capsule review

Polywell Poly i680SLI

At a Glance
  • Polywell Poly i680SLI

    PCWorld Rating

By packing the latest Intel quad-core CPU and a top-of-the-line GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card into an unexciting case, Polywell has produced a blisteringly fast PC for the relatively affordable price of $3500 (as of March 16, 2007).

Of course, Polywell had to cut some corners to keep costs down. Most notably, omitting a second SLI graphics card saves at least $600, though it also has a deleterious effect on graphics performance.

The average frame rates we recorded for the Poly i680SLI on our Doom 3 and Far Cry graphics tests at multiple resolutions were about 10 percent below those for the otherwise comparably equipped CyberPower Gamer Infinity Ultimate, which ran on dual 8800 GTX cards. Likewise, the Poly i680SLI's WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 104 was substantially below the CyberPower's pace-setting 129. The differences in both the WorldBench 6 scores and the graphics results probably owe more to the gap in the systems' CPU clock speeds (an overclocked 3.46 GHz for the CyberPower system versus the Poly i680SLI's factory setting of 2.66 GHz, though both PCs use the same Core 2 Extreme QX6700 chip set) than to the CyberPower's inclusion of a second graphics board.

If you're inclined to overclock your PC, note that the Poly i680SLI relies on a CPU cooling fan; water cooling won't be available until this summer. Surprisingly, the large (120mm) fan embedded in the case's removable side cover makes little noise.

The black, midsize tower case eschews the flamboyant styling of many $5000-plus PCs, but it feels sturdy and offers excellent upgradability. The system's use of a single graphics card leaves the PCI and PCI Express expansion slots freely available; on many dual-card systems, the bulky cards completely block access to these expansion slots. The EVGA nForce 680i SLI 775 motherboard is SLI capable, so you can add a second graphics card if you want to.

The case's interior is well laid out, and cables are neatly bundled and well organized--though they're unceremoniously crammed into an open drive bay, which could lead to trouble if you ever want to add an optical drive. Frequent visitors to the case's interior will appreciate the tool-less quick releases on all of the card slots and drive bays.

On the off-chance that you'll need more internal storage space than the two 150GB hard drives provide, the case has room for an additional drive. You can also take advantage of the eSATA port, which lets you connect an external SATA hard drive without sacrificing drive performance. The placement of the eSATA port, two USB ports, and two audio jacks on the top front of the case works well if you stack devices on top of the PC, but dangling cables could be a hassle every time you open an optical drive.

I liked the 22-inch Samsung 225BW LCD monitor included with the system. Still images and video looked crisp and realistic, and game play on Far Cry was bright and smooth. Small (6.8-point) text was comfortably readable and well defined. On the other hand, I wish that the keyboard and mouse had been better. Despite offering good heft, the simple Logitech Y-SV39 keyboard was marred by mushy key action, and it had only four control keys.

If you want good performance and don't demand a flashy design, the quad-core Polywell Poly i680SLI should live up to your expectations.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Poly i680SLI is well priced for a quad-core system, and delivers high frame rates with a single SLI graphics card.

    Pros

    • Affordably priced for high performance
    • eSATA port located on top of the case

    Cons

    • Only one SLI graphics card
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