Our A-List ‘Value PC’ category rarely witnesses explosions in new technology, but every PC that has occupied the spot has been good value. We’re happy to report that, unlike previous award winners, Excel’s AllRounder 1500 offers more than just a minor incremental upgrade.
The first notable feature is that it ships with Windows Vista Basic edition — an improvement on XP Home, but without access to Vista’s advanced Aero interface. It’s also the first value PC through our doors with a dual-core processor, but beyond that it’s very similar to the previously
A-Listed Pacstar AMD X1 GAMING System.
The 2GHz AMD X2 3600+ combined with 1GB of RAM and a 320GB WD hard disk (with 16MB cache) attained a score of 0.97 in our 2D benchmarks — just 3 percent short of our ‘high performance’ reference system. This was the same overall mark as the Pacstar which sported a slightly-faster, single-core Athlon 3700+, but the AllRounder was pointedly 11 percent faster at multitasking.
Like the Pacstar, the graphics card is a GeForce 7600 GT — a sensible choice which can play most games at 1280 x 1024 with full detail settings. In our Far Cry test it averaged 38.4fps while in Call of Duty 2 it averaged 28fps. A capable gaming system.
Excel bundles Microsoft’s basic wired keyboard and mouse set, which is comfortable and responsive. The LCD is (like Pacstar’s) Chimei’s CMV 938D, which may look cheap and plasticy, but offers a well-lit, bright, crisp and clear, 1440 x 900 resolution desktop. Video and games looked generally good on it too, with the 8ms response time limiting lag — although up close grain was evident in the former. The main issue we had was mediocre viewing angles with whites in particular going dark very quickly when viewing from an oblique angle. Reasonably loud Ozaki stereo speakers are included, but they have almost no bass and can distort quickly. Excel also bundles a TV tuner, which can support both analogue and digital TV.
The insides are easily accessible with three PCI and two PCI-E 1x slots being available for future upgrades. There’s also space for five more hard disks. Two 5.25in drive bays lie empty — a third houses a dual-layer DVD writer which supports 18x DVD writing and DVD-RAM.
Connectivity is excessive at the front, with a panel offering two audio mini jacks, coaxial and optical S/PDIF in, FireWire, two USB ports, media card slots (supporting SD/MMC/MS/CF/SM cards) plus, weirdly, a four-pin DC output and a SATA port. Another panel offers two USB ports plus two more audio jacks. At the back are six audio ports for 7.1 audio, four USB, FireWire, parallel, serial and Gigabit Ethernet.
The warranty is only one-year RTB but at $1499 it’s undeniably great value. If you want a new PC that runs Vista for well under two grand, you could do a lot worse than this.