PC Specialist Apollo R600 675 review
When PC Specialist was putting this system together, it’s clear it had one thing on its mind: expandability. For example, while most PCs come with a generic power supply that could struggle once you start adding extra drives or expansion cards, the R600 675 includes a branded FSP 700W power supply.
PC Specialist has also fitted the Apollo with an Asus P5K board based on Intel’s latest P35 chipset. This supports the latest Core 2 Duo processors, so it’s no surprise to see the E6750 powering this system: the 2.66GHz E6750 has a 333MHz bus and an 8x multiplier, with 4MB of L2 cache. The faster bus gives Intel more headroom to run its processors faster than was possible with its previous 266MHz bus speed, which in turn gives buyers of this system room for manoeuvre in the future.
There are only four SATA ports on the motherboard, but its back panel does have an eSATA port. The south bridge storage controller has no RAID support, but you can create a RAID0 or 1 array with one internal SATA drive and an eSATA drive on the secondary JMicron storage controller. This lets you mirror your internal drive to an external disk that you can then take with you.
There’s room for expansion elsewhere, too, with free PCI and PCI Express 1x slots, as well as a second PCI Express graphics card slot – one of the advantages of the P35 chipset is that it supports CrossFire. For now, PC Specialist has fitted the Apollo R600 675 with ATi’s HD2900 XT graphics card, but that high-quality power supply means you could easily add a second graphics card later to improve 3D performance. Note, though, that the second slot only runs at 4x and not 16x speed, which could cause a performance bottleneck.
The HD2900 XT graphics card has easily enough power for current games, though, as shown by its average frame rate of 33fps in Call of Duty 2 at high settings. The card also shows plenty of potential for DirectX 10 games, as it managed 9fps in Call of Juarez with the settings on high.
When you do come to upgrade, you’ll be pleased to find it isn’t too crowded inside the case and there are no loose cables. The PC is relatively quiet, too, although the graphics card makes a fair hum. The good connectivity continues on the case, with six USB ports on the rear and three on the front, as well as two FireWire ports on the back. A card reader up front can read six types of memory card, and the motherboard’s integrated sound chipset has 7.1 surround-sound output and a coaxial S/PDIF output.
The Apollo R600 675 comes with a 19in widescreen monitor, which is the bare minimum we’d expect at this price. It’s made by I-INC and is certainly bright. Colours are accurate, saturated and evenly spread over the display. Contrast is good with deep blacks, but whites have a greyish tinge at the bottom and top of the screen. Large blocks of white also have a grainy texture. But, overall, it’s a pleasant screen to work with. We were also pleased to see that the supplied Logitech keyboard and mouse are both wireless.
It all adds up to a good PC, but there is a problem for the Apollo: Mesh’s Elite Storm Pro. Admittedly, the Apollo is faster – despite having the same processor and 2GB of RAM (albeit clocked at 800MHz against the Mesh’s 667MHz), it managed 1.45 in our benchmarks to the Mesh’s 1.29.
But in every other area, the Mesh wins. It has a 5.1 speaker set to the Apollo’s 2.1 set, both made by Creative and both of similar quality; it has a 320GB disk to the Mesh’s 500GB; it has a one-year collect-and-return warranty to the Mesh’s two-year on-site cover; it has a 19in monitor to Mesh’s 22in unit. And it costs £850 exc VAT, while the Mesh costs £833 once you include delivery.