Commodore returns with the Gaming GX Desktop Computer. But it will take more than a gimmicky desktop computer case to win over power PC users.

For those who grew up in the 1980s, the name Commodore is synonymous with computer gaming. The latest rebirth of the legendary name comes via Commodore Gaming, which is now taking orders - the Commodore Gaming GX will hit the UK on November 30 2007, and you can order this system now from Commodore.

The Commodore Gaming line is launching with four different models, from an entry-level power PC (the Commodore G) to an extreme gaming rig (the Commodore XX).

We got an exclusive opportunity to test the Commodore Gaming GX, a desktop computer that boasts many of the features any power user might want, including a fast processor, plenty room for expansion, one of the most customisable case designs we've seen, and dual-graphics-board capability.

We chose to test a configuration using a single 768MB Point of View GeForce 8800 GTX graphics board, so as to compare it against other models in our Power PCs category, which is oriented toward mainstream users.

One of the Commodore Gaming GX's most distinctive features is its jazzy painted chassis. When ordering a GX, you can choose from over 100 different case paint jobs (called C-kins, pronounced "skins"), ranging from colorful gaming and digital artwork to landscapes, photo images, and retro art concepts.

The design is baked on to four panels (sides, top, and front) and then covered with an antiscratch layer. Each set of panels is also interchangeable. At any time, you can order an entirely different set and replace the old panels using just a screwdriver.

Our review Commodore Gaming GX's fantasy design (with goblins, castles, and floating orbs) definitely stood out among the other PCs in the Test Centre. Although Commodore Gaming's systems are configurable, it's worth noting that the company currently offers only your choice of Intel Core 2 Quad processors and nVidia-based graphics boards.

The Commodore Gaming GX model we tested comes with a 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor, two 1GB DDR2 Corsair RAM sticks, a multiformat DVD writer, a multiformat card-reader drive, and one 500GB, 7200rpm Samsung hard drive. Also included in our test system's price is a nice 22in widescreen Samsung LCD monitor. For £1,799 inc VAT from Play.com in the UK, however, you can upgrade the processor to an Intel QuadCore Q6700 2.66GHz, and double the RAM.

Commodore Gaming GX performance

In our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 tests running 32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate, the GX earned a mark of 97, a solid result, but slower than other PCs at this price point.

The Commodore Gaming GX struggled most with the Photoshop CS2 and Winzip portions of its tests, its plodding marks representing the lowest scores for all power systems we've tested recently.

In these disk-intensive portions of our tests, the Commodore Gaming GX probably fell behind because its 7200rpm hard drive couldn't match the 10,000rpm hard drives used by several other systems. The GX also lacks the performance benefit of a RAID array.

In our graphics tests, the Commodore Gaming GX's smooth frames-per-second rates earned it a very good score, but, again, it wasn't the fastest system we've tested. Using a single, 768MB GeForce 8800 GTX graphics board, the GX registered a respectable 141fps running Doom 3 at 1024 by 768 resolution.

That result is again okay without being outstanding. However, serious gamers can boost the Commodore Gaming GX's gaming chops by using dual graphics boards in an SLI configuration, since the system uses an Asus P5N32-E SLI-ready motherboard.

The end result: this particular Commodore GX configuration's performance wasn't strong enough to help it earn our recommendation. But stay tuned: We wouldn't be surprised to see a more fully loaded GX find its way into our Top 5 Power PCs chart in the near future.

NEXT PAGE: design, expansion, connectivity and expert verdict > >

Commodore Gaming GX design

The Commodore Gaming GX's design allows for expansion and lots of connectivity. The midsize tower's front door opens flush against the side of the case and conveniently out of the way. Connectivity options include two USB slots, one FireWire port, and two audio connections in front, with six USB ports, one FireWire port, and two gigabit ethernet ports in the back.

The side panel contains a sizable 250mm fan that generates some noise but not enough to be truly disruptive. The panel opens easily, but you need to disconnect the fan to set the panel aside. The Commodore Gaming GX's interior is well-organised, and upgrades would be mostly tool-free.

Two additional 120mm fans on the front and rear panels and a CPU heat sink also help keep components from overheating. Another interesting innovation is Commodore's custom air-cooling system (called Ice Cube) that converts heat from the power supply into cool air and discharges it throughout the system. When we placed a hand over the Commodore Gaming GX's rear fan exhaust, we could definitely feel cool air coming out from the back.

In our test Commodore Gaming GX, three of the six external bays and two of the three internal drive bays were open. Two of the memory DIMM slots were open, too, but we had to move part of the cooling system out of the way to reach them.

Four expansion slots were taken (by a Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card, a dual USB connector card, and an extra-wide graphics card), leaving just two open slots (one PCIe x16, one PCI) for upgrades.

The 22in widescreen flat-panel monitor included in the Commodore Gaming GX's price (a Samsung SyncMaster 226BW) displayed fine image quality in photos, movies, and text screens, but a height adjustment control would make the display more convenient.

Gamers will appreciate the comfortable Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard and G5 mouse, both of which include useful extras such as macro keys and customizable buttons that are easy to use. Fans should also enjoy the 50 classic Commodore (C64 emulator) game pack that's included.

Commodore Gaming GX: Specs

  • 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor (2.6GHz Q6700 available)
  • 8MB L2 cache
  • 2x 1GB DDR2 Corsair RAM 6400 800MHz (up to 4GB available)
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
  • 18x Speed DVD +/-RW multiformat DVD writer
  • 13 in 1 multiformat card-reader drive
  • 500GB 7200rpm Samsung hard drive
  • 768MB Point of View GeForce 8800 GTX graphics board
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card
  • Killer NIC Gaming Network Interface Card
  • Ice Cube Cooling device
  • 22in widescreen Samsung SyncMaster 226BW flat-panel monitor
  • Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard and G5 mouse
  • 6x USB 2.0
  • 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor (2.6GHz Q6700 available)
  • 8MB L2 cache
  • 2x 1GB DDR2 Corsair RAM 6400 800MHz (up to 4GB available)
  • Windows Vista Ultimate
  • 18x Speed DVD +/-RW multiformat DVD writer
  • 13 in 1 multiformat card-reader drive
  • 500GB 7200rpm Samsung hard drive
  • 768MB Point of View GeForce 8800 GTX graphics board
  • Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card
  • Killer NIC Gaming Network Interface Card
  • Ice Cube Cooling device
  • 22in widescreen Samsung SyncMaster 226BW flat-panel monitor
  • Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard and G5 mouse
  • 6x USB 2.0

OUR VERDICT

Custom case artwork and an innovative air-cooling system help the Commodore Gaming GX stand out, but it'll take beefed-up performance to make it a winner.

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