Mesh Elite Q9300 Pro review

Price when reviewed

The market for sub-£1,000 desktop systems is a hugely competitive arena – evidence of this can be seen in the parade of excellent systems that regularly arrive in the PC Pro Labs. Mesh currently occupies the top spot with its Elite Pulse HD (web ID: 175197), and the new Elite Q9300 Pro aims to offer a similar high-definition experience for a lower price.

Whereas the Elite Pulse HD included a Pioneer Blu-ray drive, though, the Elite Q9300 Pro goes one better: the LG optical drive will also read HD-DVDs, so discs bought when the format war was still a talking point won’t go to waste.

Unfortunately, the monitor isn’t up to the same high standard: it’s a 22in CMV223D panel from Chimei that’s deeply average. It’s okay for everyday use, but comes with a raft of problems: text and detail is blurry, there’s a slight red tinge to bright whites and colours lack the vibrancy and punch of better-performing rivals. It’s not as impressive as the 24in Iiyama panel packaged with the Elite Pulse HD.

A set of Logitech S220 2.1 speakers provide audio, which are the same as those bundled with the Elite Pulse HD, but they pale in comparison to some of the 5.1 sets we saw in our Luxury £599 PC Labs. Quality is decent enough, though, with games and movies sounding suitably punchy and action-packed.

Thankfully, the system’s core components impress more than its peripherals. The eponymous Core 2 Quad Q9300 processor is a couple of steps up from the raft of Q6600-based machines we’ve recently seen, such as the Shuttle XPC P2 3500G (web ID: 191256) and Zoostorm Core 2 Quad Q6600 Advanced Premium PC (web ID: 174201).

It’s a quick performer, by virtue of a 2.5GHz core clock speed, 6MB cache and 1,333MHz FSB and results in a score of 1.53 in our application-based benchmarks. This is impressive for a PC at this price, and faster than many more expensive rivals. The Mesh Elite Pulse HD scored 1.32, for instance, and the £999 PC Specialist Apollo Q6600GT also fell short, scoring 1.45.

Graphically, there’s enough about the Elite Q9300 Pro to satisfy all but the most demanding of gamers. An Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT comes with 512MB of memory on board and powers the Mesh to a competent set of benchmark figures: 46fps in our medium benchmark and 21fps in our demanding high-quality Crysis test are again very good for a system of this price.

In fact, it’s only consistently beaten by systems such as the Eclipse Zenith i82n98GTX (web ID: 195579) that cram in Nvidia’s latest 9800 GTX graphics, and it’s evidence that, as well as handling the latest high-definition movies with ease, modern games won’t pose the Mesh any problems either.

Elsewhere it’s less exciting, but there’s nothing major wrong. The chassis is plain, but solid and well-built, and offers a reasonable amount of space for upgrades. A couple of free DIMM slots are available to increase the standard 2GB of RAM, and three spare 5.25in bays – plus a pair of extra 3.5in internal bays – are left free for additions. The single PCI Express 16x slot, though, is occupied by the 9600 GT graphics card, so there’s no scope for SLI.

The processor is kept cool by an Akasa fan, but this does mean that the Mesh is one of the louder systems we’ve reviewed recently. Even when idling, the Elite Q9300 Pro audibly hums – so much so that it could prove a distraction during quieter movie moments, for instance.

It’s a similar story on the outside of the case, with respectable, if not spectacular, selection of ports and sockets. Seven USB ports caters for a large peripheral collection, and there’s a card reader supporting most modern formats. A parallel port offers support for older printers, too. It’s a shame, though, that the GPU only offers DVI-I with no HDMI.

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