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ABS Ultimate X5 - P4 3.2 GHz - Monitor : CRT 19 review: ABS Ultimate X5 - P4 3.2 GHz - Monitor : CRT 19

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The Good Delivers the 3D performance gamers demand; includes a pair of 10,000rpm hard drives; excellent ViewSonic CRT; THX-certified Logitech speakers.

The Bad Cool Antec case pictured is no longer available; Nvidia graphics card will soon be knocked down a peg when the next-generation cards are released; huge CRT may not fit on the average desk.

The Bottom Line The ABS Ultimate X5 is a decent choice for gamers who want a system that can moonlight as a DV-editing box when the gaming day is done.

7.7 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

Review Sections

summary

Massive is the only adequate description for the Ultimate X5 system, which is part of ABS's Intel-based gaming-desktop line. Try as we might, we couldn't find anything subtle about the machine itself or its outsized peripherals: a 19-inch CRT that weighs close to 50 pounds and a six-speaker, 500-watt Logitech Z-680 speaker system. Gamers will certainly enjoy the Ultimate X5's audio and video output, along with the host of high-end features hidden inside the Ultimate X5, starting with Nvidia's GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics card. Power users in general will make good use out of the system's 3.2EGHz Pentium 4 (a.k.a. Prescott) processor, its 1GB of memory, and the twin hard drives. And with a multiformat DVD burner and an eight-in-one media-card reader, the system is also well suited for digital photographers and DV filmmakers. In fact, our $2,899 ABS Ultimate X5 test system was ready for just about anything.

After ABS submitted the Ultimate X5 for review with the Antec PlusView case, Antec abruptly ceased production of the case. ABS replaced the case you see here on our test system with an updated Antec case, the Aluminum Performance 1 series, and the company offers three other cases as well, including Cooler Master's stylish and functional WaveMaster case.

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Our review unit's Antec case is no longer offered, but you do have some excellent alternatives: an updated Antec case or Cooler Master's groovy WaveMaster case.
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New case, same great motherboard. With the Ultimate X5, ABS gives you one choice of motherboards: the feature-rich Asus P4800E, with Intel's 875P chipset.

Fortunately, the Ultimate X5's motherboard hasn't changed. The Asus P4800E uses Intel's performance chipset, the 875P (a.k.a. Canterwood) and is designed for maximum external connectivity, with support for five USB 2.0 ports on the back of the PC plus two more on the front panel. It also supports FireWire and Gigabit Ethernet. Of its five PCI expansion slots, four arrived unoccupied on our test system, but one of the free slots was blocked by a huge cooling fan. Still, with so many features integrated on the motherboard, we doubt you'll require more PCI slots than what's available here. Same goes for the memory: two open sockets give you room to raise the memory ceiling beyond the two 512MB modules included on our test system.

Regardless of the case, ABS is able to offer very competitive prices on its systems because it doesn't busy itself to too great a degree with aesthetic details, such as orgami folding of interior cabling or expensive automotive paint jobs.

If you're a gamer, you care first and foremost about your system's graphics card. A month or two ago, we'd have no qualms about recommending the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra that was inside our ABS Ultimate X5 test system, but Nvidia just released its next-generation card, which will be a requisite spec for any gamer looking to stay on the cutting edge. You won't have to worry about replacing the system's processor, however. Intel's 3.2EGHz Pentium 4 (a.k.a. Prescott) isn't the fastest we've seen, but it scores near the top and uses Intel's latest chip architecture. Paired with 1GB of fast PC3200 memory, our Ultimate X5 held its own and then some on our benchmarks.

ABS's choice of hard drives for our Ultimate X5 test system aided its overall performance; it came with a pair of 10,000rpm Western Digital Serial ATA drives. At 74GB each, individually, they don't give you the most capacity money can buy, but connected to the onboard RAID 0 controller, you get, in essence, one virtual drive. Larger drives exist, but none can top the transfer speeds of these Western Digital drives.

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Big picture, big sound for gamers: a 19-inch ViewSonic CRT and the Logitech Z-680 speakers deliver a top-notch multimedia experience.

Digital-video editors and moviemakers will benefit from both these lightning-fast drives and the Ultimate X5's multiformat Plextor 8X DVD-recordable drive. Along with a second drive in the form of a DVD-ROM drive, with this system, you can make quick disc-to-disc copies of DVDs (without breaking any copyright laws in the process, of course). The system supports a wide range of digital media, in fact, because ABS skipped the floppy drive in favor of a versatile eight-in-one media-card reader.

Whether you're engrossed in the latest first-person shooter or you're watching a DVD, the bundled ViewSonic E90FB CRT delivers a big, bright picture. It's quite a hefty display, weighing nearly 50 pounds, but you won't have any complaints about its image quality. Same goes for the included 5.1 speakers: Logitech's booming, THX-certified, 500-watt Z-680s, which take you from Bach to Battlefield Vietnam and any stop you want to make in between. Better still, you can connect as many as three other audio sources and switch among them with a press of the remote.

You can put this Windows XP Home-based system to the test right out of the box by with the bundled game, Half-Life Platinum 2.0. ABS also includes the Microsoft Works 7.0 productivity suite.

Application performance
The ABS Ultimate X5 uses the relatively new Intel Pentium 4 Prescott processor. Combined with dual 10,000rpm hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration, the Ultimate X5 turned in strong application performance scores in CNET Labs' tests. It kept pace with a Falcon Northwest system using Intel's high-end 3.4GHz P4 Extreme Edition chip, as well as with a Velocity Micro system with AMD's top chip, the Athlon 64 FX-53. As with all of the systems seen here, the ABS Ultimate X5 has more than enough muscle to run today's applications.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
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 2002, 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
The ABS Ultimate X5 uses Nvidia's current speed leader, the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra. It will soon be replaced as the top card on the market, however, by Nvidia's upcoming next-generation graphics card, but the 5950 Ultra is still one of the best cards available for its sheer 3D gaming power. Unlike the two 5950 Ultra-based systems that it trails on our Unreal Tournament 2003 test--both of which use an overclocked card--the ABS Ultimate X5 uses a 5950 Ultra at its default memory speed. Aiding the card's overall performance, however, is a setting with the Nvidia driver control panel, which ABS set to High Performance (vs. Performance or Quality, the other two choices). We've seen other systems use the same High Performance setting, including both the Velocity Micro Vision AVD and the Falcon Northwest Mach V 3.4 Extreme Edition, which raises the frame rates by approximately 20fps from the Quality setting. The ABS Ultimate X5's score of 82.1fps on our high-end Unreal test is exactly what we expected, and it's more than enough to push the pixels of your favorite games.

3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF  

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests, and are set to 4X and 8X respectively during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal is an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

ABS Ultimate X5
Windows XP Home, 3.2EGHz Intel P4; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD740GD-00FLA0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated WinXP Promise FastTrak 378 controller

Cyberpower Gamer Infinity 9900 Pro
Windows XP Home, 3.2EGHz Intel P4; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800XT Ultra 256MB; two Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller

Dell Dimension 8300
Windows XP Home, 3.2EGHz Intel P4; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 Pro 128MB; Maxtor 6Y250M0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

Falcon Northwest Mach V 3.4 Extreme Edition
Windows XP Home, 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller

Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD
Windows XP Professional, 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-53; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; one WDC WD2000JB-00EVA0 200GB ATA/100 7,200rpm; integrated WinXP Promise FastTrak 378 controller

ABS's giant three-ring binder is now a fixture with its systems. Neatly organized, it provides the recovery and driver disks and the component documentation inside. An oversize quick-setup sheet should help you get your Ultimate X5 up and running without incident, but should you need assistance, toll-free tech support is available directly from ABS, weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. PT, for the lifetime of the system. When ABS isn't picking up the phone, 2Net fields questions during the period of your warranty. The standard warranty, reflected in the price of our test system, covers parts and labor for one year. Repairs are handled via depot service. ABS pays shipping both ways during the first 30 days, after which you pay shipping charges one way. You can purchase onsite service by 2Net for up to three years for an added cost.

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