This month Pacstar sent us a ‘budget’ gaming PC. Previous similar submissions to PC Authority have proved a mixed bag: ‘gaming PC’ often seems to be an excuse to get rid of old components from the stock room.
But Pacstar gets off to a good start. A 2.4GHz Core 2 processor powers the system. This is Intel’s second-fastest non Extreme chip sporting 4MB of level 2 cache. It’s flanked by two 512MB sticks of premium Corsair 667MHz PC2-5300 DDR2 RAM – we’d prefer to have seen 800MHz PC2-6400 to take full advantage of the platform’s speed, but we recognise that good, fast and reliable stuff is difficult and expensive to get. Also pumping up the speed factor are two 36GB Raptor hard disks. These run with RAID0 (striping) for speed, which at 10,000RPM is going to be high.
Indeed, all of this combined to score 1.49 in our benchmarks: almost 50 percent faster than our ‘fast’ Pentium D reference PC. How times have changed. In short, speed is not wanting, and there are no major bottlenecks anywhere.
3D performance comes from an Nvidia 7950 GT card – a good choice considering the maximum 1280 x 1024 resolution of the monitor. Indeed, in our medium-settings game tests the ELITE 6600 averaged 75fps in Far Cry and 52fps in Call of Duty 2 so you’ll be able to play all of the latest games at full resolution and detail settings for some time to come.
So it’s got the grunt to satisfy the demanding gamer, but it also takes features and peripherals to make a great PC. The 19-inch BenQ LCD is generally good. We were concerned that no DVI cable was included in the box, but running it through analogue VGA still provided a very sharp image. Colours were bright and text was sharp. Vertical viewing angles were mediocre but horizontal ones were better. Most importantly games looked very good – the colours were bright and lush when wandering around the jungles of Far Cry and the 8ms response time meant lag was minimal.
The wired Microsoft keyboard and mouse might not be the most fully-featured but they’re well-designed, comfortable to use and responsive. All in all we can only see gamers liking the set up.
Other features include a DVD writer which supports dual-layer writing and DVD-RAM. There’s space for three more 5.25-inch drives too. There’s also room for three more hard disks though you should add case fans if doing this because of heat increases. Both external 3.5-inch drives are taken up with a floppy drive and a media card reader which supports everything but xD and Smart Media. It also sports a USB port.
The inside of the case is nea, thanks to some basic cable management from Pacstar which will help with air flow and heat dissipation. This is good because the lack of case fans could otherwise lead to overheating. The Raptors get hot and the only two fans are on the CPU and graphics card. We had no problems with stability through overheating though. The Raptors can make audible clicky noises, but the only noise which could prove annoying comes from the graphics card in full flow.
On the back plane reside four USB 2 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, connectors for 7.1 audio, optical and coaxial S/PDIF out, serial and parallel connectors. At the front are two USB 2 and two audio jacks.
At $2299 it’s good value. A large hard disk for media storage is what most people will miss, which is why TI’s Core 2 Dual Extreme stays on the A-List: the ELITE 6600’s gaming credentials move it slightly out of the mainstream. But this is undeniably faster and those gamers and power users who want to make use of the value and speed on offer here, while perhaps benefitting from adding extra components (there’s plenty of space) will be happy buying this.