Now that the home entertainment market has moved towards streaming video services and Blu-ray content, there has never been a better time to convert DVD collections to digital.
Altech Computers Sputnik No.2
- DVI output for onboard graphics, media card reader
- Noisy operation, no dedicated graphics card
The Altech Sputnik X2 is a good budget PC, or a good starting point for upgrading to a more powerful configuration in the future. We're disappointed at the lack of even a cheap graphics card, but the DVI output of the ASRock motherboard at least offers a digital output. We found it to be a little noisy for such a bare system, but overall it offers fairly good value.
Price$ 949.00 (AUD)
The Altech Sputnik X2 is an Intel Core 2 Duo-based system for users on a budget. It's a relatively plain PC, but it includes good core components and plenty of upgrade room for future expansion. It scored well in our tests, considering its price and configuration and will suffice for basic, everyday computing needs.
Built on an ASRock 945G-DVI micro-ATX motherboard, this system runs with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 CPU, 512MB of DDR2 RAM and integrated graphics. With a PCI Express slot available, four memory slots (for up to 4GB of RAM) and available space for an additional three hard drives, this system has plenty of room for expansion.
We tested the Sputnik X2 using WorldBench 5, where it achieved a score of 104. This is indicative of the components' performance which are sufficient for running most common software applications available today but adding more RAM, up to 1GB, will improve the performance of this machine significantly.
A single 80GB 7200rpm hard drive comes with the system, and will hold enough data for basic users to get by. However, a further three hard drive bays are available in the case, and the motherboard can support another three SATA drives, so adding more storage is possible. The onboard graphics chip is sufficient for doing word processing, Web browsing and all other general tasks, but if games are on the agenda then purchasing a dedicated graphics card is the best solution. This motherboard comes with a special DVI output card for its integrated graphics chip, where most onboard graphics chips only support VGA (D-sub). This is good for users with monitors that support the higher quality DVI connection, which many modern screens do. If gaming is important, the Asrock motherboard has one PCI Express x16 slot for the addition of a single dedicated graphics card.
Also installed is a media card reader supporting Compact Flash I/II,MD, SD, MS/MS Duo/MS Pro/MS Pro Duo,SM,RS-MMC and xD media cards, which is useful for transferring photos from a digital camera to the PC. This is easily accessible from the front panel, where a pair of USB 2.0 and audio ports can also be reached.
Despite the minimal hardware configuration, this system gives off a lot of noise. Apart from the CPU cooler, a small 80mm fan extracts air from the rear of the case. Both of these fans spin fast and loud, and since the case has no fan-mounts for any larger fans, not much can be done to reduce the noise. The CPU is fed cool air directly from the side of the case, thanks to a shroud running from a grill in the side panel. There is minimal cable clutter to impede the airflow through the case due to the minimal hardware and tied-off cables.
All up, the Sputnik is a good budget PC that performed quite well despite its minimal configuration. It's a solid platform to start with if you want to buy an inexpensive dual-core machine with a view to expand it in the future if your needs outgrow its capabilities.
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