Evesham Solar Quattro 67 review
With system integrators getting their hands on Intel’s quad-core chips, we’ve seen a huge leap in benchmark scores. We’ve had Apple’s Xeon-based Mac Pro scoring a tantalising 1.97, and now the Mesh Elite Extreme QXG80 and the Hi-Grade Ultis Tachyon QX6700.
Even in this company, the Solar Quattro’s overall benchmark score of 1.67 is impressive. It can’t match the record-challenging scores of other systems: unlike the Hi-Grade, for instance, it doesn’t have a super-fast hard disk, and unlike both the Mesh and Hi-Grade it has “only” 1GB of RAM. But don’t be fooled – it’s an incredible score and it will be rare, if ever, that you’ll push all four cores to 100%.
The ATi Radeon X1950 graphics card, although now thoroughly eclipsed by the GeForce 8800, is still a great performer. Connecting to a CRT for a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, we saw smooth gameplay from both Call of Duty 2 and Far Cry – an average of 45fps in Call of Duty 2 and 59fps in Far Cry. At the monitor’s native resolution of 1,680 x 1,050, we saw 48fps in Call of Duty 2 and 64fps in Far Cry. Even upping all of the settings to temporal anti-aliasing, adaptive anti-aliasing and 16x high-quality anisotropic filtering produced results of 60fps in Far Cry and 30fps in Call of Duty 2. However, the X1950 doesn’t have the features that the Mesh’s GeForce 8800 GTX does. Right now, that translates to a mere speed drop, but once DirectX 10 and the expected barrage of next-generation games arrive the 8800 GTX will look even better. Luckily, Evesham is offering an upgrade to the 8800 GTX for £115.
The monitor is Iiyama’s ProLite E2200WS-B. It’s a very good monitor and an excellent addition to any desktop PC. The widescreen resolution of 1,680 x 1,050 is particularly useful, allowing lots of room for displaying program windows.
Evesham is less generous when it comes to external expansion ports: two USB 2 ports and one FireWire port on the front are joined by just four more USB 2 ports round the back, or three when you consider the wireless keyboard and mouse receiver.
At least upgradability abounds inside the case. The Foxconn 975 motherboard still has two spare PCI Express 16x slots and a pair of PCI slots, as well as two free DIMM sockets. SATA ports are also abundant – four free ports attached to a RAID controller on the motherboard, as well as three free non-RAID ports, mean you’ll run out of internal drive bays before you run out of connectors. Three free 3.5in bays as well as one external bay for a floppy drive or media card reader will be more than enough. Occupying one internal bay is the 320GB Western Digital Caviar SE drive. It isn’t as fast as the Raptor inside Hi-Grade’s machine, but a spin speed of 7,200rpm and 8MB buffer are still respectable. The optical drives comprise one for writing to all formats including DVD-RAM, and a DVD-ROM drive for reading duties.
With the system costing the better part of £2,000, Evesham’s standard case is disappointing. Not only because you’d expect something a little snazzier at this price, but also because a better case would mean quieter cooling. As it is, the four fans – including the loud CPU cooler – mean the Evesham is louder than we’d like. It’s quieter than the Mesh, but having come to appreciate quiet Core 2 Duo systems over the past few months the jump back to humming PCs is jarring.
The Solar Quattro is very fast and very good value for money, particularly compared to the Hi-Grade, which costs £170 more and doesn’t include a monitor. As Windows XP Media Center Edition is installed, the Evesham is also eligible for a Vista Express Upgrade. But when you do upgrade to Vista, and with it DirectX 10, it would seem foolish to have a PC this powerful without a card like the 8800 GTX inside – as such, we’d suggest upgrading at time of purchase rather than buying the exact reviewed specification.