ABS lists the Awesome 1300 as one of its two value PCs, but our test system included some upgrades that turned it into a PC bordering on midrange quality with a price that's still less than $1,000. With its roots firmly planted in the budget category, the Awesome 1300 isn't the right system for power users and gamers, but it did please us to see not one but two optical drives (a CD burner and a DVD-ROM drive), a 15-inch LCD instead of a bulky CRT, and an honest-to-goodness (though low-end) AGP graphics card. With its stylish and functional case, AMD's respectable Athlon XP 2600+ processor, and a generous 512MB of memory, the ABS Awesome 1300 is one of the more capable budget-priced PCs we've seen, and a great deal for the home, the dorm room, or even the small office. Our ABS Awesome 1300 test system included a few upgrade options over the $549 base configuration, including the Luna case you see here, with a sculpted black, silver, and chrome bezel and matching optical drive faces. One of the chrome panels pops open to reveal a pair of handy USB 2.0 connectors (with four more ports on the back of the system). The side of the case has a 10.2-by-13.3-inch plastic window, giving a head start to modders who want to add some glowing goodies to the insides.
|/sc/30586603-2-200-DT2.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" alt="" />|
|USB 2.0 ports hide unobtrusively behind a front panel door.|
|/sc/30586603-2-200-DT4.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" alt="" />|
|It's nice to see that even in a budget system, ABS tucks the power cables away in a spare drive bay.|
Opening the case is a simple matter of unscrewing the side panel thumbscrews. Once removed, you have excellent access to the interior. For upgrade space, the Awesome 1300 provides room to add two more memory sticks to the one currently in residence (for a maximum of 1.5GB), as well as space to add four more PCI cards. (A modem card occupies the fifth slot.) More impressive is that the Awesome 1300 comes with an AGP slot, which our test system supplied with an aging, budget Nvidia graphics card. The system isn't a gamer's delight, but the AGP slot provides the option to upgrade to a more powerful graphics card.
You'll find four 5.25-inch drive bays (two free) and two 3.5-inch drive bays (one free) for removable media, and five more 3.5-inch bays for internal hard drives (four free)--a surprising amount of expansion space. The only complication is that you'll have to remove both side panels to get at all the screws.
The ABS Awesome 1300 features three cooling fans: one on the CPU, one on the back of the case, and another in the 350-watt AOpen power supply. Despite all the whirling blades, the system remained surprisingly quiet during testing.
|/sc/30586603-2-200-DT1.gif" width="200" height="150" border="0" alt="" />
We didn't expect to see two optical drives at this price.
Powered by an AMD Athlon XP 2600+ CPU and 512MB of Kingston PC2700 DDR memory, the Awesome 1300 should serve admirably as a general-use system. The Gigabyte GA-7VT600-L motherboard anchoring this ABS Awesome 1300 system also has lots of features built in, including audio, Ethernet, USB 2.0, and parallel and serial ports.
The Albatron 64MB GeForce4 MX440 graphics card is one of the key differentiators among the other budget PCs we've looked at. To keep costs down, most budget systems rely on integrated graphics, which borrow resources from the main system memory. The MX440 card is not cutting edge, but it does provide 64MB of its own graphics memory, which should help improve overall system performance. It also provides digital and S-Video connections in addition to the standard analog display (VGA) port.
Another popular cost-cutting move for budget PCs is to provide only one optical drive. Not so with the Awesome 1300, which comes with a 52X Lite-On CD-RW drive and a 16X DVD-ROM drive. The default hard drive is a 40GB Maxtor 7,200rpm drive, but in this age of MP3s, digital photos, and--gasp--large video files, we were happy to see that our test system doubled that capacity to 80GB for just $30 more.
The AOpen 15-inch LCD color monitor is another upgrade. It is not a great monitor, due to its limited viewing angle and cumbersome onscreen menu system, but it will suffice for general office applications, e-mail, and Web surfing. The monitor also has built-in speakers, which are best ignored, especially since the system comes with the Logitech X-220 2.1 set.
Another boon for a budget system was the A4 Tech wireless keyboard and wireless wheel mouse that ABS bundled with our test system. The keyboard is a little cramped, with an unusual layout that provides lots of useful hot keys along the top, but it has a responsive feel.
The documentation and software came organized in a handy binder. The software included Windows XP Home and a kitchen-sink-ware collection of programs called PC Treasures Elite Suite. This includes Quicken 2003, , , and . The optical drives ship with their own software: WinDVD Creator, PowerDVD, and Nero Express, which will cover just about any DVD-viewing or CD-burning task you might have. The motherboard comes with a host of utilities, including one that lets you experiment with overclocking if you're interested (and willing to take the risks). Application performance
For basic computing tasks, such as sending e-mail, surfing the Web, and running office applications, budget systems are perfectly acceptable. Using a 1.92GHz AMD Athlon XP 2600+ processor with 512MB of DDR SDRAM, the ABS Awesome 1300 performed adequately. In our roundup of four budget systems, the Awesome 1300's SysMark 2004 score of 120 places it in fourth, trailing the 2.66GHz Pentium 4-based Dell Dimension 2400 by 7 percent and the leading Athlon 64 3000+-based Systemax Ascent 64 by 15 percent. None of the systems in this roundup will win any performance crowns. But all of them, including the ABS Awesome 1300, are adequate for basic home and light office use.
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan and Internet content-creation applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver.
3D graphics and gaming performance
The one advantage the Awesome 1300 has going for it as far as graphics is that it uses a separate graphics card. Many budget systems, including three of the four systems here, rely on integrated solutions to keep the cost down. Serious gamers won't be too impressed with the Awesome 1300's 66 frames per second on our low-end Unreal Tournament 2003 test, but that frame rate will do for casual gamers using lower resolutions without advanced settings turned on. Besides improving 3D graphics, a dedicated graphics card boosts the system's overall performance, because the card has its own graphics memory and doesn't have to borrow resources from the system's main memory. As you can see from the application performance chart at the top of this page, the Awesome 1300, with its GeForce4 MX440 card, bested the eMachines T3085 with integrated graphics, even though the eMachines system uses a significantly faster 64-bit Athlon processor.
|Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768|
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests, and are set to 4X and 8X respectively during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows XP Home; 1.92GHz AMD Athlon XP 2600+; Via KT600 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; Maxtor 6Y080P0 80GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.66GHz Intel P4; Intel 8645G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; integrated Intel 845G 64MB (shared memory); Seagate ST3120026A 120GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.17GHz AMD Athlon XP 3000+; Nvidia Nforce-2 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; integrated GeForce4 MX 64MB; Western Digital WD1600BB-00FTA0 160GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000+; Via K8T800 chipset; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Radeon 7000 64MB; Samsung SP1203N 120GB 7,200rpm The base level of support for the Awesome 1300 is a one-year parts warranty with lifetime labor and technical support. The standard technical support is available through a toll-free number, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT.
Extended warranties are available at extra cost and include third-party onsite service and 24/7 technical support. The onsite support is limited to within 50 miles of the coverage area; go to the Web site of third-party support provider &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2E2netservice%2Ecom%2Fservices%2Ehtm">2Net and click "2Net service center locator" to find service centers near you.
For extra help, on ABS's Web site, you'll find FAQs and easy-to-navigate, system-specific links to the driver download pages for various parts manufacturers. This list was hardly complete, as it did not list links for many of the parts that came with our configuration. You will find an extensive list of manufacturer home pages and phone numbers, however, which is a handy second option. ABS has no online tech-support chat. It does provide a bulletin board, but it does not appear to receive any input from ABS representatives.