Evesham Axis 4×4 GTX review

£3299
Price when reviewed
AMD’s answer to Intel’s quad-core CPU is here, and it’s a beast. Previously referred to as “4×4”, Quad FX uses a twin-socket design reminiscent of a workstation or small server. While this can be viewed as an interim response while it works on “native” quad-core, AMD insists that this approach is exactly what high-end multitasking home users need.

The figures do show the theory has some justification at the extreme end. We saw some high scores in our multitasking tests, running 224% quicker on the Axis 4×4 GTX than on our reference dual-core PC. However, our initial test of the Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (see issue 147, p45) was 235% quicker than the reference machine. Even taking differences in system setup into account, the single Intel chip is equally adept at intensive multitasking. For more on Quad FX versus Core 2 Extreme QX6700, take a look at www.pcpro.co.uk/links/149quadfx – the findings won’t make comfortable reading for AMD fans.

While Quad FX might not be all it’s cracked up to be, we can’t fault Evesham for being bang up-to-date with bringing us new technology. This system doesn’t hold back elsewhere either, with one of the four PCI Express graphics slots housing an Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX (see issue 148, p90). This monster screamed though our standard benchmarks, with average scores in excess of 50fps in Call of Duty 2 and 80fps in Far Cry, even at 1,600 x 1,200 with 4x AA and 8x AF. But pushing it harder with the same settings in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion saw a more disappointing 47fps. Compare that to the 60fps from the similarly equipped Mesh Elite Extreme QXG80.

Bear in mind that it’s early days, though. Without final drivers for the graphics card, Evesham supplied Windows XP Professional with our review system, and XP handles Non-uniform memory architecture (Numa) systems like Quad FX poorly. Where each processor should have a dedicated bank of RAM, XP forces them to share, resulting in a performance drop. The good news is that Windows Vista promises better Numa handling, and Evesham will be supplying the Axis with the Ultimate edition once it’s launched on 30 January, complete with all of its media bells and whistles.

Evesham has also gone to town with the attractively menacing Cooler Master Stacker 831 case. Inside that, you’ll find a pair of 500GB Western Digital Caviar SE16 hard disks in striped RAID0 configuration. You’ll also find a Blu-ray -RW drive (downgrade to a DVD-ROM for a saving of £500 inc VAT) and a multiformat DVD writer. There’s also an impressive Creative GigaWorks ProGaming G500 5.1 speaker set, and the stylish and comfortable Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse.

The choice of quality components extends to the 22in ViewSonic VX2235wm TFT too. With rich, vibrant colours and detailed shadows, our test videos and images looked great – our only criticism is the distractingly glossy bezel, but it’s otherwise technically sound.

All this great kit is backed up by Evesham’s Gold warranty (two years on-site and a third return-to-base).Considering Evesham was voted the best PC retailer in the UK for customer support and for general satisfaction in PC Pro’s Reliability & Service awards (see issue 148), that’s very welcome.

But even all this fabulous packaging fails to make Quad FX an enticing purchase. On price alone, it falls foul of the A-Listed Mesh Elite Extreme QXG80, which is roughly £1,000 cheaper. Considering that the Mesh is a better performer in both standard Windows applications (1.89 overall, compared to 1.56 in our benchmarks), not to mention the extra gaming performance, it simply ends up looking poor value for money. Thumbs up to Evesham for getting Quad FX out first and trying so hard to make it attractive; but, unless Vista pulls a major performance boost out of its transparent hat, Quad FX looks like a disappointing platform.

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