capsule review

Polywell Poly i7050 Value Desktop PC

At a Glance
  • Polywell Poly i7050

    PCWorld Rating

    Delivers solid performance for basic tasks but not for fast-action games, and a compact case limits expansion.

If you want a space-saving value desktop computer that's powerful enough for general applications, Web surfing, and other routine tasks, the $729 (as of 2/7/08) Polywell Poly i7050 fills the bill. The i7050 weighs only about 12 pounds, versus 28 pounds for Dell's Inspiron 530. But as with nearly all compact models, the trade-off is that you have fewer expansion options inside.

The configuration we tested was equipped with a 2-GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core E2180 processor and two sticks of 1GB PC2-5300 DDR2 memory (2GB total) mounted on an EVGA NF77 nVidia nForce 630i motherboard with integrated nVidia GeForce 7150 graphics and HDMI output.

Despite the entry-level CPU, the Poly i7050 scored admirably in our productivity application benchmarks. It tied with the Sys Technology Sys Slimline Si200 in earning a WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 77, the best in our roundup. But like all of the other low-priced systems that use integrated graphics instead of a discrete graphics card, the Poly i7050 tested poorly in graphics performance, so it's not a good choice for 3D gaming fans. However, you can add a low-profile (half-height) graphics card in the system's open PCI Express x16 slot if you want to improve graphics performance; Polywell charges $72 for a 256MB nVidia GeForce 8400GS card (which has twice the memory as the one in the Dell Inspiron 530 we tested) and $85 for a 512MB nVidia GeForce 8500GT.

The Poly i7050's components are housed in a small, 13-by-16-inches, black-and-silver case that's barely 4 inches high. (You can get the same Poly i7050 system components in a cube-shaped case, as well.) Numerous vents--sides, top, and rear--helped keep our test unit cool, along with a quiet CPU fan inside.

The unit we tested had a 250GB Seagate hard drive and a DVD/CD combo writer, leaving only one drive bay (an external 3.5-inch one) free; accessing it requires unlocking a large metal cage and tilting it upwards, a somewhat cumbersome procedure.

Our i7050 also included a KDS K-92BW 19-inch LCD (1440 by 900 native resolution) with a VGA analog-only interface and decent image quality, though it wasn't quite as bright as some of the other 19-inch LCDs on competing systems. The i7050's USB-based Logitech RX300 optical mouse and Logitech 350 keyboard are better than the bare-bones input devices bundled with some budget PCs, but they also take up two of the PC's seven total USB ports.

If small size matters most to you, the Poly i7050's strong performance and features make it a good candidate among the budget-priced compact models. Otherwise, the midsize, $689 Dell Inspiron 530 is arguably a better deal, since it costs a bit less and comes with a discrete graphics card.

--Richard Jantz

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Delivers solid performance for basic tasks but not for fast-action games, and a compact case limits expansion.

    Pros

    • Small, compact case
    • Generally strong performance

    Cons

    • Only one free drive bay
    • Weak integrated graphics
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