capsule review

Xi MTower IGE-Stacker

At a Glance
  • Xi MTower IGE-Stacker

    PCWorld Rating

    This overclocked dual-core system outgunned pricier, quad-core systems.

The impressive MTower IGE-Stacker from Xi Computer proves once again that you don't need to move to quad-core computing--or take out a bank loan--to obtain a desktop system capable of winning performance.

This dual-core unit's performance surpassed that of the quad-core power and gaming systems we recently tested, and earned a record-breaking score of 139 in our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 test suite; the previous high was the CyberPower Gamer Infinity Ultimate's score of 129. Better still, at $3299 (as of September 12, 2007), it's one of the least expensive power-oriented PCs we've seen of late.

The MTower is equipped with Intel's fastest dual-core processor to date, the 3-GHz Core 2 Duo E6850, which Xi overclocks to 3.3 GHz (and covers under warranty). The CPU also boasts a faster frontside bus speed (1333 MHz) than its dual-core forebears had (1066 MHz). Using a single, 768MB EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX graphics board on an nForce 680i SLI-ready motherboard, our MTower was a racehorse in its graphics performance, earning the highest scores for most resolution settings among the four power systems we tested in the latest batch. For example, running at 1280 by 1024 resolution with antialiasing turned on in the graphically intensive game Far Cry, the MTower averaged 232 frames per second, compared with its rivals' average of 200 fps.

The MTower's black aluminum case (Cooler Master Stacker 832) features mesh grilles on both side panels as well as on the top and bottom sides. A hinged front panel conceals six external drive bays, two of which in our test model were occupied with a DVD burner and DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo player (but no multiformat card reader). Port connectors for USB, FireWire, and audio are sensibly located at the very top of the case, making them easy to access if the system sits on the floor. Additional USB and FireWire ports are provided on the back, but no parallel or serial ports for older devices are included.

The case's side panel and a second inner panel (featuring three of a maximum four 120mm fans) both come off easily without tools. The IGE-Stacker also has a liquid cooling system (Cooler Master Aquagate S1), and you can adjust its fan speed via a dial on the back of the rig (useful if you wanted to tinker with overclocking the processor yourself--though doing so would void Xi's warranty). As shipped, the liquid cooling of the MTower wasn't noisy or overly distracting, but I could definitely hear it humming along. Two of the four internal drive bays were filled with a pair of 150GB, 10,000-rpm Western Digital Raptor hard drives configured in a RAID 0 array, and of the four memory slots, two were occupied, giving our test machine a total of 2GB of DDR2 RAM. Our test model also offered two PCIe x16 and two PCI slots, but both PCIe x1 slots were unavailable: One was covered by the extrawide graphics card, and the other was blocked by the water cooler's adjustable dial bracket.

The bundled 22-inch wide-screen LCD, a ViewSonic VX2255wmb, delivered excellent color fidelity in both still and moving images, and readable text in small sizes. I also liked the convenience of its built-in microphone and 1.3-megapixel Webcam. The included Logitech Deluxe 250 keyboard and optical mouse were responsive but offered no extras; you may want to spend a few extra bucks on more versatile input devices.

If you don't require quad-core capability out of the box, the overclocked MTower IGE-Stacker offers top-flight performance and easy expandability at a very reasonable price.

--Richard Jantz

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This overclocked dual-core system outgunned pricier, quad-core systems.

    Pros

    • Superior performance
    • Inexpensive for a Gaming PC

    Cons

    • No media card reader
    • No legacy ports
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