With the $3,000 Titan 64, Elite PC flouts the boutique-PC trend and all its pretty paint and fancy transparent side panels. This high-end system is more about performance than pizzazz--loaded doesn't even begin to describe this gamer's delight, which packs not only a top-end AMD Athlon 64 3400+ CPU, but also a high-capacity removable hard drive to complement its speedy RAID array. Further goodness pours forth from the sweet monitor and speakers, the TV tuner with remote, the DVD burner, and the generous warranty. Gamers, performance seekers, and those with high home-media ambitions should take a look. If neon tubes, blinking LEDs, and see-through cases are too flashy for your taste, you'll appreciate the basic-black design of the $3,000 Elite PC Titan 64--no frills, just a standard tower with matching black components. It's also a tool-free tower, making short work of venturing inside to add or swap components. Drive access is easy, requiring no more than a flip of two levers to remove the front bezel and slide out any drive. And each card-expansion slot bay is fitted with a spring-loaded plastic pin that holds the cards in place; this is one of the better-designed solutions we've come across.
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|Pssst. Hey, kid. Need a front-mounted USB port?||Swap expansion cards in seconds, thanks to the well-conceived pin mechanism.|
Speaking of drives, the Titan 64 has no internal bays available (though with three hard drives installed, you'd scarcely need one), and it has just one 5.25-inch external bay. Internal expansion opportunities consist of two PCI slots and one RAM socket--but, again, the Titan's loadout is such that you're not likely to need any of them.
Of course, we think you can never have too many USB ports or FireWire ports, and the Titan 64's makers would seem to agree. The system has a total of seven USB 2.0 and four FireWire ports, with two of the USBs and one FireWire behind a front-panel door, accompanied by headphone and audio-out jacks. Though this location is convenient, the door itself wouldn't stay entirely closed, a minor nuisance. The system also has legacy ports and just about every audio and video in/out jack you could want by virtue of the sound card.
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It's a little pricey, but the removable hard drive gives you 200GB on the go.
The 19-inch ViewSonic P95f+ CRT monitor is a good match, offering a crisp, colorful image, as well as a game-friendly brightness-enhancing mode via a front-panel button. It's not the ideal choice for high-resolution work, though, as the picture starts to fuzz up at resolutions of 1,280x1,024 and higher.
The P95f+ serves double duty as a TV, too, thanks to the Titan's included MSI TV@nywhere Master tuner card. It comes with InterVideo's WinDVR personal video recording software and a small, membrane-style remote that, with no DVD or volume controls, is useful only for channel-hopping and time-shifting. The setup is a far cry from the elegance of a Windows Media Center system, and there's no direct integration with the DVD burner or its software, which makes organizing your recorded files a little more complicated. Also, the TV image quality looked a bit soft in our tests, which we've seen with most PC tuners. But overall, TV@nywhere is still a great asset to the system.
For audio, Creative's unimpeachable Audigy 2 sound card pairs beautifully with the Logitech Z-5300 speaker system, which offers 280-watt, THX-certified 5.1 surround sound and a wired remote. It's an excellent midrange setup, especially for use in small areas such as dens and dorm rooms. The remote even includes a headphone jack.
Elite PC took an interesting approach to storage, incorporating a pair of 10,000rpm Western Digital 36GB Serial ATA hard drives connected in a striped array to an onboard RAID controller. While this setup delivers blazing throughput, it nets you only about 70GB of contiguous space. Recognizing that power users need more storage, Elite PC installed a removable 200GB third drive. This could be handy for transporting large MP3 collections and such, but we're not convinced that this DataBridge cartridge system, a $211 upgrade with drive included, is enough of an added value, given that the 200GB drive by itself sells for $95 on the Elite PC Web site.
Elite PC packs the Titan 64 with optical drives: a Sony DRU-514A multiformat DVD burner and an MSI 16X DVD-ROM. We think the latter is a bit superfluous--a speedy CD burner might be preferable. The Titan's last drive is a seven-in-one memory-card reader that includes an extra USB 2.0 port, for a total of three that are front accessible.
You won't find any productivity software bundled on the Windows XP Pro-based Titan 64, but Elite PC throws in all of the components' bundled software. So, depending on which drives and other parts you select, you could end up with some combination of , CyberLink PowerDVD 5.0, various CD/DVD-authoring apps, and a certificate redeemable for Half-Life 2. While you're waiting for the latter, you can fire up the included older games, such as &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=gs&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Egamespot%2Ecom%2Fpc%2Fadventure%2Ftombraidertheangelod%2Findex%2Ehtml">Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=gs&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Egamespot%2Ecom%2Fpc%2Faction%2Ftomclancysrainbowsix3rs%2Findex%2Ehtml">Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield, and demo versions of half a dozen other titles. Application performance
The Elite PC Titan 64 uses the new Athlon 64 3400+, which is the next speed bump from the Athlon 64 3200+ that AMD introduced earlier this year. The main difference between the higher-end Athlon 64 FX-51 and the 3400+ is the fact that the 3400+ allows for only single-channel memory, while the FX-51 has dual channel. Considering the nominal speed increase from the 3400+ to the 3200+, we expected to see only a minor increase in performance. The 3400+ runs at 2.2GHz, up from 2GHz compared with the 3200+. The Elite PC Titan 64 performed about as we expected. Although, looking at our comparison systems, we can see that all of the SysMark 2002 scores for the Athlon 64 processors are within a few percentage points of each other. With a score of 326, the Titan 64's results were virtually identical to those of the Vicious PC Assassin SE, which uses the Athlon 64 3200+. Keep in mind, however, that the Vicious is overclocked, and that probably contributed to the small difference in performance between it and the Titan 64. On the other hand, we can see a huge difference between the Titan 64 and the , which uses Intel's recently released 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition processor. In SysMark 2002 numbers, the Falcon beat the Titan 64 by a whopping 24 percent. In short, the 3400+ is a worthy update to AMD's consumer line, and it should be more than adequate for any task, but Intel still holds the performance crown.
Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, 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
Equipped with the 256MB ATI Radeon 9800XT graphics card, the Titan 64 is a very capable gaming system. One of the most-advanced graphics cards on the market, the 9800XT is faster and comes with more memory than the 128MB Radeon 9800 Pro, ATI's previous-generation card. With a score of 223.1fps at a 1,024x768 resolution in our Unreal Tournament 2003 test, the Titan performed admirably, and it should also perform more than adequately at higher resolutions. The 9800XT should perfrom very well with all of today's games, and no one will be disappointed with the system as a gaming PC.
3D gaming performance (in fps) (Longer bars indicate better performance)
|* Denotes system was not tested at this resolution.|
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as 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 at 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 resolutions, Unreal is 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.
ABS Ultimate M6
Windows XP Professional; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-51; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800XT 256MB; two Seagate ST380013AS 80GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; WinXP Promise FastTrak 376/378 controller
Elite PC Titan 64
Windows XP Professional; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro XT 256MB; two Western Digital WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; one Western Digital WD2000JB-00DUA0, 200GB, ATA/100, 7,200rpm; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller
Falcon Northwest Mach V 3.4 Extreme Edition
Windows XP Home; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme Edition; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller
Polywell Poly 900VF
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5900 Ultra 128MB; two Western Digital WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; integrated Via Serial ATA RAID controller
Vicious PC Assassin SE
Windows XP Home; 2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3200+; Via K8T800 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro XT 256MB; two Western Digital WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; WinXP Promise FastTrak 376/378 RAID controller For a system in this price range, you'd expect bend-over-backward support. Elite PC provides that to a point, starting with a three-year parts-and-labor warranty that includes three years of onsite service. This is the default support option on the Elite PC Web site, though you can also select only one year of coverage and save about $135. Toll-free, 24/7 phone support is included regardless of the duration of the warranty.
Our only complaint is with the company's online offerings. There's no FAQ page, no live help, and no e-mail address for contacting tech support; there's only a Service Request form that doesn't seem to have anything to do with tech support. The drivers page for our system had lots of items listed, but all of the links were dead. The Titan 64 comes with manuals for most components, but we miss the three-ring binder that Elite PC used to provide to keep these scattershot documents organized.