capsule review

ABS Ultimate M6 Sniper II

At a Glance
  • ABS Ultimate M6 Sniper II

    PCWorld Rating

    This is a system for gamers and graphics gurus who want the fastest PC on the block and are willing to pay for it.

ABS Ultimate M6 Sniper II
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

There's one outstanding reason to buy this system: its superlative performance. The ABS Ultimate M6 Sniper II posted the fastest scores to date on PC World's WorldBench 5 test suite and some of the best scores yet on our graphics and gaming tests.

The Ultimate M6 Sniper II owes its superior speed to AMD's latest top-of-the-line, dual-core CPU--the Athlon 64 FX-60--and to a host of other high-powered (and high-priced) components. The PC ($4499 as of January 18, 2006) includes an ASUS A8N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard, 2GB of SDRAM, two EVGA e-GeForce 7800 GTX graphics cards linked by SLI technology to work together, two 10,000-rpm 74GB Western Digital Raptor hard drives striped for optimal performance in a RAID 0 array, a third hard drive for storage (a 500GB Seagate Barracuda), and a 19-inch Samsung SyncMaster 915N LCD monitor.

All that high-powered hardware helped the M6 Sniper II streak to a WorldBench score of 141, more than 8 percent higher than the previous top mark of 130 posted by Xi Computer's MTower 64 AGE-SLI, which runs on AMD's erstwhile top-tier, dual-core CPU--the Athlon 64 X2 4800+. Of particular note, the ABS machine delivered the third-best score yet on the multitasking component of WorldBench, which directly measures the processor's dual-core capabilities.

The primary appeal of a power system like this is gaming performance, however, and the Ultimate M6 Sniper II doesn't disappoint. Its frame-rate score on our Unreal Tournament tests at 1280-by-1024 resolution with 32-bit color exceeded the previous best mark by almost 8 percent.

Game play in Return to Castle Wolfenstein was also very smooth, as was DVD movie playback, though both yielded a display that was slightly dark on the SyncMaster monitor. Small, 6.8-point Times Roman text viewed at the screen's native resolution of 1280 by 1024 was discernible, but not comfortably readable.

The Logitech wireless mouse and keyboard were a delight to use; the keyboard has nice heft and plenty of well-placed multimedia and programmable control buttons.

The full-size, unpainted aluminum tower case feels sturdy and projects a certain Spartan elegance. Behind a stylish, thick aluminum door, an eerie blue light of the type found on many other high-priced gaming systems glows behind a black grill. The door isn't easy to remove, however, so if you frequently access the dual-layer DVD +/-RW drive, DVD-ROM drive, media-card reader, or floppy drive, you'll likely leave the door open.

Unfortunately, the power button is located on the top of the case, where even a dropped cell phone could cause an accidental system shutdown. Two USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire port, and a microphone and headset jack sit behind a small door on the top of case instead of on the front. This arrangement might annoy you if you want to use the top of the case as a shelf for, say, an external drive. The back of the case comes with a full selection of I\O ports including an external SATA port, two ethernet ports, analog audio ports to support 7.1-channel surround sound, and both coaxial and optical (Toslink) digital audio-out ports.

Connecting devices inside the case presented some difficulties. Though access to the motherboard was relatively unhindered and I could easily add another hard drive, getting to the existing hard drives required removing at least one of the graphics cards. Also, the two bulky SLI graphics cards impede access to the two open PCI slots.

The sparse documentation includes a thin, very simple user guide that will be of passing use only to novices.

This is strictly a system for gamers and graphics mavens who want the fastest PC on the block and are willing to pay for it.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This is a system for gamers and graphics gurus who want the fastest PC on the block and are willing to pay for it.

    Pros

    • Speedy performer
    • Comes with 648GB of storage

    Cons

    • Very expensive
    • Access to its open PCI slots is blocked
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