capsule review

Xi Mtower PCIe Desktop Computer

At a Glance
  • Xi MTower PCIe

    PCWorld Rating

    Excellent bang-for-the-buck desktop PC offers sterling performance and plenty of expandability at a nice price.

Xi Computer's MTower PCIe is one of the best power desktop computers we've recently tested. Reasonably priced at $3149 (as of November 2, 2007), the system includes a 24-inch wide-screen LCD monitor and delivered impressive performance. Considering what some competitors offer, disk space could have been more generous, but you do get two 150GB Western Digital Raptor hard drives configured in a RAID 0 array (both run at 10,000 rpm). You can also custom-order your machine at Xi's site, or choose an overclocked system (covered under warranty), such as the speed-demon MTower IGE-Stacker that we've previously reviewed.

Our test system included 32-bit Vista Home Premium. In our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 test suite, the 3-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6850-equipped MTower PCIe earned an impressive score of 121, not far behind the 124 and 123 posted, respectively, by the CyberPower Infinity Pro and the HP Blackbird 002 Lci, two pricier models that use a quad-core 3-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 CPU. The MTower earned the best scores among all the systems we recently tested in the Autodesk 3DS MAX DirectX, Firefox 2, and Nero portions of WorldBench, and the second-best scores in the Photoshop CS2, MS Office, Windows Media Encoder, and Winzip tests.

Using a single 768MB XFX 1X 8800 GTX graphics board on an EVGA nVidia nForce 680i SLI-ready motherboard, the MTower PCIe also did quite well in our graphics tests. Its second-place score of 208 average frames per second while running the game Far Cry at high resolution (1280 by 1024) with antialiasing turned on was just 7 percent slower than the top score of 223 fps earned by the CyberPower Power Infinity Pro, which pairs an equivalent EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX graphics board and Intel's new QX9650 CPU.

The MTower's black aluminum case (Matrix VX) is well-designed, with plenty of ports in front and back. Blue light shines through the front panel as well as through a clear plastic section of the side panel. Inside the well-organized and spacious interior, you have lots of room for mostly tool-less upgrades, including two open memory slots, and one PCI Express x16, one PCIe 1x, and three PCI slots. Three of the six external drive bays and one of the three internal drive bays are open.

The 24-inch, wide-screen Komodo Sceptre DCL 24a LCD supports a high (1920 by 1200) resolution. Its text quality was very readable, even at small sizes, and its image quality was generally good for both still and moving images. However, some pictures looked slightly dark, and whites appeared a little less bright. The monitor also lacks a height adjustment control that would make it more flexible to set up.

The included Logitech Cordless Desktop MX3200 mouse and keyboard were both comfortable to work with. The mouse has useful extra buttons, and the keyboard has a host of convenient extra keys, plus an LED screen that can show time and date, a calendar, or a character count, or be set as an alarm clock.

All in all, the well-priced MTower PCIe's sterling performance and excellent expandability make it a good investment for any power user, but it should be paired with a better display.

--Richard Jantz

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Excellent bang-for-the-buck desktop PC offers sterling performance and plenty of expandability at a nice price.

    Pros

    • Strong performance
    • Low-cost power system

    Cons

    • Could use more hard drive space
    • Bundled LCD monitor could be better
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