Holly KA630B review

£699
Price when reviewed

When you consider Holly’s previous Labs entries, like the water-cooled KA638S-W, it’s clear the firm has a penchant for thermal regulation. The KA630B is yet another machine that deserves commendation for its design.

Holly wisely chooses a Cooler Master chassis, and the black mesh on the front allows air to circulate straight through the case, while a 120mm fan at the back pushes the air out. The side panel has a 75mm fan, all aiding cooling. Fans carry a noise penalty, of course, but the KA630B wasn’t the loudest machine, measuring 41.4dBA while idle.

The svelte case is complemented by the Xerox XA7-17i, a 17in TFT that matches it for both looks and functionality. The glossy black bezel was quick to show fingerprints, but our monitor tests revealed a panel that, even in our strenuous pixel-tracking and moire tests, was free of pixel jitter and boasted excellent white contrast. The captive video cable isn’t ideal, but at least it’s DVI.

The monitor connects to a Gainward 6600 GT, which returned 53fps in Far Cry and 55fps in Halo, meaning it will play, for the moment at least, any game you can throw at it. More importantly, the 1.8GHz Athlon 64 3000+ and 512MB of RAM returned an application benchmark score of 1.98. This quick result is partly down to the motherboard’s nForce4 chipset.

Holly bundles a 7.1-channel speaker set to take advantage of the motherboard’s eight-channel chip. The speakers in question are VideoLogic’s ZXR-750 set, offering average sound quality but plenty of impact. We’d have liked a second optical drive, but NEC’s ND-3520A drive is suitably fast and writes to dual-layer discs at 4x. With 200GB of storage space on offer, we’ve no complaints with the Western Digital hard disk. Removable storage stems from the combo floppy and media card reader, which supports CompactFlash, SD/MMC, SmartMedia, Memory Stick and Microdrive devices.

Holly also supplies one of the best warranties in the group – its three years of on-site cover is matched only by Evesham. It all makes for a well-rounded PC, which on its own is great value. Next to the Evesham, however, it suffers a small performance hit and is slightly less upgradeable because of the non-Ultra nForce4 chipset. If this doesn’t bother you and cooling and overclocking are bigger priorities, it’s a great alternative.

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