Overdrive Torque 64
Instead of shelling out serious coin for expensive desktop components in your gaming PC, what if you could use lower-end parts and still get high-end performance? Overdrive PC, a performance-desktop company started in 1999, does just that with the Overdrive Torque 64. (The company is selling this exact configuration through January for $2,399, which is more than $300 cheaper than the cost if you were to build it on Overdrive's online configurator.) With the processor and the graphics card overclocked and covered under warranty, we'd recommend the Torque 64 for any gamer looking to squeeze every bit of performance out of a dollar.
Our Torque 64 test system arrived with an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor and an Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT graphics card, which Overdrive overclocked to behave like a 2.4GHz Athlon 64 3800+ and a GeForce 6800 Ultra, respectively. Using the lower-cost components and clocking them at higher speeds makes them function as higher-end products for about $700 less. This tweaking is all carefully balanced, however, and the slightest change in the BIOS could cause serious instability. (Overdrive includes screenshots on the system of the BIOS settings so that you can return them to their original state should you get yourself in any trouble here.) Although the quiet SureCool fan cooling system prevented overheating in our tests, a hot room or restricted air to the fans--say, from having the system wedged under your desk and right up against a wall--could also cause stability issues. And because the system uses custom RAM (Centon DDR SDRAM running at 544MHz), upgrading requires either purchasing modules from Overdrive or scrapping the 512MB already in the PC.
These inconveniences aside, the Torque 64's application performance was strong in CNET Labs' tests, coming in at 190 on SysMark 2004, which is somewhere between the results we've seen from Athlon 64 3400+ and 3800+ CPUs and in the neighborhood of the 3.2GHz and 3.4GHz Pentium 4 processors we've tested. Graphics performance, on the other hand, underwhelmed us--at least at first. We tested the card with its image setting within Nvidia's display properties set at High Quality, resulting in a lower-than-expected 72fps on our 1,600x1,200-resolution Unreal Tournament 2003 test. A simple slider change back to the default Quality setting, however, brought the score to 105fps with no noticeable image loss. (We alerted Overdrive to this performance hit, and the company said it will no longer be using the higher setting.) Its score of 105fps was ahead of that of other AGP 6800 GT cards we've tested and on a par with some 6800 Ultra-based systems, such as the.
All of this power is housed in a sturdy Lian Li full-tower case. The door covering the entire front panel gives the Torque 64 a clean appearance, and it swings open to reveal a double-layer DVDÂ±RW drive and a multiformat card reader. Inside, there's a single 200GB SATA hard drive, but it's in an odd spot: Instead of nestled in a standard interior, 3.5-inch drive bay, the hard drive sits in one of the 5.25-inch bays. Overdrive opted for this placement because you can easily slide the drive out of the front of the case. With four 5.25-inch bays, there's room for such an arrangement without limiting your optical drive choices. At the bottom sit two USB 2.0 ports, and four more are around back with a FireWire port, giving you ample external connectivity.
Inside the spacious and extraordinarily clean interior are three vacant 3.5-inch drive bays, two open RAM slots, and five free PCI slots. The unit also holds a 500-watt power supply, providing plenty of power if you decide to expand this desktop. To aid any would-be upgraders, Overdrive thoughtfully includes a small flashlight inside the case. It clasps neatly to the side of the drive bays. The Zalman heat sink atop the processor spins with nearly silent operation.
Bundled with the PC is a good-for-anything, 19-inch NEC AccuSync 900 CRT and a satisfying Logitech X-530 5.1 speaker system. Our Windows XP Home-based system came equipped with little in the way of software, but Overdrive lets you select apps à la carte via its online configurator. It also offers a good selection of games.
A one-year parts-and-labor warranty, which completely covers the overclocked parts, includes toll-free tech support, available weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. Overdrive's Web site features a tech-support e-mail address in addition to a well-organized list of manufacturer links for component documentation and drivers. Instead of a printed user manual and setup guide, Overdrive takes a more hands-on approach. The company will call you upon receipt (FedEx alerts Overdrive to each delivery), and a representative will walk you through the machine and field any questions you may have.
|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. 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).
|Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768||Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF|