Evesham Axis R6XT review
We’ve been waiting for ATi’s DirectX 10 GPU since before the company’s surprise purchase by AMD last year. Now, finally, it’s here and Evesham has got its hands on a top-end Radeon HD 2900 XT. The result is a PC that should be the envy of all performance seekers.
As the Axis R6XT’s primary draw is its graphics, we set to work with an A vs B comparison of the new card against the GeForce 8800 range. The scores printed in the table opposite bear out the use of the HD 2900 XT in a good-value gaming system such as this: in some tests, the HD 2900 XT soundly beats the GeForce 8800 GTX – Company of Heroes (patched to v1.5) runs at 109fps to the GTX’s 90fps, for example. The GTX beats it elsewhere, but the Radeon’s scores are great for a card slated to cost around £250. Compare that to the £310 you’ll pay for the cheapest GeForce 8800 GTX.
In fact, that price makes the Radeon HD 2900 XT more a price match with the lesser GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB card. And it’s in this fight that AMD can really claim its victory. Four out of the eight tests we ran saw clear wins for the Radeon, with scores anywhere between 50% and 100% faster than the GeForce. In the other tests, we saw scores equal to those of the 8800 GTS. So with GeForce 8800 GTS 640MB cards costing roughly the same as the Radeon, the HD 2900 XT is looking very good indeed.
Thankfully, the rest of the system is matched to get the most of the chunky red graphics card. Given the praise we’ve lavished on Intel’s Core 2 Duos of late, the AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ might seem unfashionable, but it’s still an excellent choice. As we saw last month in our CPU update, the 6000+ sits between the Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 and E6700 both for performance and for price, so you’re not losing any speed or paying much extra.
The Socket AM2 motherboard is also CrossFire-compatible, so you could tandem two Radeon HD 2900 XTs. The power (and all the connectors) to run two cards is supplied by a hefty 900W Sparkle Epsilon 900 PSU, which also has one of the new 8-pin PCI Express power connectors for “performance enhancement” (read overclocking) on the HD 2900 XT. This is connected by default by Evesham, and the ATiTool tweaking utility is also easy to use.
With two expensive, high-performance parts you’d expect some compromises elsewhere, but that isn’t the case. There’s 2GB of RAM, for example, and plenty of storage from the 320GB Western Digital Caviar SE. Evesham has even been extravagant with the optical devices, with two SATA DVD burners. The PSU and its massive bundle of power connectors slightly undermines the tidiness efforts, but at least you won’t be short of connections when the time for upgrading comes.
Nor will you be short of space for additional components, despite the rather uninspiring case. The lower hard disk cage isn’t ideal for the addition of a hard disk (packing two together so tightly might lead to overheating), but there are two free bays elsewhere. There’s room for two more sticks of RAM (although you won’t be able to see more than 4GB in 32-bit Vista), while two PCI slots and the second PCI Express 16x slot are also free.
The 20.1in ViewSonic screen is another impressive choice considering the relatively tight budget, with a generous contrast range and solid colour handling. If it weren’t for the uneven backlight along the lower and upper edges, the screen would have impressed us even more. However, for most purposes, it’s a great display, and the combination of physical size and resolution means all that gaming power isn’t wasted, either.