Gaming PCs are ten a penny. Some are cheap, most are expensive, but it takes a special machine to achieve the perfect blend of price and power. The X-treme FX60 is Mesh's attempt to deliver the goods in both areas. It uses the fastest gaming CPU available and twin graphics cards, so we didn't expect it to be very cheap. As is often the case, however, Mesh has surprised us by selling the PC at a reasonable price point, so we were eager to see whether any corners had been cut, or whether the X-treme FX60 lived up to its full potential.
The X-treme FX60 is available direct from Mesh's Web site, with a large number of customisation options.
The X-treme FX60 is housed inside a fairly attractive silver and black chassis. The design is more muted than that of a typical Alienware PC. It won't catch the eye of the boy-racer crowd, but its lack of garish colours and flashing lights means it's less likely to clash with your home decor.
Mesh has equipped the X-treme FX60 with twin optical drives and above these a floppy disc drive -- a strange contrast with the PC's ultra-modern entrails. The base unit also has a pair of front-facing USB ports next to a circular power button and a set of status lights, but there's little else to speak of on the front of the case.
The physical appearance of the PC is heightened thanks to some clever colour coding. The silver highlighting at the front of the case is matched by the accompanying 20-inch widescreen monitor and the Logitech cordless desktop keyboard and optical cordless rechargeable mouse.
You'll need a fair bit of space to install the accompanying Creative T7900 speaker system, as the subwoofer is fairly bulky. The seven wired speakers that accompany it can also be a pain to install, as you'll need to staple cables to walls to avoid your living room, lounge or bedroom looking like spaghetti junction.
The main weapon in the X-treme FX60's arsenal is its AMD Athlon FX-60 dual-core processor. This CPU is currently top of the gaming processor food chain, and will embarrass most other CPUs when performing ordinary desktop applications. It's clocked at a rather modest 2.6GHz, but don't let this fool you -- there is no better all-rounder for consumer PCs.
Mesh has chosen to install this beast of a CPU on top of the proven Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe motherboard. This isn't the all-singing, all-dancing Gaming edition, but it's a fantastic performer in its own right and well-equipped to boot. Our only gripe is the fact that it uses an active heatsink to cool its chipset, which adds to the overall system noise.
Also joining in the chorus is a pair of Nvidia GeForce 7800 GT graphics cards. Noisy though they are, these are great cards when running solo, and they offer even better performance when running in tandem. Individually they aren't as quick as a 7800 GTX or the more modern 7900 GTX card, but together they're an impressive solution.
Mesh ensures you get the most out of the X-treme FX60 by including a 20-inch Viewsonic widescreen display. This provides images of very high quality, and its native resolution of 1,650x1,050 pixels means you can view a significant number of applications simultaneously, and take advantage of widescreen movie playback. Unfortunately the monitor, like the base unit, lacks a memory card reader. It's upgradeable, or removable if you already have a hi-res monitor, on the Mesh site's configuration page.
The X-treme FX60's sound capabilities easily match its visual prowess. Mesh has included one of the best consumer soundcards available, the Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi, alongside the Creative T7900 7.1-channel speaker system. This combination is ideal for enjoying games in surround sound, or for creating your own high-end audio (provided you have appropriate software), so budding music producers should take note.
The PC offers plenty of storage space too. Our review sample came with a 300GB Maxtor 6L30020 serving as main storage, with a 200GB Maxtor 6L200M0 acting as backup. Mesh offers slightly different configurations on its site -- the fastest of which is a RAID 0 disk configuration consisting of two 250GB drives. Should you need to make hard-copy backups, you can make use of the Sony DW-Q30A DVD rewriter. It's about as fast a rewriter as is currently available, so you can burn DVD+/-RW backups at up to 16x, and its dual-layer support means compatible discs can be as large as 8.5GB. Disc-to-disc copying is possible thanks to the addition of a Sony DDU-1615 DVD-ROM drive.
We were impressed with the number of input/output ports provided. There are two easy-to-access USB ports at the front of the base unit and four on the IO motherboard panel at the rear. There's also a 6-pin FireWire port and a pair of Ethernet ports. These can be used in a similar fashion to a hardware router, enabling you to share a wired Internet connection with a second PC, and one is equipped with Nvidia's Active Armour to help keep you protected against hackers, worms and other Internet threats.
The X-treme FX60 comes with a range of software, including Microsoft Works 8.5, so you can start word processing and spreadsheet tasks from the minute you switch it on. There are also copies of Cyberlink PowerDVD 6, Power2Go 4, PowerProducer 3, PowerDirector 3, PowerBackup 1.1, PowerCinema 4 and MediaShow 3 -- all of which help you indulge in multimedia editing. Unfortunately, the PC doesn't come with any games, so you'll need to buy your own if you're to get the most from the hardware from day one.
Reassuringly, the X-treme FX60 includes as standard an excellent three-year onsite guarantee including free parts and labour and 24-hour, seven-day online support. This is a great deal considering most manufacturers charge you extra for this level of support. There's also a handy lifetime hardware support telephone line that'll help you out if you get stuck.
The X-treme FX60 turned in a sterling performance, as we'd expect from any PC that uses the AMD Athlon FX-60 CPU. It achieved 6,302 in PCMark 2005, which is only marginally lower than the score achieved by the Alienware Aurora 7500.
We were equally impressed with this PC's gaming performance. It chalked up a 3DMark 2006 score of 8,833 at the default resolution of 1,280x1,024 pixels, even with 4x anti-aliasing and 4x anisotropic filtering effects enabled. It didn't slow much when running at 1,600x1,200 pixels either, as proven by the score of 7,080.
Its performance in our synthetic benchmarks was matched by its performance in our real-world tests -- Doom 3 ran at 94 frames per second at a resolution of 1,600x1,200 with Ultra High quality graphics enabled.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide