capsule review

Polywell Computers Poly 580CF-2900

At a Glance
  • Polywell Poly 580CF-2900

    PCWorld Rating

Polywell's latest gaming PC costs just $3399 (as of July 11, 2007)--cheap for a gaming system--and it's the first machine we've tested to ship with dual 512MB ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics boards operating in CrossFire mode. It features a 3-GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ CPU and 4GB of RAM; but for all the apparent speed on paper, we found that its actual performance lagged behind that of other recent gaming systems.

The 580CF-2900 received a score of just 93 on WorldBench 6 Beta 2 tests, a result roughly 26 percent behind the average mark of 126 that rival systems in our gaming-PCs chart achieved. The dual HD 2900 XT graphics boards also struggled, achieving 130 frames per second in Doom 3 at 1280 by 1024 resolution with antialiasing turned on, and 140 fps in Far Cry at the same settings. Of the models in our gaming-PCs chart, the best performer on the same Doom 3 test was the Alienware Area-51 7500, which was equipped with dual 768MB EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX graphics boards. It achieved 165 frames per second, versus the rest of the gaming-PC field's average of 143 fps. The Dell XPS 720's 768MB nVidia GeForce 8800 GTX board helped it lead the way in our GPU- and CPU-intensive Far Cry game script, which we run at 1280 by 1024 with antialiasing turned on; here the Dell averaged 202 fps, easily besting the Alienware and the Gateway FX530XT, which tied at 181 fps.

Though the 580CF-2900's midsize-tower case resembles that of an Alienware system, it isn't the same quality. For instance, the latch on the door covering the front drive bays is flimsy--we accidentally broke it off. Inside, the cables are adequately tied, but they're bundled such that it's hard to install anything into the three available 5.25-inch bays or the single free 3.5-inch bay. All of the case's hard-disk bays were occupied on our test system, as it had two 74GB, 10,000-rpm Western Digital hard disks and one 500GB, 7200-rpm Seagate hard disk (for a total capacity of 648MB).

Since the dual-graphics-card rig occupies a great deal of space, the Asus M2R32-MVP motherboard has only a PCI Express x1 slot free for expandability. Connectivity options at the back of the system include two gigabit ethernet ports, two PS/2 ports, one eSATA connection, a six-pin FireWire port, and six USB slots. You can plug in peripherals even more easily using the two USB ports and one six-pin FireWire connection on the front of the case, located underneath the door covering the multiformat DVD writer, the DVD-ROM/CD-RW drives, and the media card reader.

Polywell has matched the 580CF-2900 with some good-quality equipment. The 22-inch Samsung 226BW wide-screen LCD has a 3000:1 contrast ratio plus a fast 2ms response time (perfect for gaming and watching movies); in addition, the company shipped our test model with a Logitech Cordless Optical mouse and a Logitech premium keyboard.

The system runs Windows Vista Ultimate, and Sid Meier fans will be pleased to hear that the bundled AMD game pack includes full versions of CivCity: Rome, Railroads, and Pirates. You also receive a full copy of the first-person shooter Prey.

Though the Polywell 580CF-2900 has 4GB of memory and the latest ATI graphics, with its 3-GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 6000+ processor it just can't match the speed of systems equipped with one of Intel's quad-core chips.

Danny Allen

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Inexpensive gaming system includes dual (CrossFire) Radeon HD2900 XT graphics, but overall performance was subpar.

    Pros

    • Latest ATI CrossFire graphics
    • Great Logitech keyboard and mouse

    Cons

    • Overall performance is mediocre
    • Limited expandability
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