There's one caveat to the ZT's performance, and which is best exemplified by the Gateway FX7026. That $1,099 PC has a faster CPU, but it also comes with 64-bit Windows Vista, that puts all 4GB of the Gateway's memory to work. Because of the limitations of 32-bit Vista and the way it uses memory, the ZT system actually uses less than the full amount of RAM. Gateway has a number of PCs due out soon in the $700 to $1,200 price range that have 6GB of RAM and 64-bit Vista that we expect will have similar performance to the Gateway FX7026. You would be wise to wait to see how those systems perform before making a midrange desktop purchase.
As the Affinity 7225Xi-35 is unremarkable on the outside, the same goes for its interior. The cabling is clean enough, but like most systems like this, you get only basic expansion room. Both memory slots come occupied, so you'll have to throw away the two 1GB sticks if you want to make an upgrade. And in addition to the graphics card, you also get a PCI modem card, leaving one free PCI expansion card slot. Two free hard drive bays round out the internal flexibility.
There's also little in the way of bloatware on the Affinity 7225Xi-35. You get a few desktop icons in addition to the Vista defaults, the usual Microsoft Office 2007 trial, and shortcuts to various disc burning applications. All of those are easy enough to delete if the desktop clutter bothers you, and fortunately, there's nothing running on the system that takes up an excessive amount of memory.
ZT's service and support plan has a few advantages over others in the industry. The default parts and labor warranty covers you for two years instead of the usual one. You also get 24-7 phone-based technical support. Online help is a bit more limited, with little in the way of system-specific information, although you can enter a serial number to find specific drivers. E-mail support is also an option.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.19GHz AMD Phenom 9500; 3GB DDR2 667MHz SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 1250 graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9500; 3GB DDR2 667MHz SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.53Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo E7200; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 384MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GS graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive.
ZT Affinity 7225Xi-35
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3450 graphics card; 500GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.