capsule review

Polywell MiniBox X5800-3D: 3D in Small Spaces

At a Glance
  • Polywell MiniBox X5800x-3D

    PCWorld Rating

    The Polywell MiniBox X5800-3D compact power PC delivers great 3D performance, but it stumbles at general performance.

The Polywell MiniBox X5800-3D brings 3D computing to the masses, using nVidia's 3D Vision to give games and movies a bit of extra depth. Priced at $2099 with a 23-inch Asus VG236H 3D display ($1649 sans display, as of September 29, 2010), the MiniBox is one of the most affordable ways to bring 3D into your home. But this little tyke can't keep up with some of the larger, better-heeled machines in the performance desktop PC category.

Tucked inside the chassis are a Core i7-930 processor overclocked to 3.2GHz, and 6GB of DDR3-1333MHz RAM.The nVidia GeForce GTX460 graphics card that drives the display supports the company's 3D Vision capabilities--more on that in a bit. Though 1TB of available storage seems a tad small for a performance PC, you actually get a pair of 1TB drives in a RAID 0 configuration, for exceptional speed.

The MiniBox earned a WorldBench 6 score of 128--a strong showing, but lower than many competing models can claim. For example, Digital Storm's Black Ops Assassin roared to a score of 172, and Origin Genesis Midtower posted a mark of 190.

The Digital Storm and Origin machines have similar components to the MiniBox, but their processors offer dramatically higher clock speeds, and they pair nVidia graphics cards in SLI to boost overall performance. Polywell's MiniBox managed a commendable frame rate of 110 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (at 2560 by 1600 resolution on the highest settings), but here again the competition was better: The Black Ops Assassin rang up 173 fps, and the Genesis Midtower sustained 165 fps. These are stellar scores, but they suggest the kind of performance jump buyers expect to see when they spend a bit more for extra muscle.

In its dimensions (9 inches high by 11 inches wide by 14 inches deep), this machine lives up to its MiniBox name. But predictably, the constricted space limits the amount of tinkering and upgrading you can comfortably do once you're inside. Opening the case is easy: The lid is held in place by three thumbscrews. The hard drives are readily accessible, but to remove the graphics card you must first remove the power supply and the Blu-ray burner.

Polywell provides a total of nine USB ports--three on the front and six on the rear. You'll also find a pair of easy-to-reach FireWire ports--one each on the front and on the rear--and a single eSATA port. The graphics card comes with a pair of DVI ports and an HDMI port. And like Polywell's previous MiniBox, the X5800-3D has a hot-swappable hard drive bay on the front, and a multiformat card reader.

Stereoscopic 3D is the star of the show here. It performs well and looks great on the bundled display. The actual 3D experience will likely vary from user to user, however. The 3D crosshairs in Unreal Tournament 3 gave me a slight headache, but Sony's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs made me feel as though I could reach out and touch the protagonist's spiky hair.

Some light sources can cause nVidia's 3D Vision glasses to shift in and out of 3D, which can be somewhat disorienting. The amount of depth you can handle also depends on how well your eyes focus. A certain depth setting that worked fine for me caused others to feel nauseated after just a few minutes. For safety's sake, I recommend starting out at a lower depth, and slowly working up to a setting that you feel comfortable with. If 3D is not your thing, you can always turn it off in the control panel under the graphics settings. Blu-ray playback (3D or not) worked flawlessly.

In addition to sporting a 3D monitor, the review system we received came configured with a Creative Inspire T6160 speaker system, and Logitech's Cordless Desktop EX 100 wireless keyboard and mouse. Wireless peripherals are a nice touch, and the included extras make this unit a solid value, for someone seeking a complete 3D media experience.

If you want to jump in on the 3D phenomenon without breaking the bank, you can't go wrong with the Polywell MiniBox X5800-3D. It's small enough to fit in most environments, yet it has enough power to handle your basic entertainment needs. Though it may not be a top-tier performance machine, it's more than adequate for filling the 3D hole in your life.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The Polywell MiniBox X5800-3D compact power PC delivers great 3D performance, but it stumbles at general performance.

    Pros

    • 3D works and looks great
    • Small footprint

    Cons

    • Little to no mobility inside
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