PC Express PCX 3500

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PC Express PCX 3500
  • PC Express PCX 3500
  • PC Express PCX 3500
  • PC Express PCX 3500

Pros

  • Fast and reliable performer, four-drive RAID 0 array

Cons

  • No redundancy or data backup drive is supplied

Bottom Line

If you're after a fast pre-built PC, it's hard to go past this one. It's well configured, fairly stylish and it performed well in all our tests.

Would you buy this?

This is one of the fastest PCs we've reviewed to date, and considering its specifications, it would've been a major disappointment if it wasn't. PC Express has overclocked its Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU from 2.4GHz to 3.15GHz, which provides plenty of straight-line speed, and the company has also assembled a star-studded supporting cast around the CPU.

Indeed, it has 4GB of RAM and an MSI GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card, but the biggest star is the four-drive RAID 0 array, which consists of four 500GB Samsung hard drives. It gives the system a total of 2TB of storage (1.81TB formatted capacity), and noticeably speeds up data transfers.

This was shown in our hard drive transfer test, where we copy data from one location on the drive to another. While a standard PC scores around 30MBps in this test, this machine scored a blistering 101MBps. This is a super-fast result that helped boost the machine's overall performance, and it will really benefit disk-intensive applications where a lot of data needs to be written and read. The only drawback of this array is that it's not redundant, which means that if one drive fails, all data is lost. A large external drive will need to be used to store backups of essential data.

In WorldBench 6, the PC Express recorded 135, which is among the fastest scores we've ever seen in this benchmark. It recorded fast results in all the individual applications, but it was especially fast in the Photoshop CS2 and 3dMax Open GL rendering, multitasking and WinZip compression tests. It also recorded a fast time in our Cdex MP3 encoding test (1min 26sec) and in our iTunes MP3 encoding test (56sec), and both of those times are due to the fast frequency of the CPU.

For gaming, the machine won't have any problems handling current DirectX 9-based titles at high resolutions and high-detail levels, so we performed tests using the DirectX 10-based Call of Juarez and Lost Planet demos. These really put the sword to the machine and made the 8800 GTX-based card chug quite a bit. In Call of Juarez, at a resolution of 1680x1050 (which is the native resolution of the 22in monitor that ships with the system) and 4x antialiasing (AA), the machine scored 20 frames per second (fps). In Lost Planet, at a resolution of 1360x768 and 8x AA, the machine averaged 20.5fps. Both of these results aren't conducive to smooth gameplay, but they do give an insight into how the machine might perform when playing upcoming DirectX 10-based games at high resolutions and high-detail levels. Considering the other high-end components in this machine, a dual-card graphics card setup might be something to consider.

Physically, PC Express has installed the high-end components in a CoolerMaster Mystique mid-tower ATX case, which is solidly constructed and has a unique front-panel cover. It comes with a 650W power supply and has 12cm fans located at the front (near the hard drives) and rear (near the CPU), which help to keep a constant flow of cool air through the case. The hard drive bays face outward, making them easy to access, but there isn't any more room for internal hard drives (unless three of the free 5.25in drive bays are adapted for hard drive use).

PC Express has used a Serial ATA DVD burner from ASUS, instead of a parallel ATA-based burner, and all the data cables and power cables from the drives are tied as neatly as possible. For connectivity, the machine has two USB ports, one FireWire port, and microphone and headphone ports located on the top (which promotes a floor-standing position for the PC), while the rear of the case has a combination of old and new ports, including a parallel port and two eSATA ports. A 22in monitor and cordless Logitech peripherals round out the package.

If you're after a fast pre-built PC, it's hard to go past this one. It's well configured, fairly stylish and it performed well in all our tests.

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