We keep our expectations in check when looking at a budget PC. A $499 computer such as the PC Club Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 (the bundled 17-inch monitor brings the total to $739) shouldn't be expected to deliver much in the way of features and performance; all you can ask for is that it is put together well and offers performance that's on a par with that of other PCs in its class. The Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 is well crafted but can't match the specs offered from budget PCs we've seen recently, including the Cyberpower Back to School 2006 and the eMachines T6536. Though the PC Club system boasts a dual-core CPU, it's paired with a less-than-ideal memory configuration. This is perfectly suitable for basic tasks, but the system can't keep pace with budget PCs we've seen recently, particular Cyberpower's budget offering. In the end, you can stretch your budget dollar further elsewhere; our current pick among entry-level PCs remains the Cyberpower Back to School 2006.
Although it doesn't compare favorably to the budget competition, the PC Club Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 is well assembled. Inside the Apex midtower case, cables are neatly tied and routed out of the way, which makes working inside the case easier while also improving airflow. The system is quiet during operation; its three fans spin in near silence. And with four 5.25-inch drive bays (three free), two 3.5-inch front-accessible bays (one free), and five 3.5 internal hard drive bays (four free), you have ample room to gradually add to the system.
Our review system keeps the price down in part by using integrated ATI Xpress 200 graphics, but the motherboard serves up a x16 PCI Express slot for later adding a discrete graphics card. PC Club offers a wide selection of graphics cards, with many a selection of many low-end and midrange cards. We'd advise against doubling the price of the system by adding in a supercharged $500; it wouldn't be a good fit for an otherwise low-end PC (for one thing, you'd have to upgrade the system's default 350-watt power supply). The Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 is flexible in letting you add either PCI or PCI Express expansion cards; there are two PCI slots and one x1 PCI Express slot. We also appreciate that a multiformat media card reader is a standard feature on this Apex case.
What's in the case is less impressive than the expansion opportunities it affords. Our review unit came equipped with 512MB of memory and an 80GB hard drive, which pales in comparison to the 1GB of memory and the 250GB hard drive found on both the Cyberpower Back to School 2006 and the eMachines T6536 systems.
The big issue we have with the PC Club Enpower Sabre EN-SB7, however, is the type of memory used and the number of channels connecting the CPU and the RAM. With a Pentium D 805 processor, the lowest-end chip in Intel's first-generation dual-core series, we'd expect to see DDR2, a more advanced type of memory supported by this chip. In fact, we can't remember the last time we saw a system that paired DDR memory with a dual-core Intel processor of any variety. And PC Club's otherwise wide-ranging online configurator for the Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 doesn't give you the option for DDR2--just different size allotments of DDR400 (PC3200) memory. Worse, the low-end Intel D101GGC motherboard doesn't support dual-channel memory, so even though the system features two 256MB DDR400 memory modules, it's operating with single-channel memory, which hampers its overall performance.