ABS Ultimate M6

ABS Ultimate M6

abs_beauty.jpgMonth Reviewed: March 2005
Verdict: 9
URL: www.abspc.com

SLI-equipped PCs trigger two reactions in most people. There’s a Pavlovian response, whereby you drool at the sight of dual 6800 Ultras working over games and benchmarks. And then there’s a Fred Sanford hand-clutch to the heart, accompanied by an “I’m coming, Elizabeth!” holler, once you see the price tag.

ABS’ new Ultimate M6 is significant in that it’s the first SLI rig we’ve reviewed that will have you salivating without dropping dead over the price. A system’s price doesn’t really matter much to us when the rig comes stacked with the latest hot hardware, but the Ultimate M6 is priced so low—and stacked so generously—that we twice asked ABS to verify the information they’d given us.

ABS’ new Ultimate M6 is significant in that it’s the first SLI rig we’ve reviewed that will have you salivating without dropping dead over the price. A system’s price doesn’t really matter much to us when the rig comes stacked with the latest hot hardware, but the Ultimate M6 is priced so low—and stacked so generously—that we twice asked ABS to verify the information they’d given us.

The Ultimate M6 features two GeForce 6800 Ultras in SLI mode, plugged into an Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard. There’s 1GB of Corsair DDR400 memory, an Audigy 2ZS soundcard, and an Asus wireless card that can act as a soft access point. Optical storage comes in the form of a Sony drive that can burn single-layer DVDs at 16x, and double-layer DVDs at 2.4x.

Not everything is perfect, of course. The machine packs a pair of 160GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 drives in RAID 0. The .7 stands for seventh-generation; current ‘cudas are eighth-gen. Oddly enough, although the drives support NCQ, ABS configured the machine with a Silicon Image Sil3114 SATA controller, which doesn’t support NCQ. It’s not as though ABS didn’t have an option: It simply could have run the drives off the nForce4 chipset, which does support NCQ. Wacky.
Performance-wise, the Ultimate M6 gave some and got some. The SLI certainly didn’t disappoint: It spanked the single-card Kaos Game36 (reviewed on page 74) with a leather paddle. Even our brand-new zero-point system received a little schooling when the Ultimate M6 turned in a Game 3 score 25-percent faster than our zero-point system. What the hell? We can’t figure out where this performance came from. Perhaps it’s the result of BIOS tweaks. Perhaps it’s a driver drop the public has no access to. Grrr. There was no such surprise in Doom 3, but the Ultimate M6 does make the game playable at 1600x1200 with 4x AA and 4x anisotropic filtering.

The Ultimate proved not-so-ultimate when it came to applications. The Kaos system roared in SYSmark2004 and flexed P4 Hyper-Threaded muscle in Premiere Pro to clothes-line both our zero-point and the Ultimate M6. Our zero-point burned the Ultimate M6 in SYSmark2004 and Premiere Pro, too. This was a shocker, considering the component similarities between our zero-point and the Ultimate M6.

This system’s biggest selling point, of course, is its price: It’s practically a bargain at $3,600. Compare that with the $6,000 Voodoo Rage F:5 and the $6,100 Kick Ass Gaming PC Katana SLI we reviewed in March, or even the $4,775 Velocity Micro Raptor 64 Dual X we reviewed in February. And when you consider that PCI-E 6800 Ultra cards cost as much as $700 on the street, fully half the price of the Ultimate M6 lies just in videocards.

The Ultimate M6 would easily score a Kick-Ass award if the lower-rated Kaos hadn’t spoiled its day in the sun by acing it in two applications benchmarks. But for gamers hell-bent on frame rates, the Ultimate M6 is the ultimate bargain. -Gordon Mah Ung

+HD: Lowest SLI-equipped rig we’ve seen.

-TB: Last-gen hard drives and slightly laggy application performance.

Verdict: 9

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