and third year revert to return-to-base cover.
The previous A-Listed machine in the sub-£1,000 category – the Evesham Knockout Pro – offered only a Socket 939 Athlon 64 X2 3800+. It’s unlikely AMD will release anything more on the Socket 939 platform, so it isn’t ideal for future upgrades. Granted, you do get the dual TV tuners, Windows MCE and a three-year on-site warranty, so it’s still a viable choice. But with much more power and more hard disk space, the AM2 PC is our top choice for a high-performance PC.