capsule review

Polywell Poly 916NF4-SLI

At a Glance
  • Polywell Poly 916NF4-SLI

    PCWorld Rating

    This well-equipped, dual-graphics-card system provides a relatively affordable entrée into SLI graphics.

Polywell Poly 916NF4-SLI
Artwork: Rick Rizner

Even at $3999, the Poly 916NF4-SLI is a bargain. If you're a hardcore gamer who just has to have a system with a dual-core CPU and two top-of-the-line SLI graphics cards, you probably won't find a machine for less. Purchasing the parts separately, you would pay almost $3000 just for the 3.2-GHz Pentium Extreme Edition 840 CPU, two EVGA E-GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards, and the Asus P5ND2-SLI Deluxe motherboard to run them. Throw in three hard drives, including two 10,000-rpm 74GB Western Digital Raptors striped in a RAID 0 array, a 16X rewritable double-layer DVD drive, a 32X CD-RW drive, and a Logitech wireless keyboard, and you're actually getting a great deal.

But before you see the full benefit of all that cutting-edge hardware, you'll have to find software that can fully exploit it. The Poly 916NF4-SLI posted a respectable PC WorldBench 5 score of 98, which beat every other Pentium Extreme Edition 840 system we've tested, but notably paled in comparison to the score of 130 produced by Xi's MTower 64 AGE-SLI, which runs on the latest AMD dual-core processor.

The Poly's frame rates on our standard graphics tests using Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament, while very good, were similarly as much as 30 percent lower than top-scoring systems with a single graphics card. We did get a glimpse, however, of what an SLI system is capable of on our advanced graphics tests. Frame-rate scores on Doom 3 and Far Cry, games that can benefit from dual SLI graphics cards, were almost double those of the nearest non-SLI systems at 1600-by-1200 resolution with antialiasing turned on.

The somewhat generic black-and-gray case lacks the flashy design of more-expensive gaming systems but has a solid feel. The front panel has the usual two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and microphone and headphone jacks, as well the DVD±RW and CD-RW drives and a six-in-one card reader.

Remove the easy-off cover, and you'll find what at first glance looks like a cramped, inaccessible interior: A vertical metal bar, which secures the two E-GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards, bisects the front of the case and blocks access to the two open RAM slots and three open external drives bays. A closer look, however, shows that the bar is hinged and can be moved out of the way after removing a single screw. The three open PCI slots are unobstructed, but the bridge that connects the SLI graphics cards blocks the one PCI Express x1 slot. And while you'll have to wrestle with power cables to access the open drive bays, changing hard drives--or adding a fourth drive to the remaining open bay--is easy; the hard drive housing slides horizontally out of the case.

Small text (6.8 point) on the 19-inch Avidav M1901D flat-panel display produced readable text at 1024 by 768, though it was not as crisply defined as on higher-quality displays. Likewise, image colors were acceptable, but had a slightly indistinct and dark appearance-- that may pose a problem for serious gamers. The Creative Inspire 7.1-channel sound system, on the other hand, produced clear, crisp tones from its seven speakers.

If you're looking for a relatively affordable entrée into SLI graphics, the Poly 916NF4-SLI is worth a look.

Polywell Poly 916NF4-SLI


WorldBench 5 score of 98, 3.2-GHz Pentium Extreme Edition 840 CPU, 1GB of DDR2-667 SDRAM, Windows XP Professional, 398GB of drive space (RAID), 16X DVD±RW DL drive, 32X CD-RW drive, EVGA E-GeForce 7800 GTX graphics card with 256MB of RAM, 19-inch Avidav M1901D monitor, Creative Inspire P7800 speakers, midsize tower case. Three-year parts, five-year labor warranty; 24-hour weekday, 4-hour Saturday toll-free support for one year. After one year: lifetime 8-hour daily, 4-hour Saturday support.
$3999
800/789-8027
www.polywell.com

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This well-equipped, dual-graphics-card system provides a relatively affordable entrée into SLI graphics.

    Pros

    • Uses two SLI graphics cards

    Cons

    • Bundled LCD lacks sharpness, vibrance
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