Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 6000 SE
PCs priced at less than $1,000 are increasingly common, but Cyberpower has created a standout machine with its $799 Gamer Ultra 6000 SE. It's unusual among its budget brethren because, as its name implies, it's aimed at gamers. And while it won't light the 3D gaming world on fire, it will at least get you going with a 64-bit AMD processor and a midrange Nvidia graphics card. Even better, it has room to grow.
Cyberpower offers plenty of different case options for the Gamer Ultra 6000 SE. Our review box came in an NZXT Nemesis Elite case, a black, angular enclosure that would fit quite well in Darth Vader's rec room. A sturdy, front-panel door conceals a 16X Sony DVD-ROM drive and a 16X double-layer Samsung DVD burner, along with a 3.5-inch floppy drive and a 6-in-1 media reader. Though we give Cyberpower credit for outfitting such an affordable gaming PC with this array of data storage options, we failed to get the media card reader to work; it simply didn't recognize our test data cards.
The top of the case features an LCD panel, which displays the internal temperature, and a set of front inputs: headset jacks, two USB 2.0 ports, and a single FireWire 400 port hiding behind two flip-up panels. While clever, the panels do not fold flush against the case, increasing the headroom of the machine about an inch beyond standard midtower specs. We did like the fan speed control knob mounted on the front panel, which is handy for reducing the fan's speed and, thus, its noise output. You'll find the usual cluster of inputs and outputs on the back panel, including four more USB 2.0 jacks and another FireWire 800 port.
At the heart of the Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 6000 SE, an AMD Athlon 64 3000+ CPU rests under an imposing Thermaltake CPU fan. Cyberpower will let you configure the Gamer Ultra 6000 SE with a number of other processors, up to AMD's flagship Athlon 64 FX-57 for an additional $930. Our test configuration also came with 1GB of dual-channel DDR400 RAM, occupying two of the motherboard's four slots. That combination of core components places this configuration below our comparison systems on CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 benchmark, but it's not awful, and it should give you satisfactory performance in day-to-day tasks such as e-mail, Web browsing, and word processing. To the Gamer Ultra 6000 SE's credit, it's the least expensive of the bunch.
The Gamer Ultra 6000 SE's graphics card is comparatively more powerful, which shows that Cyberpower built this PC with budget gaming foremost in mind. Thanks to its 256MB eVGA GeForce 6600 PCI Express card, the Gamer Ultra 6000 SE dominated similar systems on our Half-Life 2 3D benchmark. Its score of 40.5 frames per second (fps) isn't earth-shattering in the grand scheme of 3D gaming, but it's definitely playable, which is more than other systems in this price range can claim. Further, the robust 420-watt power supply should support all but the highest-end 3D cards, should you decide to upgrade.
An onboard RealTek ALC850 chip drives the Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 6000 SE's audio competently; Cyberpower pairs it with a set of. It's rare that you see 2.1 speakers in a system priced this affordably, and although the X-530 set isn't top-of-the-line, it does the job well.
For housing your audio files among other data, our test system supplies a single 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive, which should be enough unless you're involved in digital media archiving. In that event, you can add another drive on Cyberpower's Web site when you place your order. You can also add one yourself later in one of the system's two free hard drive bays.