Cast a cursory glance at the specifications of the TI and Pacstar systems this month and you could be forgiven for thinking the two companies have copied each other’s notes.
Both systems have the same 3.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 processor, backed by 2GB of RAM, and exactly the same hard disk configuration – a pair of 750GB Samsung Spinpoint F1s, in a RAID array giving a total of 1.5TB of storage.
Even the motherboard is near-identical: the Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3R in the TI has the same chipset and headline features as the GA-EP45-DS3P in the Pacstar: the only differences are a slightly different I/O controller and an extra PCI-Express 4x slot.
It’s not to say that the similarities are unwelcome: the TI is comparably powerful. That 3.16GHz processor and 2GB of RAM carried the Extreme Power 260 to a phenomenal overall benchmark score of 1.80 – near enough to the 1.75 of the Pacstar to ensure identical performance in day-to-day use.
The first major deviation from the specification of the Pacstar is the graphics card. TI has opted for Nvidia hardware: the 896MB Nvidia GTX 260.
It’s a fantastic card: the 576MHz core powered Crysis to a spectacular result of 50fps at its High setting: more than enough to ensure smooth gameplay in modern games.
A glance at the price reveals that, despite nearly-identical performance, the Extreme Power 260 is over $300 cheaper than the Pacstar DDR5, and one area where TI has economized is the monitor. Where the Pacstar has a luxurious, 24in LG with a native resolution of 1900 x 1200, the TI loses 2in of diagonal on its LG W2252TQ-BF, and plenty of resolution.
With both monitors placed side by side and running a photo-editing application the benefits to the larger LG were obvious. However, there’s no doubt that the W2252TQ-BF is a fantastic LCD: it won our Labs last month and is our choice of high-end LCD on the A List by dint of its excellent value for money. In use, the screen offers exceptional quality, and its standard 700:1 contrast ratio can be boosted to 10,000:1 for gaming. Our only wish is that it offered a few USB ports.
There are plenty of ports elsewhere, though. Like the Pacstar, the Extreme Power 260 has eight USB ports on the back; these are complemented by a further four on the front of the system. The front of the case is also home to 3.5mm headphone and microphone ports, although unlike the Pacstar there’s no front-mounted FireWire port.
The back of the system is more forthcoming: four- and eight-pin FireWire, plus optical and co-axial S/PDIF are all welcome additions. The optical drive is the sole remaining feature, although in the days of Blu-ray drives, such as that of the Pacstar, the dual-layer DVD writer is less than spectacular.
The case itself is an iCute model with a brooding black mesh on the front. It’s a far more subtle-looking system than the Pacstar, and the mesh brings with it the benefit of improved airflow, which TI exploits by including a 120mm case fan, albeit one accentuated with a garish blue LED.
The Extreme Gamer’s cooling credentials are helped further by a massive 220mm fan built into the side of the case. The only drawback – as with the Pacstar – is that the CPU cooling fan is Intel’s stock cooler; a rather noisy model compared to third-party options. To our ears, the TI was marginally quieter during testing, but it was still easily audible while working hard in our benchmarks.
This month’s clash of reasonably-priced performance PCs leaves only one winner. The Pacstar DDR5 has plenty to recommend it: we appreciate the large, beautiful screen, which is a great choice for digital photography or film-editing enthusiasts, and the Pacstar’s inclusion of a high-definition optical drive will be a big plus for those looking for a PC that will handle their entire media collection.
But it’s hard to ignore the saving offered by the TI. While not as big as that of the Pacstar, its 22in LCD is a superb model that’s more than capable of handling games, movies and image editing. We also prefer the TI’s case, although this is a personal preference.
More than anything, though, we like the TI’s $300 saving over the Pacstar: for pure bang-per-buck value, this is the obvious choice. It’s so good, in fact, that it earns a coveted spot on the A List. The outgoing TI Extreme Power 8500 offers a broadly similar specification, but the Extreme Power 260 offers a better LCD, improved 3D performance and a faster CPU, plus 500GB more storage space for less than $100 more.
This Review appeared in the September, 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing