PC Specialist Apollo Q9550 GTS review

£825
Price when reviewed

The past few months’ worth of desktop PC reviews may have been dominated by Intel’s Core i7 chips and the next generation of Phenom processors from AMD, but PC Specialist’s latest machine looks to prove that the previous generation can still cut it.

It may be more than a year old, but the Core 2 Quad Q9550 comes with a core clock speed of 2.83GHz, 12MB of L2 cache and a 1,333MHz FSB – plenty of power without the high price of a cutting-edge part. It doesn’t have the numerous advantages of Intel’s latest, such as HyperThreading, but the Q9550 is more than enough to return a good benchmark score of 1.72.

It certainly isn’t as fast as recent Core i7 machines – the slowest, the Novatech Enigma, scored 1.84 – but it’s more than enough to cope with demanding applications and intensive multitasking.

PC Specialist has chosen a brand-new GPU to partner the older processor, and it bucks the ATI trend that has emerged over recent months – this is the first PC we’ve seen with discrete Nvidia graphics since April’s CyberPower Gamer Infinity 775 Silent Edition, which included a GeForce 9600 GT.

The GTS 250 in question follows the familiar Nvidia pattern of recent months – tweaking and re-branding old parts with new names – and is actually a revised GeForce 9800 GTX+ using a new PCB. It returned good scores in our benchmarks, too, with the 36fps score in our 1,600 x 1,200 high-quality Crysis benchmark slightly higher than the 33fps of the Chillblast Fusion Stinger, although it isn’t as quick as the 54fps scored by the Yoyotech Water Dragon 3.6, which boasted an ATI Radeon HD 4890 card.

The Trident chassis isn’t the best-looking we’ve seen, and it lacks room as well as style. The interior is dominated by a large plastic funnel that expels heat out of the side of the chassis and, while it folds out on its hinges to allow some basic upgrades, it will still need to be fully removed if you want to do any serious work inside the machine. Thankfully, though, PC Specialist has kept the interior tidy and well organised.

Upgrade potential is a little limited: there’s only a single empty hard disk bay, one empty front-facing 3.5in slot and a pair of vacant 5.25in bays. The motherboard houses a trio of empty PCI slots, but no PCI Express 16x slots – so no chance of SLI, then – and only one PCI Express 1x slot. In its favour, there’s a pair of empty DIMM sockets should you wish to add to the four gigabytes of installed memory.

The Apollo isn’t particularly quiet, either, thanks to the stock Intel cooler and constantly churning Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 hard disk. It isn’t the loudest system we’ve seen recently, with that honour going to the Mesh XGS PII 955R, but its high-pitched whirr could prove aggravating.

Ports-wise, the basics are well covered, with nine USB ports on offer alongside a pair of PS/2 sockets, Gigabit Ethernet and the requisite display and audio outputs, but there aren’t any special additions such as FireWire or eSATA.

The Acer V243H monitor may look dull, but image quality is good – there’s hardly any backlight bleeding, detail is sharp and colours are accurate, if lacking a little vibrancy. It isn’t up to the standard of the best Samsung panels, but it’s perfectly serviceable for movies and games – and its 1,920 x 1080 native resolution will endear it to Blu-ray fans, too, along with the Blu-ray reader included with the machine.

Warranty

Warranty1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity750
RAM capacity4.00GB
Screen size24.0in

Processor

CPU familyIntel Core 2 Quad
CPU nominal frequency2.83GHz
CPU overclocked frequencyN/A
Processor socketLGA 775
HSF (heatsink-fan)Intel stock cooler

Motherboard

MotherboardAsus P5QL
Motherboard chipsetIntel P43
Conventional PCI slots free0
Conventional PCI slots total3
PCI-E x16 slots free0
PCI-E x16 slots total1
PCI-E x8 slots free0
PCI-E x8 slots total0
PCI-E x4 slots free0
PCI-E x4 slots total0
PCI-E x1 slots free1
PCI-E x1 slots total1
Internal SATA connectors6
Internal PATA connectors1
Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory typeDDR2
Memory sockets free2
Memory sockets total4

Graphics card

Graphics cardNvidia GeForce GTS 250
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards?no
3D performance settingLow
Graphics card RAM1.00GB
DVI-I outputs1
HDMI outputs0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0
Number of graphics cards1

Hard disk

Hard diskSeagate Barracuda 7200.10
Capacity750GB
Hard disk usable capacity698GB
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Spindle speed7,200RPM
Hard disk 2 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacityN/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speedN/A
Hard disk 2 cache sizeN/A
Hard disk 3 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacityN/A
Hard disk 4 make and modelN/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacityN/A

Drives

Optical disc technologyBlu-ray reader
Optical disk 2 make and modelN/A
Optical disk 3 make and modelN/A

Monitor

Monitor make and modelAcer V243H
Resolution screen horizontal1,920
Resolution screen vertical1,080
Resolution1920 x 1080
Pixel response time2ms
Contrast ratio40,000:1
Screen brightness300cd/m2
DVI inputs1
HDMI inputs0
VGA inputs1
DisplayPort inputs0

Additional Peripherals

SpeakersN/A
Speaker typeN/A
Sound cardVIA HD Audio
PeripheralsWireless keyboard and mouse

Case

ChassisPC Specialist Trident
Case formatFull tower
Dimensions191 x 472 x 421mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays2

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream)9
PS/2 mouse portyes
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports1
Modemno
3.5mm audio jacks6

Front ports

Front panel USB ports2
Front panel memory card readeryes

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboardLogitech Wireless Desktop 660

Operating system and software

OS familyWindows Vista

Noise and power

Idle power consumption94W
Peak power consumption218W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score1.72
Office application benchmark score1.43
2D graphics application benchmark score2.00
Encoding application benchmark score1.39
Multitasking application benchmark score2.04
3D performance (crysis) low settings78fps
3D performance settingLow

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