Mesh Matrix Venom review
A few months ago, Mesh’s Elite Quad Storm Pro thundered to the top of our A List £1,000+ chart (web ID: 125297), coupling great value with blistering performance. This month, Mesh is back with the dangerous-sounding Matrix Venom, boasting a raft of new technology.
The Venom has a solid foundation to build on. A feature-packed MSI K9A2 Platinum motherboard houses AMD’s long-awaited next-generation Phenom chip. The Venom’s 9500 model is one of the quad-core versions at the bottom end of the range, with each core running at 2.2GHz. Its overall application benchmark score of 1.33 won’t keep Intel’s engineers awake at night, but it’s more than enough for all but performance enthusiasts.
There are four PCI Express x16 slots on the board, giving you the option for a quad-graphics card setup (where each slot will run at 8x). As it comes, the Venom packs in a pair of ATi Radeon 3850 cards, which are CrossFire 2 enabled. While that puts a fair amount of raw power in the machine, relatively few games will currently take advantage of their combined performance. New drivers should gradually unlock their potential, but for now you’ll be stuck with running the latest titles at low-to-medium settings. Our Call of Duty 2 benchmark, for example, ran at an average rate of 35fps at its highest settings, whether or not CrossFire was enabled.
Given the enthusiast potential of the flamboyantly named Venom, the case is an aesthetically understated affair. There’s nothing wrong with it, though, with its curved panels and ethereal blue lights glowing behind the wavy frontage, made from an impressively hefty chunk of metal. The large door at the front houses a multiformat DVD writer and the power and reset buttons, although the novelty of opening it to boot your PC will quickly wear off.
A clear, sharp 24in widescreen monitor is included, courtesy of Iiyama. The very reasonable ProLite B2403WS (web ID: 125299) has a commodious resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 pixels, making it well suited to both gaming and more prosaic pursuits. It can appear a little dim at times, but it’s otherwise very flexible, with extensive tilt and angling options. It also packs in a pair of surprisingly beefy speakers.
Mesh has also included a set of Creative Inspire A500 5.1 surround speakers, which consist of a chunky subwoofer and five satellites to position around the room. Sound is pumped through a high-definition onboard Realtek sound chip. There’s also an optical digital audio output should you wish to do anything more complex.
Storage is provided by a pair of hard disks, a 500GB drive, split between the OS, a recovery partition plus a 250GB disk for everything else. It all adds up to less than the Elite Quad Storm Pro’s terabyte of space, but it’s plenty for most people, and two spare bays are available should you need them.
The rest of the build is neat and tidy; the wires are bunched together to aid airflow, and there’s room to upgrade almost every other aspect. A hybrid TV tuner sits in one of the three PCI slots, and the two spare PCI Express slots will also double up to fit 1x PCI Express devices. Only two of the four DIMM sockets are used, although the 4GB total is all you’ll be able access without moving to a 64-bit version of Windows.
All in all, this isn’t a bad system, but we have reservations. The graphics setup is a gamble – particularly when single-card options from Nvidia look so strong. And, while the AM2+ socket should provide ample upgrade options, it’s unlikely ever to match the top performance of a Socket 775 setup. Aside from the novelty of the new processor, the Venom doesn’t distinguish itself from the Elite Quad Storm Pro or its A List compatriot, the cheaper Zoostorm 5-7404 Quad Core. AMD enthusiasts could do worse, but the Venom ultimately lacks the bite to make the A List.