We’ve seen systems with Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) before, but no vendor has been sassy enough to break from the de rigueur SATA VelociRaptor or SSD drives in favor of the tech—until now.
Of course, this is Polywell’s M.O.—not content to do things like any other system vendor, Polywell usually tucks in a curve ball to brush you off home plate when you don’t expect it. Sometimes Polywell’s pitch doesn’t work (think really nice $5,000 gaming rig with an $8 keyboard and mouse), but time we were intrigued with its 300 gigabytes of RAID 0, 15,000rpm, connected using SAS. The onboard SAS support in the Asus P6T Deluxe mobo achieved sequential read speeds of about 192MB/s with 6.8ms access times—that’s purty durn good considering that our VelociRaptor-equipped systems see roughly 166MB/s reads with about 7+ms access times.
Elsewhere, Polywell plays it safe and sane: an Intel Core i7 clocked up to 3.66GHz on air and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 295 card along with 6GB of DDR3 at 1,450MHz and an LG Blu-ray drive stuffed into an Antec 900 case make it a well-rounded rig—albeit a bit bland.
A little boring, but fast nonetheless.
In the performance curve, the X5800A-Extreme is definitely fast, but not quite where we expected it to land. Compared to all of the other Core i7 rigs we’ve reviewed, the X5800A-Extreme is a mix. The benchmark records for Premiere Pro CS3, ProShow Producer, and MainConcept Reference are still, amazingly, held by Velocity Micro’s Raptor Z90 that we reviewed in the Holiday 2008 issue. The Polywell is faster than the 3.33GHz Falcon Northwest box (reviewed in May 2009) in Premiere Pro CS3 and Photoshop CS3, but is tied with the Falcoln in ProShow Producer. The Polywell also outscores the 2.93GHz i7 Gateway (reviewed in April 2009) in Premiere and MainConcept but again loses in ProShow Producer. Why the odd mix of scores? We’re not exactly sure but it’s possible the Hyper-Threading plus quad-core i7 is to blame. We’ve seen unpredictable results on occasion with the new Intel chip. But since our scores are the result of an average of three test runs, we’re at a bit of a loss.
In gaming, the fearsome multi-GPU GeForce GTX 295 turns in an admirable performance. The X5800A-Extreme’s 42fps make it faster than other PCs equipped with just a single card, including the Radeon HD 4870 X2-based Gateway rig. And in Unreal Tournament 3, we actually saw Polywell’s X5800A-Extreme take the benchmark crown with its 172fps. While that may not sound like much, it’s a higher score than SLI, CrossFire, and Tri-SLI machines have produced. Granted, UT3’s aging engine has rapidly turned into a CPU test these days.
The best news is the price. Polywell prices the rig at $3,300, which makes it a pretty decent deal for the amount of hardware you get. It’s not quite as budget as Gateway’s FX6800 i7 rig with its Intel SSD, but the Polywell X5800A-Extreme is a competent machine that doesn’t make too many apologies.
All-around good performance without being garish.
Still, it could use a little pizzazz to push it over the top.
Premiere Pro CS3
Our current desktop test bed consists of a quad-core 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6700, 2GB of Corsair DDR2/800 RAM on an EVGA 680 SLI motherboard. We run two EVGA GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, Western Digital 150GB Raptor and 500GB Caviar hard drives, LG GGC-H20L, Sound Blaster X-Fi, and PC Power and Cooling Silencer 750 Quad. OS is Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit.
Intel Core i7 @ 3.6GHz
Asus P6T Deluxe X58
GeForce GTX 295
Two Segate 150GB Cheetah 15K.5 in RAID 0, Seagate 1TB Barracuda 7200.11