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ABS Ultimate X9 review: ABS Ultimate X9

This config is a little late to the game as both its CPU and its graphics will soon be replaced by next-gen parts, but ABS shows that it can hang with the boutique big boys. The Ultimate X9 III is aggressively overclocked, and its design is as unique as it is impeccable.

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

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6 min read

What struck us the most about this system were its looks, both inside and out. Externally, the water cooler and bulky case are clearly not for everyone, but we imagine that a well-heeled gamer looking for a statement PC wouldn't be too put off. Inside the case, ABS comes close to the Apple Mac Pro and other systems for a clean interior, which is impressive given all of the liquid-cooling tubes and the reservoir that remain enclosed inside the case. You have room to add three 5.25-inch and two 3.5-inch drives, space for one more PCI Express expansion card, two spare slots for memory, and two empty hard drive bays. That's a lot of upgradability, but then, it's also a giant case: 27 inches deep, counting the external heat exchanger.

7.7

ABS Ultimate X9

The Good

Unique design; aggressive overclocking pays off with fast performance; one of the cleanest interiors we've ever seen.

The Bad

High-end parts will be replaced in the top slot by newer components coming out soon; only 300GB of total hard drive space; one year of support for a $4,000 PC is lame.

The Bottom Line

This config is a little late to the game as both its CPU and its graphics will soon be replaced by next-gen parts, but ABS shows that it can hang with the boutique big boys. The Ultimate X9 III is aggressively overclocked, and its design is as unique as it is impeccable.
ABS is one of the few smaller PC vendors that sells PCs with any sort of brand consistency. Its Ultimate line of gaming desktops (its only line) is subdivided by a logical number scheme. The Ultimate 9 III that ABS sent us for review is the top end of its gaming PCs. Your only CPU option is Intel's CPU, and while you have a few choices for graphics cards, if you want two of them, you have to go with CrossFire, as in the ATI Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire configuration sent to us. ABS also included its aggressive overclocking package, facilitated by one of the more outlandish water-cooling systems we've ever seen. The bulky heat exchanger is mounted on the outside of the system's back panel. Amazingly, the external hardware doesn't make this system that unattractive, although it does take up a lot of space. With Intel's quad-core processors and next-generation 3D cards from Nvidia coming out soon, now might not be the best time to spend $4,000-plus on a high-end desktop, but with the Ultimate X9 III, ABS shows that it at least knows how to build a PC of this caliber. We definitely recommend checking back with ABS and its Ultimate 9 III system once the next-generation hardware is released.

For the core components, ABS doesn't hold back, although this config will be obsolete within the year. While we wouldn't recommend purchasing this particular system now, that's not to say that we think ABS is necessarily behind the times. Like most vendors, we expect that ABS will update its configuration options to accommodate new hardware as it becomes available. What's perhaps more telling about the quality and value of this PC is what ABS has done with those components. On ABS's Web site, you can find two options for overclocking: one ups the performance by 10 percent for $299, and the other nets you a 20 percent boost for $499. There's a third option that's not listed on the ABS Web site but just a phone call away: a 15 percent increase for $399, which is what our system came with. That means our 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme X6800 came set at 3.38GHz. The 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM was also overclocked to 920MHz, up from 800MHz. As you can see from the performance results, that overclocking provided this ABS system with some impressive speed.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: * System is overclocked

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: * System is overclocked

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: * System is overclocked

Microsoft Office productivity test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: * System is overclocked

3D gaming performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
F.E.A.R. 1,600x1,200 SS 8xAF  
F.E.A.R. 1,024x768 SS 8xAF  
Quake 4 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF  
Dell XPS X700
88 
126 
115.2 
* ABS Ultimate X9 III
67 
120 
155 
Gateway FX510XT
63 
109 
123.9 
Note: * System is overclocked

On CNET Labs' iTunes and Photoshop tests, the ABS Ultimate X9 III posted the fastest scores for PCs in its price class, and it came in second on our multitasking and Microsoft Office tests. We also found it interesting that the ABS and its Radeon X1900 XT CrossFire graphics cards seem to have benefited from recent ATI driver developments, in that it rocked the competition by more than 30 frames per second on our Quake 4 test, a test that Nvidia-based cards once dominate. The ABS's F.E.A.R. results were more down-to-earth, nestling in at third place among the other approximately $4,000 gaming PCs. At 67 frames per second (fps) in our demanding 1,600x1,200 test, we can safely say that with most current games, you should experience no slowdown when 3D gaming, even with high-image quality settings.

In addition to the overclocking, ABS chose the rest of this system's specs wisely. You get 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM, overclocked to 920MHz from the stock 800MHz. You also get two 150GB, 10,000rpm Western Digital Raptor hard drives in a RAID 0 config. That's not as much storage as you might want, especially if you're into watching and editing digital movies, but that's the price you pay for those fast 10,000rpm access times. ABS does provide the option to add a third hard drive for storage, and choices range from 200GB to 750GB.You should have no trouble offloading whatever you want, either, as ABS includes both a DVD burner and a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive. ABS anchors all of these parts with a standard Intel 975X motherboard.

ABS's support is not as robust as larger vendors', but it meets the industry standard, which we've begrudgingly come to accept. This system gets you one year of parts-and-labor coverage for free, with a year of 24/7 phone support. An extra $49 will get you a year of onsite service, and you can also extend the phone and onsite coverage for up to three years of each. ABS's Web site is sparse. You get a driver search utility that seems to be able to find only a modem driver for this particular PC. There's a searchable FAQ that's more useful, though. ABS also has a forum that seems to enjoy regular attention from an ABS moderator. Still, we've criticized Dell and others in the past for not beefing up their warranties for the superexpensive systems, and we have to be fair, small vendor or no. Backing a $4,000-plus PC with only a year of parts and labor is lame. At this level, it should be a three-year minimum.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
ABS Ultimate X9 III
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.38GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 920MHz; (2) 512MB ATI X1900 CrossFire; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm SATA/150; Intel 8201GR/GH SATA RAID controller (RAID 0)

Dell XPS 700
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX SLI; (2) Western Digital 320GB 7,2000rpm SATA; Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 0)

Gateway FX510XT
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon X1900 XT (CrossFire mode); (2) 500GB Hitachi 7,200rpm SATA/300; Intel 82801GR/GH SATA RAID controller (RAID 0)

Polywell Poly i570SLI Core 2 Duo
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.97GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 742MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7950 GT; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm SATA/150; Nvidia Nforce RAID Class Controller (RAID 0)

WinBook PowerSpec Extreme 9800
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; (2) 512MB ATI X1900 Crossfire; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm SATA/150; 400GB Samsung 7,200rpm SATA/300; Intel 8201GR/GH SATA RAID controller (RAID 0)

7.7

ABS Ultimate X9

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Support 5
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