- Excellent all-round performance.
- No network card supplied
- quite noisy.
The days when Intel ruled the top end of the processor market on speed and the bottom end on price are long gone. Proof of this can be found in Evesham's Axis 1200 DDR Ultra, which for £1,739 (ex. VAT) delivers a top-notch PC built around AMD's Athlon processor running at 1.2GHz.
From the outside, the Axis 1200 DDR Ultra looks much like any other. It has two optical media drives, a Pioneer DVD-115 16-speed DVD-ROM player and a TEAC CD-RW drive that reads CD-ROMs at up to 32-speed and writes CD-R media at up to 12-speed. There's 60.5GB of Maxtor Ultra-ATA/100 hard disk, and a good old-fashioned 3.5in. floppy drive. All this leaves one full-height 5.25in. drive bay and one half-height 3.5in. bays free for extras. You'll need a screwdriver to get inside, although the expansion slots have tool-free card clips.
The Asus A7M266 motherboard is highly regarded by the overclocking fraternity. It has a 266MHz frontside bus, supports four USB ports and gives fine control over CPU clock speed. Based on an AMD761 chipset, it can support up to 2GB of Double Data Rate (DDR) synchronous DRAM -- the best-performing mainstream memory technology -- and has five PCI slots. A Sound Blaster Live! audio card occupies one of these slots on the Axis 1200 DDR Ultra, while the AMR modem and a card carrying two extra USB ports occupy two more spaces on the backplane. This leaves two PCI slots free.
There's also a 4X AGP slot for the graphics card, which in this case is an OEM nVidia GeForce2 Ultra accelerator with a frankly ridiculous 64MB of RAM. This card allows the Evesham system to comfortably outperform Silicon Graphics workstations of four years ago. If you're a serious gamer or 3D modeller you'll know what this means -- if you're anything else, you won't notice.
All that power doesn't run silent. The graphics card has a fan, as does the CPU, the system controller chip, the power supply and the case. All five go at full tilt all the time, making the Axis 1200 DDR Ultra quite a noisy computer. To overcome this, Evesham supplies a Cambridge Soundworks five-speaker surround-sound system that proved more than capable of annoying an entire open-plan office in under ten seconds. They're not hi-fi, but they sound good.
The only omission is a network card, which is an odd oversight given that NICs cost peanuts yet can cause IRQ-laden pain to install -- you'd rather leave that bit to Evesham. Nobody will spend the best part of two thousand pounds on a PC these days and not network it.
And so to speed. There is only one true reason to buy a top-of-the-range PC with the fastest processor available, and that's to go faster than anybody else. Intel has muddied the waters lately with its 1.5GHz Pentium 4 that, although blessed with more Hz than any other IA64 chip, contrives to go slower than some of its less well-clocked brethren.
The Axis 1200 DDR Ultra confirms this, turning in results for processor and application benchmarks that, while mixed, are up to 25 per cent faster than a 1.5GHz Pentium 4-based HP Vectra vl800. The Content Creation Winstone 2001 score is particularly good. Although direct benchmark comparisons between the two processors will not give a perfect indication of relative performance in all circumstances, the speed advantage of Evesham's system is impressive -- especially as it's significantly cheaper than similarly specified Pentium 4 PCs.
This is an excellent package for the price, with our only complaint being the lack of a network card as standard.