In computing circles, two heads are definitely better than one. Or rather, two brains, in the shape of those busy central processors. Dual-core processing certainly seems to be the best fit for getting most of your work done quickly on modern personal computers.
When it comes to quad-core computing, though, the upgrade may not always be so obvious in daily use. While high-end design applications such as CGI-rendering video production software may happily make use of many cores, the majority of even today's day-to-day apps won't.
AMD's latest chip, officially released just today, includes not four cores, but six. The AMD Phenom II X6 1055T is a six-core CPU, clocked at 2.8GHz. Rather like the competing Intel Core 'i' chips such as the Core i7, with their on-the-fly-overclocking Turbo mode, this AMD processor is said to include Turbo CORE technology that 'transfers performance to three dedicated cores operating at higher frequency'.
Beyond even that built-in supercharging of the AMD Phenom II X6 1055T, the Mesh MatriX6 Xi system here has had its CPU overclocked by Mesh, from 2.8GHz to 3.3GHz. Overclocking like this can be a cheap-fix to get more raw speed from slower processors. Just remember that AMD does make it clear that its product warranty does not cover damages caused by overclocking; even when this is enabled by AMD software.
And neither does Mesh include any guarantee of this system, beyond the statutory minimum of 12 months. Particularly for PCs stressed beyond the chip maker's designation, we'd prefer to see PC vendors express their faith in their hot-rodded products by extending the guarantee to at least 24 months.
If something does go wrong inside one year, a return-to-base warranty means it's up to you pay for returning the PC to get it serviced.
The sped-up AMD Phenom II X6 1055T hex-core processor is combined here with an ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics card with 1GB of video RAM, along with 4GB of DDR3 system memory: we ought to have a quick machine here, and one well suited to gaming. And the benchmark figures do point to a suitably swift computer.
Where many Windows PC systems that pass through the test centre have the build integrity of a biscuit tin, the MatriX6 Xi takes a more solid approach, built as it is around an NZXT Hush case.
As well as having USB sockets that don't wobble so much when you plug in your peripherals, the side panels include foam padding to help cut down on noise from the fans required to keep such power-hungry systems cool.
A single 500GB hard drive fitted here also helps keep noise in check, where some similarly priced systems try to ramp up performance by combining two drives in a risky RAID 0 array.
Using the latest generation of ATI graphics cards also goes some way to reduce heat and power consumption. But this PC will still keep the electric meters revolving – we measured 150W power consumption with the machine sat idle, rising up to 357W when playing games.
Supporting the main AMD chip is an Asus M4A77TD motherboard, which has two spare slots for RAM upgrades, besides the two installed Crucial 2GB DDR3 RAM cards, these specified to 1333MHz operation.
The motherboard includes support for standard 3Gb/s SATA and USB 2.0; you will need to pay a little more for a motherboard that can handle the up-and-coming 6Gb/s SATA bus and latest USB 3.0 ports. But you do get four USB 2.0 and three eSATA ports on the board, along with another two USB 2.0 and a FireWire 400 port on the case side. An HEC 550W PSU delivers the chassis' power.
In the system price of £799 you also get a 23in full-HD LCD display, a Hannspree HF237, and wired keyboard and mouse. The Hannspree is a modest monitor that nonetheless can boast a useful 1920 x 1080 native resolution and an HDMI input. It's matt anti-glare finish means you won't be troubled by reflections, although a sparkly grain, especially evident on white images, reminds you that this is a budget twisted-nematic (TN) panel.
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