The Bully Surgeon stands out from other PCs before you even open the box. That's because Bully Computer ships every system in a solidly built wooden crate. Aimed at users who want a fully customizable, hand-built system without shelling out for a high-priced Alienware-style machine, the $1,499 Bully Surgeon offers midrange performance for a midrange price.
The Surgeon is housed in an Antec Super Lanboy case finished in anodized aluminum. A clear side-window panel provides a view of the system's insides, which are bathed in blue light, courtesy of two cooling-fan LEDs. A well-organized sheathed cabling system gives the system a neat, orderly appearance, and a mini CoolerMaster Aquagate water-cooling unit keeps the processor chilled and ready for overclocking without cramping the interior. The Bully's two 120mm cooling fans are quiet, and the case bottom is padded with a swatch of carpeting to dampen extraneous noise.
Behind a flimsy front-door panel are a double-layer DVD burner and a floppy drive, leaving room for two more full-size drives and one half-size drive. An optional second optical drive is available, but a multiformat flash-card reader is not. A small removable drawer is built into the case--handy for storing small tools, dongles, or flash memory cards. A thin bezel below the door contains the power and reset switches, two USB 2.0 ports, and audio jacks. Four more USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet connection, and jacks supporting integrated eight-channel audio are located on the rear of the system.
Inside the case, the Bully has two 1X PCIe slots and three traditional PCI slots for expansion. It has room for three additional hard drives, but because of the way the drives slide into the bays, you'll have to remove the other side panel to connect the power and Serial ATA (SATA) cables. Although the case and the hard drive bays are tool-free, you'll need a screwdriver to remove expansion cards and external drives.
Our Surgeon system came configured with a motherboard based on Nvidia's Nforce-4 chipset and an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor running at 1.8GHz. A midrange 128MB GeForce 6600 GT graphics card, 1GB of RAM, and a Seagate 160GB SATA hard drive round out the hardware specs. You can order the Surgeon with a variety of different processors, including high-end chips such as the single-core Athlon 64 FX-57 and the dual-core Athlon 64 X2 4800+. Either will add more than $900 to the system price. Bully also offers a separate Intel-based Surgeon, which is identical except for its chipset and CPU choices, which range from a 2.8GHz P4 530 to a 3.8GHz P4 670. Video-card options for all models include dual-card SLI setups, which require an optional SLI-ready motherboard. The 3D options top out at dual GeForce 7800 GTX cards.
With its low-midrange specs, the Bully performed as a system in its class should. In CNET Labs' BAPCo SysMark 2004 tests, it posted statistically identical scores to those of the, which uses the same CPU. If you need more power, you might consider upgrading to one of the more powerful chips offered by Bully. The Athlon 64 3800+ will add $239 to your system price, but a system with that CPU, the , was 35 percent faster.
While its 3D performance isn't terrible, the Surgeon won't blow you away with blazing graphics. In our Doom 3 tests, the GeForce 6600 GT helped the Surgeon spit out a semiplayable 39.6 frames per second on our 1,024x768 resolution test. The Gateway FX400XL, with a GeForce 6800 card, produced nearly twice the frames per second, beating the Bully by 94 percent. Like the Bully, the Sony VAIO RA842G has a 6600 GT card, but it churned out 46 percent fewer frames per second.
A monitor and speakers are not included in the system price, but a ViewSonic ViewMate multimedia keyboard and optical scroll mouse are. The Surgeon runs Windows XP Home (XP Pro is available as an option) and comes bundled with an assortment of software, including Microsoft Works 8 and Panda's Antivirus Titanium 2005. The software comes in a slick black-and-silver Vaultz hard-shell CD case along with a carry strap for lugging the Surgeon to your local LAN-party fragfest.
Bully covers the Surgeon with a three-year parts-and-labor warranty but does not offer an onsite service package. Telephone support (not toll-free) is available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET. Alternately, you can e-mail tech support with any questions. Bully says it offers such limited support hours because it answers all support calls itself rather than outsourcing phone support to an outside company. Bully's print and Web support is particularly weak, with no online drivers or troubleshooting. System documentation is limited to motherboard and graphics-card manuals and a list of installed components.