capsule review

ABS Ultimate X7

At a Glance
  • ABS Ultimate X7

    PCWorld Rating

    Attractive jet-black gaming PC has big LCD and powerful sound but unimpressive performance despite its Pentium dual-core CPU.

ABS Ultimate X7
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

As our review unit was, the ABS Ultimate X7 can be equipped with Intel's new 3.2-GHz dual-core Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 840 processor, which should eventually boost performance in applications designed for that chip. But in our tests, this machine's performance left a lot to be desired--especially when compared with systems that use AMD's Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processor, such as the Alienware Aurora 7500. (For more on dual-core performance, click here.)

Our $3699 Ultimate X7 review unit also had 1GB of DDR2-675 SDRAM and a 400GB hard drive. The dual-core processor basically provides the system with two CPUs, theoretically giving it extra power for multitasking. In our tests, however, the Ultimate X7 scored only 89 on WorldBench 5. That result is several points lower than those of other systems we tested that use the same processor (such as the Dell Dimension XPS Gen 5), which earned a WorldBench 5 score of 94. Even in WorldBench's multitasking and multithreaded software tests, the Ultimate X7's scores were lackluster compared with those of other systems using dual-core processors, whether from Intel or from AMD.

On the graphics side, the Ultimate X7 also received mediocre scores on most of our test games and was outpaced by power systems that cost $1000 less--such as the $2299 MicroExpress MicroFlex 3464--making it impossible to recommend this machine for gamers who want the biggest bang for their buck. Using an ATI Radeon X850 XT graphics card with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM, the Ultimate X7 produced 126 frames per second (a midrange result among all systems) in Return to Castle Wolfenstein and 274 fps (eleventh overall) in Unreal Tournament 2003, both at 1280-by-1024 resolution. In comparison, the MicroFlex 3464 (using an ATI Radeon X850 graphics card) scored 137 fps (tenth overall) and 307 fps (ninth), respectively, in the same tests.

Our test model came with an Acer AL 1912 19-inch LCD monitor, which tilts but doesn't swivel; and since it has only an analog port, you can't use this display in digital mode even though the graphics card has both digital and analog ports. However, the monitor's image quality was still praiseworthy: It displayed sharp, clear text even at small sizes, and graphics looked vivid, with good detail, especially in the lightest-color shades. DVD movie quality was also pleasing, with bright rich colors and smooth action. The bundled Logitech Z-5300e 5.1-channel sound system performed extremely well, producing powerful sound without distortion in both our DVD movie and music CD tests. I especially liked the sound system's wired remote control, which has separate volume levels for various speakers.

The all-black midsize case has a stylish curved front door, with blue LEDs, that provides access to DVD±RW, DVD-ROM, and floppy drives and a media card reader. On the top of the case, under a hinged flap, are two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port, and two audio ports (microphone, headphones)--all in easy reach, even if you place the system on the floor. The rear has four more USB 2.0 ports and two more FireWire ports, as well as a wireless desktop adapter, the D-Link AirPlus XtremeG.

The see-through, lockable side panel came off easily using thumbscrews, and I found the interior well organized, with wires and cables neatly tied and arranged (some labeled with tags). The expansion options include three open externally accessible drive bays, four open internal drive bays, two open memory sockets, and two open PCI Express slots (one X1, one X16). However, the graphics card blocks one of the open PCIe slots.

ABS includes generic system documentation in a binder, but I'd like it more if the information were specific to this model. The company does provide the user manuals for various components such as the motherboard and graphics card. The Microsoft Wireless keyboard (with wrist rest) and wireless optical mouse both worked well overall, except that we had to press a key to make the system boot into Windows during the start-up procedure. (This is not normal, according to ABS, but the vendor was unable to help us fix the problem before this review was submitted.)

Although the ABS Ultimate X7 comes fairly well loaded, its lackluster performance in our tests doesn't justify its premium price.

ABS Ultimate X7


WorldBench 5 score of 89, 3.2-GHz Pentium Extreme Edition 840 CPU, 1GB of DDR2-675 SDRAM, Windows XP Professional, 400GB hard drive, DVD±RW drive, 16X DVD-ROM drive, ATI Radeon X850 XT graphics card with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM, 19-inch Acer AL1912 monitor, Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 sound card, Logitech Z-5300e speakers. Midsize tower case. One-year parts and labor warranty; 24-hour toll-free tech support.
$3699
800/876-8088
www.abspc.com

Richard Jantz

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Attractive jet-black gaming PC has big LCD and powerful sound but unimpressive performance despite its Pentium dual-core CPU.

    Pros

    • Came bundled with a big LCD monitor

    Cons

    • Unimpressive performance
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