Mesh Elite E6600 R600 review
When it comes to graphical pyrotechnics, you need only glance at a supercharged Nvidia system such as the Evesham 8800Ultra SLI to see that ATi remains in its rival’s shadow – for the time being, at least. Yet for gamers on a budget, ATi’s new Radeon HD 2900 XT is an attractive proposition: last month, we saw it achieve much higher frame rates than the similarly-priced 640MB 8800 GTS in both Far Cry and Company of Heroes. And, if the manufacturer is to be believed, there’s more power for DirectX 10 games to unleash.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that PC vendors have started to build gaming systems around the HD 2900 XT: one such system is the Evesham Axis R6XT, and another is this Mesh Elite E6600 R600 – R600 being ATi’s codename for the HD 2000 series.
Mesh’s partnership of the HD 2900 XT with a powerful 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo makes for very respectable 3D performance: Company of Heroes averaged 84fps in 1,600 x 1,200 with 4xAA, 8xAF and graphic effects turned up to maximum. Call of Duty 2 results were less spectacular with the same settings, but still averaged a very playable 39fps. It’s conspicuous, though, that the Athlon-based Evesham system managed to squeeze a remarkable extra 25fps out of Company of Heroes, and even an extra 2fps out of Call of Duty 2.
Still, if the Mesh isn’t quite on top in terms of raw gaming performance, it wins out on immersion: its wide 22in Mirai monitor makes the Evesham’s 20.1in display look diminutive. The Mirai DML-522W100 isn’t the most sophisticated TFT in the world – it doesn’t support HDCP, and we saw some light bleed at the top and bottom and slight motion blur. When we were engrossed in a 3D scene, however, such minor imperfections simply didn’t register.
Although the system’s clearly been designed with gaming in mind, it’s well suited to productivity too: an overall 2D benchmark score of 1.19 means there’s more than enough oomph for office and multimedia applications, and the large screen provides a liberating 1,680 x 1,050 desktop. 2GB of RAM helps Vista Home Premium zip along, and a 500GB SATA hard disk is partnered with a single 18x DVD writer. This is more useful than the Evesham’s combination of a smaller 320GB hard disk and two DVD writers.
Inside the case, the Mesh looks good: while the more compact Evesham had much of its internal space taken up with cables, the Mesh’s internals are exceptionally clean and spacious, with every cable tied neatly back and no clutter to obstruct the airflow provided by the large rear fan. The case has three spare 5.25in front-panel bays and an empty 3.5in bay, plus three spare mountings for additional hard disks. To power all these notional drives, the system ships with a mighty 1kW PSU.
All these components are connected by a high-end Asus P5W DH Deluxe motherboard, which outclasses the Evesham’s MSI K9A by offering onboard wireless, six internal SATA ports and three PCI slots in addition to two PCI-E 16x slots. It also provides a good range of external connectors: these include 5.1 audio, coaxial and digital S/PDIF, eSATA, FireWire and a total of six USB sockets. The case itself is of the attractive wavy black design that we last saw on the far more expensive Mesh Elite Extreme QXG80, with plastic sides and a metal front. It completes the overall impression of quality – reinforced by a three-year on-site service warranty.
All told, the Mesh Elite E6600 R600 is a capable, coherent system, designed with an eye to future expansion but not hobbled in its standard configuration. Our only niggle is that Mesh’s choices of a sturdy case, a versatile motherboard, a capacious hard disk and a large monitor have inevitably driven up the price, to the point where the Elite E6600 R600 risks competing with 8800 Ultra-based systems, which makes the HD 2900 XT at its core look a little underpowered. Still, CrossFire is fully supported, so you could tax that power supply with a second GPU in due course. In all, while the Mesh’s benchmark scores lag a little behind the Evesham’s, for an extra £50 it’s a more aspirational system with greater scope for the future.
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