Graphics card still kicking
The Challenger N2000 makes a promising first impression with its Athlon XP 2000+ processor; 256MB of DDR SDRAM; and 60GB, 7,200rpm hard drive. The 64MB GeForce3 Ti 500 graphics card, though now overshadowed by the GeForce4, costs a lot less and still provides smooth frame rates in the most demanding of today's games. This combination yielded benchmark scores that were dead average compared to those of other budget gaming PCs. Still, at 179.8fps (frames per second) in Quake III, we doubt anyone will complain.
With the cash it saves on the graphics card, Boldata splurges on a multimedia setup. A 19-inch Sony Trinitron CPD-G410R flat-screen monitor provides a sharp, impressive video image. A 16X DVD-ROM drive and a fast 24X/10X/40X CD-RW drive (the company now offers a 48X/12X/48X CD-RW drive in its place) are a great optical storage combo. The Challenger's MSI motherboard uses the Xbox-inspired Nforce 420 chipset, which provides onboard sound, as well as integrated GeForce2-class video (which is disabled when using an AGP card such as the one installed). A riser card includes an S/PDIF digital output to take full advantage of the bundled six-piece Dolby 5.1/DTS-equipped Creative Inspire 5.1 Digital 5700 speaker setup. While our hearts and ears belong to the Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 speaker system, the Inspire 5.1 Digital 5700 set still provides excellent audio clarity and enough volume to disturb the neighbors. DVD audio playback is particularly impressive, with excellent surround-sound distribution.
While watching movies will be a pleasure on the Challenger N2000, making them is another matter. Gamers who are also video buffs should take note of the system's limitations: Boldata offers no writable DVD option, and there's no IEEE 1394 port for attaching camcorders or other video equipment.
Room to grow
While Boldata limits the options you can choose at the time of purchase, at least you have a lot of room to upgrade on your own. The Challenger N2000 has a generous six drive bays (two front-accessible) and four PCI slots open for further expansion. You also get an Ethernet port and a whopping six USB ports. The two mounting brackets that hold four of the USB ports block a pair of PCI slots, so you may face an expansion trade-off as you fill slots.
When you open the tool-free chassis, you'll find a thoughtfully built interior. Cables are neatly tucked away to aid airflow, and one of the system's three fans blows directly over the hard drive. We didn't run into any cooling-related problems during extended gaming sessions, but if you start equipping the open bays and slots, you might want to populate the case's two open fan-mounting brackets.
The only component we dislike is the Mitsumi keyboard, which is too light and a bit cramped. We'd suggest choosing one of the Microsoft keyboards Boldata offers as an extracost option. The software bundle is also minimal, consisting of the Nero CD-authoring package and WinDVD 2000. Microsoft Office is available as an upgrade option.
Quirky support policies
Boldata's standard warranty coverage starts off well, with a three-year warranty on parts and toll-free, 24/7 tech support for the same period, but the benefits recede quickly. You get onsite service and parts replacement during the first year, but after that, the company covers only replacement parts--not repairs. Also, you must pay to send the malfunctioning parts back to Boldata, and if you want replacements returned any faster than ground speed, you'll have to pay the difference in shipping costs. Given the restrictions, paying to extend the onsite service to three years is money well spent. And novices may need the extra service; the minimal documentation includes just the motherboard manual.
The Boldata Challenger N2000 offers some good features and performance, but other budget gaming systems offer a lot more for the money. The Challenger N2000's service-and-support shortcomings also tip the scale toward the competition. If you'd happily trade a little high-end performance for a system that includes a high-quality monitor and speakers, however, the Challenger N2000 fits the bill.
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800 processor, an Intel 815EEA motherboard chipset, 128MB of 133MHz SDRAM, a GeForce2 with 32MB DDR, ATA/100 hard drive, Windows 2000 with Service Pack 1, and Windows' display properties set to 1,024x768 and 16-bit color at 75Hz
Longer bars indicate better performance
|Quake III Arena test|
Measured in frames per second; longer bars indicate better performance
|3D test: MadOnion's 3DMark 2001 Pro|
Longer bars indicate better performance
|Boldata Challenger N2000|
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB GeForce3 Ti 500; IBM IC35L060AVER070 60GB 7,200rpm
Falcon Northwest Talon 4.2
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 1800+ 1.53GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 64MB Nvidia GeForce3 Ti 200; IBM Deskstar IC35L040AVER070 40GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600; IBM IC35L060AVER070 60GB 7,200rpm
Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600; Maxtor 6L040J2 40GB 7,200rpm
The combination of an Athlon XP 2000+ processor, 256MB of DDR SDRAM, a 7,200rpm hard drive, and a GeForce3 Ti 500 graphics card yields application-benchmark results that put the Boldata Challenger N2000 in the dead center of this group of similarly configured systems. Still, in a class that predominantly offers GeForce4 Ti 4600 cards, the Challenger N2000 falls about 10 percent short of the average.