- Excellent specification and performance
- solid construction
- plenty of expansion potential.
- Not the cheapest high-performance PC
- massive case takes up a lot of room
- could be quieter.
These days, £2,000 gets you a lot of computer, and the 8202 from Poweroid.com -- a system builder specialising in high-end hardware -- is definitely a lot of computer. There may be a vogue in some circles for small-form-factor PCs, but the 8202 is more Leviathan than Lilliputian. Inside the 8202's impressive black-and red liveried case lurks a 3.2GHz, 800MHz-FSB Pentium 4, a gigabyte of memory, a 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card, dual hard disks providing 286GB of storage and much more. If you want a well-engineered PC that'll run a wide range of demanding applications with ease, then you should give the Poweroid.com 8202 a look. It may not represent the very leading edge of desktop PC technology (for that, you're looking at a 64-bit Athlon 64 FX-51 system), but you do get plenty for your money.
The 8202 is built into an impressively large and solid Thermaltake Xaser III tower case, which is finished in black with red accents on the front panel. Everything feels nice and solid -- particularly the hinged door that protects the external drive bays, which is a hefty sheet of metal. You can unlock the entire front panel (door and all) to gain access to three of the four 5.25in. drive bays -- the drives simply slide in and out on plastic guide rails. Access to the case itself isn't tool-free, but there are only two screws to remove. The topmost 5.25in drive bay can be accessed with the front panel door closed, and in our review configuration this bay housed a control unit for the PC's cooling system. Looking more like a piece of 70s hi-fi gear than a high-end PC component, this unit provides rotary knobs for adjusting the speed of up to four fans, plus an LED screen showing the current CPU temperature and the user-defined critical temperature above which an alarm is triggered. If you regard this as a bit over the top, you could fit an alternative unit in this bay -- a breakout panel for a high-end sound card, for example, or a multi-format flash card reader. Inside the case, you'll find a swing-out side-fan panel that'll house two fans (one was fitted in our system). The case has two further fans, one at the rear and one at the top. In use, the 8202 can't be described as quiet -- especially when the fans are turned up to the maximum. However, it's not the noisiest PC we've examined. At the top of the case there's a small spring-open door that conceals a FireWire port, two USB 2.0 ports plus microphone and headphone jacks.
The 8202 is built around an ASUS P4C800 motherboard, fitted with a 3.2GHz, 800MHz frontside bus (FSB) Pentium 4 processor and the Intel 875P chipset. Two of the four DIMM slots are occupied, by 512MB PC3200 DDR modules, giving an impressive total of 1GB of memory. Storage is provided by two hard disks: a 250GB, 7,200rpm Ultra-ATA/100 drive and a 36GB, 10,000rpm Serial-ATA drive, both from Western Digital. The resulting 286GB of high-performance disk capacity should be enough for most people. However, if your appetite for applications and data is really serious, then a further four internal 3.5in. drives can be fitted. The motherboard features a Promise RAID controller that supports RAID0 (striping) and RAID1 (mirroring), although this wasn’t employed in the review configuration. As far as removable media are concerned, there's a fast 16X DVD-ROM drive from Sony, and a multi-format DVD writer from NEC, which writes/rewrites DVD+R/RW and DVD-R/RW media (at 4X/2.4X and 4X/2X respectively). If you're still into legacy removable media, there's a floppy drive too. The P4C800 motherboard provides five PCI slots, three of which were occupied in our review system -- by a 56Kbps modem, a 4-port NEC PCI-to-USB open host controller and a Canopus ADVC-1394 digital video converter card. This leaves two PCI slots free -- there's no sound card, as 6-channel 5.1 surround sound is integrated on the motherboard, along with Gigabit Ethernet connectivity. You're unlikely to run out of ports on this machine. The motherboard provides serial, parallel, SP/DIF digital audio out, line-in, line-out and microphone, plus FireWire (9-pin), Ethernet (RJ-45) and four USB 2.0 ports. Then there's the Canopus card with 9-pin and 4-pin FireWire, analogue audio in (L/R) and analogue video in (S-Video), not forgetting the quartet of extra USB ports on the PCI controller. We're not finished with USB ports, though, as there are four more on the front panel and a further two at the top (along with another FireWire port). That makes a grand total of 14 USB and four FireWire ports -- enough to connect a veritable forest of peripherals. The motherboard's AGP Pro/8X slot houses a high-performance graphics accelerator in the shape of ATI's Radeon 9800 Pro, with 128MB of video RAM. No complaints about that, and none about the Iiyama. AS4821DT 18in. TFT display it's paired with. This high-quality screen has a native resolution of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels and delivers excellent image quality -- even with fast-moving games and video. Data input and navigation duties are handled by Logitech's Cordless Desktop Optical, which helps to greatly reduce the amount of wired desktop clutter. There are plenty of wires involved in Creative's Inspire 6700 6.1 surround sound speaker system -- but you do get a good-quality audio experience from them.
Predictably, the Poweroid 8202 is an excellent performer – after all, it has a 3.2GHz CPU, a gigabyte of RAM and a 7,200rpm primary hard disk. Both its Winstone scores (Business and Content Creation) are the highest we’ve yet recorded, beating the previous performance champ -- Dell’s 3GHz Dimension 8300 – by a significant margin. It’s fair to say that mainstream applications like Microsoft Office will run like lightning, while high-end applications like Adobe’s Photoshop or Premiere will perform extremely well. When it comes to gaming and 3D performance generally, the Poweroid 8202 is no slouch either. Thanks to its 128MB ATI Radeon 9800 Pro, it delivers a record 3DMark 2001 SE score of nearly 18,000 -- again beating the similarly-equipped Dell Dimension 8300, although not by such a margin as in the application-based tests. For most purposes, the on-board 5.1 surround sound is perfectly adequate. However, if you were thinking of adapting the Poweroid 8202 for serious recording work, you might consider fitting a high-end sound card such as Creative’s Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum Pro with its separate connector bay.
Service & support
For a moderate-sized company, Poweroid offers good support. The 8202 comes with a two-year on-site parts and labour warranty, telephone support is on offer, and the Web site provides a good range of advisory articles, FAQs and downloads.