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ABS Bravado series review: ABS Bravado series

ABS Bravado series

Bill O'Brien
7 min read
The ABS Bravado PC line makes a great small-business or home-office computer, especially considering its large number of preconfigured models, each of which you can fine-tune to meet your computing needs. We tested the Bravado 2230, which falls smack-dab in the middle of the line; its basic configuration sells for $1,099. If you're really out to save money, you'd be smarter to look at the budget ABS Sensation or, if the Bravado's upgrades don't satisfy your need for speed and amenities, the upscale ABS Awesome. But if you're after a PC with competent business capability and more-than-competent gaming and entertainment skills, the mainstream Bravado will do the trick at entry-level prices. To get a sense of the mainstream ABS Bravado series, we looked at one of the line's newer models, the Bravado 2230. We pulled it out of the box to find a whopping eight USB ports, six of which support USB 2.0 (the two front-mounted USB ports provide only a USB 1.1 connection). There's even a FireWire port cloned off the motherboard and brought out to the back panel where it joins the usual complement of parallel, serial, and sound ports.
USB 1.1 in the front, 2.0 in the back.

Room to grow.
You'll need a screwdriver to get inside the case--no thumbscrews here. But once you do, you'll find an interior with more open space than the state of Montana, a result of one of the tidiest cable routing/wrapping jobs we've seen to date. Everything is grouped and tied out of the way, giving you full access to the motherboard. There's room for two more DDR modules for a maximum of 2GB of PC2700 memory, and there are three open PCI slots for additional interface cards. The slot adjacent to the MSI GeForce4 MX 460 graphics card looks impossibly tight, no thanks to the GPU's heat sink, but you can slip in a PCI card if you're careful about aligning it when you tighten the bracket on the backplane.

Cables kept clear out of the way.
Of course, the Bravado's audio, data, and power cables from the drives must go somewhere. In this case, they end up folded over and stashed in the only two vacant accessible drive bays--one 5.25 inches, the other 3.5 inches. While the cables do take away two bays (unless you're willing to unwrap them all and reroute them across the motherboard), the Bravado is well-enough equipped to make drive additions unlikely. Surprisingly, the cable routing won't keep you from removing or replacing any of the existing drives except the floppy, which you'll probably never replace anyway.

ABS's Bravado series spans a wide range of configuration options, but thankfully, its online configurator will guide you through your selections, reflecting the price as you go along. The Bravado 2230 we tested is a reasonable midrange computer with an AMD Athlon XP 2200+ processor, 256MB of PC2700 memory, and a cadre of upscale components.

Two 40GB hard drives (bottom right) give you 80GB of storage space.
The Bravado 2230's 80GB hard disk is really a pair of 40GB Maxtor drives tied together by the onboard Promise RAID controller to form a single 80GB volume. This RAID configuration offers slightly faster access, thanks to striping, or alternating use of the disks' surfaces, which allows the system to get a small jump on the drive's read/write latency. You won't notice a speed jump for any single-disk operation unless the drive is very large.
The MSI GeForce4 MX 460 graphics card on our test system is no longer state-of-the-art. However, it's more than capable of playing any game that you can currently throw at it. And it's versatile: the MX 460 can display across two monitors and has an S-Video connector that lets you pump your video to a TV if you'd like. For the serious gamer, ABS offers an upscale GeForce4 Ti 4200-based card for an additional fee.

Drives for watching DVDs and burning CDs.
Our system arrived with an excellent 17-inch CRT monitor, the Samsung SyncMaster 753DF. This flat screen boasts a 0.20mm dot pitch and a maximum 1,280x1,024 resolution with almost no distortion at the edges. If you want flicker-free images with this monitor, however, stick to resolutions of 1,024x768 or lower where the refresh rates are above 60Hz. With nine monitors from which to choose, including both CRTs and LCDs, you should have no trouble finding the right monitor to bundle with your system.
Toss in the Pioneer DVD drive and the Logitech Z340 three-piece speaker system, and you have not only a hardy work machine (with the included Microsoft Works Suite 2002) but also a credible home theater. The 33 watts available from the speakers won't raise your roof, but it's a comfortable sound level for movies and music. And you can upgrade to a 4.1 or 5.1 surround-sound speaker system using the online configurator. The Bravado even includes a fast 40X Lite-On CD-RW drive for data backup or audio CD creation.

Application performance
For a midrange system, the ABS Bravado 2230 is an excellent performer. In fact, compared against other similarly configured AMD Athlon XP 2200+-based systems, the Bravado nearly tops the charts on office-productivity performance. Chalk this up, at least in part, to the system's 256MB DDR SDRAM system memory, which runs at 333MHz, giving the system a slight edge over other systems that use DDR SDRAM running at 266MHz. But while the 2200+ in the CPU's name implies that this system's performance should be comparable to that of a 2.2GHz Intel P4-based system, the truth is that 2.2GHz P4 systems perform noticeably faster.
Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 Rating  
SysMark2002 Internet Content Creation Rating  
SysMark2002 Office Productivity Rating  
ABS Bravado 2230 (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
Compaq Presario 8000 (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
Gateway 500X (2.2GHz P4)
Xi 2200+ Mtower (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, 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
An Nvidia GeForce4 MX 460-based graphics card is the ideal choice for a midrange system. It doesn't deliver the outrageously fast performance of a GeForce4 Ti 4600, but nor does it come with the premium sticker price of a GeForce4 Ti card. The Bravado delivers enough 3D graphics acceleration to get the deed done for the vast majority of today's games.
3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro (16-bit color)  
MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro (32-bit color)  
ABS Bravado 2230 (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
Compaq Presario 8000 (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
Gateway 500X (2.2GHz P4)
Xi 2200+ Mtower (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses MadOnion.com's 3DMark 2001 Pro. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at both 16-bit and 32-bit color settings at a resolution of 1,024x768. A system that does not have DX8 hardware support will typically generate a lower score than one that has DX8 hardware support.
3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Quake III Arena  
ABS Bravado 2230 (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
Compaq Presario 8000 (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
Gateway 500X (2.2GHz P4)
Xi 2200+ Mtower (AMD Athlon XP 2200+)
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Quake III Arena. Although Quake III is an older game, it is still widely used as an industry-standard tool. Quake III does not require DX8 hardware support--as 3DMark2001 does--and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. Quake III performance is reported in frames per second (fps).
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
ABS Bravado 2230
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz AMD Athlon XP 2200+; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 460 64MB; two Maxtor D740X 40GB 7,200rpm; Promise MBFast Track133 Lite RAID
Compaq Presario 8000
Windows XP Professional; 1.8GHz AMD Athlon XP 2200+; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB; Western Digital WD1200BB-60CJA0 120GB 7,200rpm
Gateway 500X
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz Intel P4; 768MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce2 MX/400 64MB; Western Digital WD800BB-53CAA0 80GB 7,200rpm
Xi 2200+ Mtower
Windows XP Home; 1.8GHz AMD Athlon XP 2200+; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 128MB; Maxtor D740X 40GB 7,200rpm
Beyond ABS's generic user manual (we would have preferred a user manual specific to the system) and a huge quick-setup sheet, the only other documentaion you'll find with the Bravado are the technical manuals that typically accompany components. These manuals aren't necessarily easy to read, but you don't really need to know much to connect color-coded cables or cables that fit only one particular port--all of which is also covered by the setup sheet. If you run into problems, ABS offers toll-free technical support, 24/7, during the first year that you own the system. Once that year's up, support is still toll-free, but it's available only during normal West Coast business hours.
The Bravado's warranty is solid if a little disjointed. Full coverage runs three years on parts and for the lifetime of the system on labor. The first year is onsite, handled through 2Net, but only at ABS's sole discretion--similar to Gateway's policy. For the next two years, you can ship your PC back for repair or have replacement parts shipped to you; ABS will pay the freight one-way only. ABS also offers an optional, $129 onsite service contract fulfilled by another third party, Bantec, to cover those last two years.

ABS Bravado series

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8Support 7