capsule review

Micro Express MicroFlex 26B: Top-Shelf Speed at a Bargain-Basement Price

At a Glance
  • Micro Express MicroFlex 26B

    PCWorld Rating

    This performance desktop scored among the best in its category, and offers a large chassis with plenty of room for upgrades.

Micro Express's Sandy Bridge-equipped MicroFlex 26B packs a lot of power in a decently-priced machine. This performance desktop scored among the best in its category, and it features a large chassis with plenty of room for upgrades.

Our review model ($1699 as of 2/2/11) features Intel's second-generation Core i7-2600K processor overclocked to 4.4GHz, an AMD Radeon HD 6970 graphics card, and a whopping 16GB of installed RAM. The MicroFlex 26B also features a 600GB Western Digital Velociraptor hard drive. That's on the small side for the category (the average is closer to 1TB), but the faster drive admittedly means a nice performance boost.

The system is housed inside a fairly bland brushed-aluminum ATX case. The case is mostly closed, save for a couple of small mesh windows, but you can still see the blue LEDs shining through. The rear of the tower serves up four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, and a pair of USB 2.0/eSATA combo ports. There's also a mouse/keyboard PS/2 port, SPDIF-out, two Firewire ports, and a dual gigabit ethernet port.

The graphics card offers a pair of DVI connectors, one HDMI-out, and two Mini DisplayPort connectors. You'll also find 7.1-channel surround sound, as well as the requisite headphone and microphone jacks. The front of the tower sports three USB 2.0 ports, another Firewire port, microphone and headphone jacks, and a multiformat card reader.

The interior of the MicroFlex 26B is neatly organized, but the Cooler Master cooling system that keeps the overclocked CPU in check is rather bulky. Despite Micro Express's attempts at making the capacious chassis easy to upgrade, you'll still have to tool around with a bunch of wires before you can easily slip components into the hardware bays. As far as expansion goes, there are four PCI slots and one PCI Express (x1) slot, along with four additional 5.25-inch bays and four additional 3.5-inch bays.

The MicroFlex 26B did well in our tests, with a WorldBench 6 score of 202, pushing past the $2000 Origin Genesis Midtower 2011 (186). And it shuffles past old favorites equipped with Intel's first-generation Core processors, like the $3400 Digital Storm Black Ops Assassin (172). Not bad for $1700, though a great deal of credit is due to Intel's second-generation Core processor. (The full-size, and far pricier, Origin Genesis 2011 earned a score of 223.)

Gaming performance on the MicroFlex 26B is also rather impressive. In our Unreal Tournament 3 tests, the MicroFlex 26B managed 150 frames per second (high-quality, 2560 by 1600 resolution). Naturally, you can do a bit better when throwing wads of cash at the issue. The $8000 Maingear Shift Super Stock is armed with three Nvidia GeForce GTX 580 GPUs, and cranked out 226 frames per second on the same test.

So, budget-minded gamers, listen up--the MicroFlex 26B has some great performance at an excellent price. Plus, the chassis allows for lots of upgrading (just in case), as long as you're willing to work around the bulky cooling system. Micro Express's gaming rig may not be the most impressive performance PC, but it provides a lot of room for (user) improvement.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This performance desktop scored among the best in its category, and offers a large chassis with plenty of room for upgrades.

    Pros

    • Strong price to performance ratio
    • Plenty of upgrade room

    Cons

    • Bland chassis
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