capsule review

Xi MTower IGE-SLI

At a Glance
  • Xi Mtower IGE-SLI

    PCWorld Rating

    Water-cooled PC performed very well for a dual-core system, outdoing the quad-core CyberPower gaming PC on some tests.

Using the same components found in other high-end systems, Xi Computer builds PCs that regularly top our performance charts--and the MTower IGE-SLI Gamer (priced at $3655 as of March 16, 2007) is no exception.

Of the eight Vista-equipped power desktop systems we recently tested using the Beta 2 version of our WorldBench 6 test suite, the MTower earned the second-highest score--a mark of 127, just behind the 129 posted by the CyberPower Gamer Infinity Ultimate. The MTower cemented its gaming credentials by posting the top frame rates in our Doom 3 and Far Cry tests at various screen resolutions. Its mark of 204 frames per second while running Far Cry at a 1024 by 768 resolution beat the frame rate of its nearest competitor--the Gamer Infinity Ultimate--by more than 10 percent.

The MTower achieved this performance with a less-powerful processor and graphics card combo than the CyberPower used. The MTower sported a dual-core, 2.93-GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 overclocked to 3.2 GHz and a single EVGA 8800 GTS graphics board. The MTower posted the top score on the multitasking portion of our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 tests, too.

The lesson: You may want to forgo a quad-core CPU and a second graphics board until more software can take advantage of these features. Fortunately, the MTower's nForce 680i motherboard gives you the option of waiting until later to upgrade; it supports Intel's new quad-core CPUs and can accommodate a second SLI graphics card.

The MTower's black midsize tower case isn't terribly stylish: A large window on one side reveals the system's innards bathed in an eerie blue light, but otherwise the exterior is standard fare. The unit came with a floppy drive; this may come in handy for BIOS upgrades or RAID installs, but most hardcore gamers would rather have a second DVD drive and a third hard drive to complement the two 150GB, 10,000-rpm Western Digital Raptor drives (which are optimized for performance in a RAID 0 array).

Unlike many water-cooled PCs equipped with SLI, the Cooler Master water-cooling system in the MTower is quiet and permits unobstructed upgrading. The case's cover pops off without balking to reveal an uncluttered, roomy interior. The presence of a single SLI graphics board helps avoid blocking the expansion slots (dual-card systems tend to make access more difficult). You may have to brush aside a few cables and cooling lines to reach the drive bays or RAM, but they are easy to reach, too.

I especially liked the Logitech MX3200 laser mouse and keyboard. The mouse has a pleasing ergonomic fit and lots of control buttons that aren't prone to accidental clicks. The keyboard includes a small LED screen and plenty of multimedia and other control buttons--among them, VoIP controls.

The $200, 22-inch Sceptre X22WG-Gamer flat-panel display delivered rich, colorful images in still graphics, game play, and DVD movie playback. Small (6.8-point) text was readable, though the edges of letters did blur slightly.

The MTower may not have the fancy looks of boutique PCs that cost thousands of dollars more, but it should satisfy any power user who wants fast performance and easy upgrading.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Water-cooled PC performed very well for a dual-core system, outdoing the quad-core CyberPower gaming PC on some tests.

    Pros

    • Very fast performance
    • High frame rates on graphics

    Cons

    • Water-cooling lines hamper access
    • Hard-drive space is low for a power PC
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