A dual-layer DVD burner and a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme Gamer sound card round out the specs of this model, but the IX2 SLI is definitely more than the sum of its hardware add-ons. Widow PC customized the Windows desktop with a custom red and black theme, and it organized the application folders on the Start Menu logically by application type. It includes handy freeware like Firefox, Trillian, and OpenOffice 2.0; various benchmarking, antivirus, and tweaking applications; and the bundled games that come with the hardware, including and . The system itself also has some nice design touches, from the easy-pull power cable on the side panel fans, to the bushings around the internal screws, to the miniature multitool attached to the side of the optical drive cages.
The big question in our minds, though, is whether you really need to pay more than $7,000 for this kind of power. Our test case is the Polywell Poly i680SLI. If you play around with Polywell's configurator, you can build a similar PC to our Widow PC review unit for $5,830. It doesn't have the liquid cooling, its case isn't as attractive, it's not overclocked, and you don't get all of the love and care outlined above. But, you can still get all of the core parts for about $1,500 less. We like the fact that Widow PC pushed the hardware in this system faster than any other vendor with similar hardware has, but we also can't help but pointing out that by trimming a few less-than-essentials, you can get almost as much power with significant cost savings. For some of you, the careful and polished assembly will be worth it. But if you're looking to balance price with performance, a legitimate concern even with high-end PCs, we'd encourage you to shop around.
We should add, though, that just when we were ready to give up on the three-year parts-and-labor warranty, Widow PC renewed our faith in a PC vendor doing right by its customers. One year is simply too short for a system whose price tag is this high, and we're glad to see that Widow PC builds three years of coverage into the cost. In addition, Widow PC's toll-free phone support has robust 24/7 operating hours. Online, you'll find plenty of informative and entertaining articles, blog posts, and amusing Widow PC propaganda, as well as links to driver downloads and a few other useful items. There's also an online help-ticket tool, but no live chat support.
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Alienware Area-51 7500
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; two 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA hard drives (RAID 0); 250GB Samsung 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive
Apple Mac Pro
OS X 10.4.7; 2x 2.66GHz Xeon 5150; 1,024MB 667MHz DDR2 FB-SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7300GT; 250GB Western Digital 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive
Polywell Poly i680SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; two 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0)
Velocity Micro Raptor Signature Edition (Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 2,048MB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (4) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0)
Widow PC IX2 SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.34GHz); 2,048MB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0); 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive