Monarch Computer Systems Nemesis 2

Monarch Computer Systems Nemesis 2

Monarch_Nemesis.jpgMonarch’s new Nemesis 2 is so green, we had to resist the urge to shout: “Hulk smash!” when we first set up the machine. But is the Nemesis 2 really like the brutishly powerful gamma-ray hero, or a silly wannabe like the Green Arrow?

Looking at the hardware build, you’d certainly think brute. After all, the Nemesis 2 sports fresh-off-the-assembly-line parts, including AMD’s new performance king, the Athlon 64 FX-62 in an Asus M2N32-SLI Deluxe motherboard, along with 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM. Riding shotgun in the x16 PCI-E slots are two GeForce 7900 GTX cards with 512MB frame buffers.

These are no plain 7900 GTX cards, either (if you can call a 7900 GTX plain). Monarch said it teamed with eVGA to offer “über overclocked” cards. How overclocked is über? Stock 7900 GTX cards feature a core clocked at 650MHz and RAM at 800MHz —Monarch’s eVGA cards clock in at 702MHz and 880MHz, respectively. It’s a pretty good boost, but a tad shy of the fastest 7900 GTX in this month’s videocard roundup (see page 24). Still, it’s nearing the ragged edge of the GTX’s air-cooling envelope. (In fact, the first prototype cards we received with the Nemesis 2 were unstable and couldn’t make it through two passes of FEAR, or even start Quake IV. Monarch said the problem lay with the two preproduction cards it submitted with the system (a decision based on time constraints. The company supplied another pair of cards that did function as advertised. Just to make sure, we ran 3DMark06 at 1600x1200 resolution for two days, and the cards did not crash.)

For optical chores, Monarch taps Plextor for two of its 18x DVD burners. Never heard of 18x media? That’s because there isn’t any. The Plexy will burn 16x media at 18x speeds if your media can handle the speed. Our complaint? Both drives are slaved to a single PATA port (nVidia dropped support for the second PATA port in its 500 series.) With both drives sharing the same connection, you take a performance hit when both burners are running simultaneously. Monarch isn’t the only vendor to commit the faux pas; quite a few machines we’ve reviewed recently have made the same blooper with dual drives.
In the hard drive department, the Nemesis 2 delivers an admirable balance of speed and space. A pair of 10,000rpm 150GB WD Raptors pull main OS duties, while two honking-huge Seagate 750GB Barracuda drives round out the storage story. A small complaint, however: The two Barracudas are in a RAID 0 array, like the Raptors. We’d just as soon give up the speed of the RAID 0 Barracudas for the safety of an unstriped JBOD config, or even a mirrored RAID 1 config. Now all we need is an easy way to backup 1.5TB of data….

The Nemesis 2 manages this storage extravaganza with the dual-RAID capabilities of the new nVidia nForce 590 SLI chipset, which supports RAID on all six SATA ports. The 590 also sports port teaming and the ability to prioritize packets from designated apps, so you can technically play a game and download torrents without hurting your ping.

Monarch must have been wary of overheating drives and videocards, because a large 12cm fan in the Nemesis forces air into bottom of the case. This is usually a good thing, but Monarch’s fan runs too loud. Even closing the front case door doesn’t mute the fan’s noise. C’mon, people are trying to work here.

In performance, the Nemesis 2 holds its own against our zero-point system. We saw performance boosts ranging from 10 to 20 percent over our Lab test bed. That’s pretty respectable, considering we just built the damned system two months ago!

We also compared the Nemesis’ benchmarks against the two other AMD machines we reviewed recently—the overclocked Velocity Micro from the June issue and Overdrive’s stunningly well-built, but unstable Gemini GX2 box that was reviewed in July. The Nemesis 2 benchmark performance fell smack-dab in the middle, with the 3GHz Gemini GX2 taking the lead. Neither SLI box could compete with the Gem’s quad-SLI config, even though our benchmarks are run at fairly low resolutions. But in the end, the Gemini is almost $1,300 more than the Nemesis 2, and as we noted, it had some stability issues.

Month Reviewed: August 2006

+ SIMPLE GREEN: Nicely configured; fast.

- SOYLENT GREEN: Noisy; small configuration bugaboos.

VERDICT: 8

URL: www.monarchcomputers.com

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