We’ve seen plenty of white-box PC vendors slap on a coat of paint, double prices, and declare themselves to be “boutique,” so we didn’t expect much when mostly unknown Overdrive PC sent us its Gemini GX2 system. But the PC turns out to be surprisingly tasty.
Packed inside the custom painted case were nothing less than two nVidia’s GeForce 7900 GX2 cards—quad SLI. Quad should have had its public debut in last month’s Maximum PC, but a driver bug that distorted images on 30-inch flat panels delayed its release. With driver bugs taken care of, the machine was finally shipped to us, which presented its own problems: The cards’ weight bowed the rear of the aluminum case enough to cause them to pop out of their slots. Oy.
But after reseating the cards, and booting the machine, the Gemini GX2 proved its worth. Niceties include a custom overclocking section in the BIOS, and system screws with rubber grommets to dampen noise. The paint job isn’t flashy, but it’s high-quality work. And the door fans are especially impressive: Gone is the tangle of wires you typically confront when you remove the side door, because Overdrive uses a clever contact patch to deliver juice to the fans wirelessly.
Our box shipped with an Athlon 64 FX-60 overclocked to 3GHz—400MHz above stock and 200MHz above the other machines we’ve seen. Oddly, Overdrive stuck with a stock heatsink fan to keep the chip cool. In our climate-controlled Lab, we experienced no apparent overclocking issues, but we did experience two lockups in Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 and occasional shutdowns in both the overclocked and non-overclocked states. Because the lockups also occurred at stock clocks and went away after we restored the OS image on the machine, we suspect it was due to a software glitch brought on during benchmarking rather than overheating issues. We also had problems getting finicky-old SYSmark to run. We were unable to resolve it, but we suspect it to be a driver issue that only affects the benchmark and not actual applications.
Quad performance itself presents an interesting dilemma. In our standard benchmarks at 1600x1200, the cards are faster than SLI, but not by enough of a margin to justify the huge price premium. In fact, the difference is almost ho-hum. It isn’t until you plug a quad configuration into a 30-inch panel that the technology shows its legs. At 2560x1600, the Gemini GX2 posted 3DMark2006 scores that were twice as fast as our zero-point system, which is equipped with two GeForce 7900 GTXs in SLI. That’s damned fast. The problem, of course, is that you need a $2,000, 30-inch panel to reap the performance advantages. The problem is compounded by the fact that the lackluster response times of the current crop of 30-inch panels render them unfit for full-time gaming duties. What’s more, there are precious-few games that actually support 2560x1600. But when it works, it’s glorious.
We’re not convinced that quad SLI is the best solution for faster frame rates—at least not in its current iteration and pricing—and there’s really no reason to go quad unless you use a 30-inch panel.
Month Reviewed: July 2006
+ FOUR STARS: Quad SLI and a raft of custom touches make the Gemini X2 a gem.
- FOUR SCARS: Limited game support, minor glitches, and slow response time in the 30-inch LCDs hurt hi-res gaming.