capsule review

Xi MTower PCIe 965 Desktop PC

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At a Glance
  • Xi MTower PCIe 965

For a power PC that tilts toward general functionality and away from gaming prowess, look no further than the Xi Mtower PCIe 965 ($3796 as of March 1, 2009). For the price, this system delivers eye-catching general performance, only to disappoint on our gaming tests.

The Mtower PCIe 965 is one of the few systems we've tested in our Power PCs category equipped with a top-of-the-line 3.2GHz Intel Core i7 965 processor. Our review system came with 3GB of DDR3-1600 RAM, an acceptable but middling amount. Likewise, the storage offerings were middle-of-the-road: two 10,000-rpm Western Digital VelociRaptor drives totaling 600GB, mashed in a striped RAID array.

The test configuration also included an EVGA GeForce 9800+ GTX graphics card, whose performance on our gaming tests fell somewhere between playable and unpleasant. The system managed frame rates of just 47 frames per second in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (at 2560 by 2100 resolution and high quality) and 60 fps on Unreal Tournament 3 (at the same resolution and quality). Both games fared a bit better when we dialed the settings back from the default screen size for a 30-inch display. Still, these frame rates represent two-thirds to one-half of the numbers we typically see on PCs equipped with ATI's Radeon HD 4870 x2 graphics board--including some power PCs that cost less than the Mtower PCIe 965.

On the PC World Test Center's WorldBench 6 benchmark test suite, this system earned a score of 153--dominating most comers (including some PCs that bested it on graphics performance) by 10 to 20 percent. The Xi's Cooler Master Centurion case isn't the worst-looking chassis in the world, but it's no spring chicken design-wise. The grilled front of the case offers a glimpse of the inner blue LED fans, but the texture looks out of place given the placement of the system's dual optical drives (an Lite-On DVD burner and a Sony Optiarc DVD-ROM drive).

The system's internal expansion options are excellent, with one PCI slot, one PCI Express x4 slot, and two PCI Express x16 slots awaiting future upgrades. There's also room for two additional hard drives and two 5.25-inch devices; the internal wiring is a bit messy, however, and may slow down your tweaking.

The Mtower PCIe 965 comes with a slew of ports. At the rear are eight USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 400 port, one eSATA port, integrated 5.1 surround sound, and dual Gigabit ethernet ports. The chassis falls short on front connectivity, though, with two USB 2.0 ports, a single FireWire 400 port, and a media-card reader.

Our review unit came bundled with Logitech's wireless MX3200 keyboard and MX600 mouse combination. The keyboard provides ten additional function buttons for launching applications, putting your computer to sleep, and launching VoIP calls, among other things. An included LCD screen offers scant details such as the time and the date, but it's unimpressive compared to the offerings on Logitech's fancier devices. The smooth, contoured finish of the wireless MX 600 mouse feels great to the touch. Two side buttons are ideally placed for back-and-forth Web browsing, and three buttons on top of the mouse let you zoom your display back and forth.

It's hard to find a faster general-purpose PC than the Xi Mtower PCIe 965. But you'll pay for that speed: This $3796 power PC is one of the most expensive models in its category--and one of the poorest performing on graphics. In addition, the system's adequate connectivity and bundled input devices only partially offset its stale chassis design.

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At a Glance
  • The MTower PCIe 965 offers strong general-purpose performance, but fails to excite as a gaming system.


    • Top-notch general-purpose performance
    • Good connectivity for various devices


    • Unremarkable graphics performance
    • Aesthetically unimpressive older case
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