Polywell Poly 990FX-8150: Budget Gaming at a Nonbudget Price
By Sarah Jacobsson Purewal
At a Glance
Case is eye-catching, to say the least
Lots of space inside
Middling performance for the category
Messy internal wiring
The Poly 990FX-8150 fails to stand out in a crowded category, offering general and gaming performance bested by machines that cost hundreds less.
The Polywell Poly 990FX-8150 demonstrates that you can in fact have a desktop that looks like a performance machine, but is actually a budget PC. Unfortunately, that isn’t a good thing. Though the Poly 990FX-8150 provides mediocre, budget-PC performance in a hulking white tower, it still costs over $1500.
Our review model, priced at $1699 (as of February 13, 2012), holds a 4.51GHz AMD FX-8150 eight-core processor, 8GB of RAM, and an AMD Radeon HD 6950 graphics card. It also has two 128GB solid-state drives in RAID (for booting), as well as a 500GB hard drive for storage, tucked into a hot-swappable drive bay. The system runs the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.
In our tests, the Poly 990FX-8150 didn’t do too well considering it’s supposedly a performance machine. On PCWorld’s WorldBench 6 benchmark, the Poly 990FX-8150 reached a score of only 135, a mark that puts it (just barely) at the bottom of our top ten list of performance desktop PCs.
The culprit? That FX-8150 processor. We reviewed AMD’s new Bulldozer CPU line when it launched late last year, and found its performance lacking. It has plenty of cores, which is a boon to serial multitaskers, but ultimately it barely keeps up with Intel’s midrange Core i5-2500K–a decidedly unimpressive showing for a performance-oriented part.
Graphics performance is fine, but doesn’t really stand out. On our Far Cry 2 graphics tests, the 990FX-8150 produced a frame rate of 73.5 frames per second (at 2560-by-1600-pixel resolution and highest settings). In comparison, the iBuyPower Gamer Paladin HS11 managed a rate of only 67 fps on the same test, but it costs $999 (as of January), a full $700 less. The iBuyPower machine is equipped with an Intel Core i5-2500K, and on WorldBench 6 it earned a score of 161. And although it lacks a solid-state drive, it doubles the storage capacity with a 1TB hard drive.
The Poly 990FX-8150 is housed in a somewhat scary-looking–and definitely head-turning–white tower. The large metal tower features black plastic horizontal ridges along the front and top, and on part of the back. An aluminum edge runs around the top and bottom of the tower too. The white look is definitely different, but a little too Imperial Stormtrooper for my tastes.
As for the front of the tower, at the very top it has several convenient ports–two USB 2.0 connections, one eSATA port, and headphone and microphone jacks–as well as a large, square power button. Underneath the ports is the Blu-ray Disc player. Below that is the hot-swappable hard-drive bay; just push the latch, and it pops out. Under that is the card-reader bay, which features multiple card slots and another USB port.
The rest of the ports are located on the back of the machine, and they’re extensive. You get four USB 3.0 ports, eight USB 2.0 ports (including a Republic of Gamers Connect port), one mouse/keyboard PS/2 port, one eSATA port, one S/PDIF out, gigabit ethernet, and support for 7.1 surround sound. Display outputs are on the graphics card, consisting of two DVI ports, one HDMI, and two DisplayPort connections.
Opening the Poly 990FX-8150 is easy, but moving around inside the case is not. It has a lot of room for upgrades, if you can get there. Inside you’ll find a total of nine drive bays; four are full, however, and three are blocked by a huge fan. The system also has four PCIe x16 slots (three open), one PCI slot (open), and four RAM slots (all full). Although the cables are contained in black mesh, it’s still strangely cluttered in there. The case is huge, and Polywell hasn’t filled it up, but upgrading the machine will be messy work owing to the annoying placement of fans and cables.
Ultimately Polywell’s Poly 990FX-8150 struggles to find a place in our performance desktop category. It’s no gaming powerhouse, and it’s a good $700 more than an entry-level gaming machine that outperforms it in most respects. You can find plenty of gaming-PC options out there, and this particular machine is outclassed.