capsule review

Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1

At a Glance
  • Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1

Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1
Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard

From the outside, the Poly 900NF3-FX1 looks like just another Polywell: a quasi-industrial-looking brushed-silver aluminum tower case. A peek though the case's clear window, however, reveals AMD's new 64-bit, 2.2-GHz Athlon 64 FX-51 processor. Combining AMD's chip with a gigabyte of DDR400 memory and a 256MB Gainward GeForce FX 5900 Ultra graphics card, this Polywell posted a PC WorldBench 4 score of 142. That places it on a short list of speed champs that includes the ABS Awesome 6300 and Alienware's Aurora Extreme.

The Polywell earned a very good overall score in our graphics tests, thanks to high frame rates in Unreal Tournament 2003. However, with its Gainward board (based on NVidia's GeForce FX 5900 Ultra chip set), it produced lower frame rates than either of its competitors in our high-end gaming test using Return to Castle Wolfenstein. Both the ABS and the Alienware use ATI's Radeon 9800 Pro, which offered faster speeds.

Polywell gave the 900NF3-FX1 an enormous number of storage options. It's one of the few systems we've reviewed recently with a 250GB removable hard drive--in addition to dual 10,000-rpm, 36GB Western Digital SATA hard drives configured in an ultra-high-performance 72GB desktop RAID. The removable drive (encased in a plastic caddy) sports a front handle that, when gripped and pulled, releases the drive. This is extremely handy if you have sensitive data that you need to remove and lock up. Polywell also throws in Veritas RecordNow DX, DLA, and Simple Backup for backing up and storing data.

The other storage options include a dual-format rewritable DVD, a six-in-one memory card reader (which reads CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and other popular formats) mounted on the front panel, and a quick 52X CD-RW drive.

The system uses integrated sound and a set of Creative Inspire 5.1 5200 speakers (five satellites and subwoofer), and we found its audio generally run of the mill. When we played vocal tracks and a DVD soundtrack, bass notes sounded strong but lacked the rich oomph we've heard from higher-end sets. Users who aren't overly finicky will find them acceptable.

Color coordination is obviously lacking with this system. Polywell bundled a plain beige CRT display with its silver-aluminum system. The 19-inch, flat-screen AOC 9Klr CRT monitor didn't have the image quality of most comparable monitors we've tested. Its colors seemed relatively lifeless when tested with photo screens, a DVD movie, and games. And although fonts on text screens were legible, we thought they could have been darker.

Documentation has never been a strong suit of Polywell systems, and this model is no exception. We received photocopied sheets of the system's package contents, plus sheets that provide views of the system's front, back, and interior. The user manual is generic to a fault and doesn't supply much information that's specific to the FX-51.

This Polywell's performance will appeal mostly to gamers and power users, but to get the most out of this system, opt for a better-performing monitor.

Mick Lockey

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At a Glance
  • Polywell Poly 900NF3-FX1

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