MSI looks to add executive chic to a winning laptop formula
Pacstar Budget Gaming
- Cheap all-in-one package for gamers, good upgrade options.
- Limited cooling
The Pacstar Budget Gaming PC is a good performer and an indication that you don't need to blow the budget just to get a reasonable PC that has some upgrade potential.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
The smooth edges and the clean, uncomplicated fascia speak wonders for the capable Pacstar Budget Gaming PC. At a modest price it shows that you don't have to spend a lot of money to get a decent PC, even if you want to do a little gaming on the side. Lacking only speakers, this all-in-one AMD processor based package (PC, monitor, keyboard and mouse) is a no-fuss option if you want a good dollar to performance purchase that will suit each member of the family or each stage of your day from work or study to rest or play.
The backbone of this PC is the Gigabyte GA-M55PLUS-S3G motherboard, part of the Gigabyte S-series. We've tested a number of these boards and they've proven to be stable and competitive performers. Mounted on the motherboard is an AMD Athlon 3800 (2GHz) AM2 CPU. The combination of components led by the CPU is results in a PC with good performance, scoring 99 in World Bench 5. The score is even more impressive when the price and the fact that the system only comes with 512MB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM.
In our MP3 encoding test, we encoded 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s, which took one minute 43 seconds to finish. This is a good result, especially for the casual music encoder. The motherboard is capable of handling up to 4GB of RAM allowing a simple RAM upgrade should it be required in the future to improve performance.
Pacstar has designed this unit for the budget gamer and has included a Galaxy GeForce 7300GT graphics card, so we put the machine to the 3D test. In 3DMark 2006 it only mustered a score of 1734 but in 3DMark 2001 SE it scored well, getting 17,518. This would indicate that older games will be fine, but new, graphically taxing games will only run at lower settings. In FEAR we couldn't get a playable frame rate at maximum quality settings in 1280x960. We tried running the same test on high quality at a resolution of 1024x768, which it completed with an average of 41fps (frames per second). In Quake 4 it did better scoring an average of 44.6fps in high quality at 1280x1024.
Overall the build quality is good. With only one 80GB Seagate (SATA) hard drive and one LG DVD-re-writer (dual layer) there's little cabling cluttering the insides and what's there is neatly tied up. If you wish to upgrade later the Powerhouse 500W PSU (power supply unit) leaves enough headroom. The CPU is cooled by a standard AMD cooler, which is fed cool air by a shroud from the side of the case. Other than that all the air extraction is left to the PSU. There are unused fan-mounts at both the front, side and the rear of the case if you do need some added cooling. Until then the lack of fan noise keeps this machine fairly quiet and none of the components are likely to generate too much heat under normal circumstances.
Four 5.25in drive bays join four 3.5in hard drive bays and two 3.5in floppy drive bays for all your devices. The front panel gives quick access to two USB 2.0 ports, an audio out connection and a microphone jack. On the rear panel you get another four USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, legacy ports, 7.1 channel audio outputs (analogue) and a gigabit LAN connection.
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