Mesh Elite Fire X1950 Pro review

£1403
Price when reviewed

Since AMD announced its intention to buy ATi in July, wea’ve been waiting to see an Intel Core 2 Duo PC with ATi CrossFire support. It isn’t clear how much longer Intel will continue to support what’s now essentially its rival’s platform but, for now, the combination is one of the most formidable around.

Mesh Elite Fire X1950 Pro review

This machine is more accurately described as “CrossFire ready”, with a single X1950 XTX onboard. But where previous CrossFire-ready PCs have included “standard” cards, Mesh provides an elusive CrossFire Edition (CFE) master card from the off, so you just need to add a standard card should you feel the need for an extra speed boost.

This won’t necessarily be the best route, though, as by the time the X1950 XTX starts to lag, a replacement (rather than a sidekick) will likely make more fiscal and practical sense. Still, at least you have the option. We saw exactly the same scores in both games as we did with the standard X1950 XTX last month – a scorching 57fps average in Far Cry and an average of 46fps in the even more challenging Call of Duty 2. In comparison, the Dell XPS 700 managed 50fps and 39fps averages in the same tests, and that costs £300 more for just the base unit.

We’re pleased to see a high-resolution 20.1in TFT from ViewSonic to make the most of it, although we have two minor gripes. First is the grainy anti-reflective coating and, second, we noticed some pixel jitter when watching video files up close. Thankfully, the jitter was unnoticeable once we took a few steps back. A speckled coating is used instead of the increasingly popular glossy screen finish, so this screen is free of reflected glare. Brightness and vibrancy aren’t affected, and colour handling and contrast are spot on too, with detailed shadows in images and movies.

On the audio side, Creative’s X-Fi card is great for immersive surround-sound gaming and film viewing, with support for up to eight channels, pumped out on Creative’s reasonable 7.1 speaker set.

The other noises this PC makes will be less welcome, as it can create quite a racket even when idling. Most of that comes from the side intake fan, but we found that disconnecting it didn’t lead to any instability issues during our intense benchmarking process. You could also replace the case fans with quieter third-party versions, although modifications to the graphics card, CPU or northbridge coolers will invalidate the warranty.

Noise tends to be the price you pay for a powerful PC, though, and there are few as fast as the Elite Fire X1950 Pro. That’s mainly thanks to the Intel Core 2 Duo E6700, with each core running at 2.66GHz, but there’s also 2GB of fast 800MHz DDR2 RAM (and room for two more sticks if that isn’t enough). The 300GB hard disk has a 16MB buffer, and there’s a top-end Intel 975X chipset on the Asus DH Deluxe motherboard.

You also get 802.11b/g thrown in, plus eSATA and two FireWire ports (one via a backplate). Internal expansion options are less generous – any more than one extra hard disk would potentially cause overheating, and there’s only a single free PCI Express 1x slot.

But there’s already more than enough cutting-edge technology packed inside this familiar chassis; enough, in fact, to warrant it replacing the Evesham Solar Plus on the A List. The latter is still a fine choice if your budget can’t stretch to £1,400, but for the extra £200 Mesh delivers a superior screen, superior graphics power, an X-Fi sound card, plus an extra 1GB of RAM. If you want to get the winning combination of Intel and ATi while you still can, it’s a fantastic all-round system.

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