Editor's note: We have changed the ratings in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Find out more here.
The gloss-black, X-Nemesis aluminum midtower case that houses the Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 6500 SE looks like it comes straight out of the Transformers' Designer Handbook. This midrange gaming PC is perhaps not as versatile as a self-aware robot that can change into a fire truck, but it proves capable enough to handle casual gaming and everyday tasks for an amazing price. For $999, you get an AMD-based system that has an older-but-still-capable Nvidia graphics card and a 160GB hard drive and that also comes fully outfitted with a 17-inch LCD monitor and a midrange 5.1 speaker set. Demanding gamers will balk at the middle-of-the-road specs, but the Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 6500 SE brings enough performance to the table to present an intriguing proposition to the rest of us.
In addition to its contrasting, raised-silver cladding on the front and side panels, the Gamer Ultra 6500 SE features a pop-up, fluorescent backlit LCD on top that monitors the system's health and shows the time and date. Inside, empty bays, sockets, and slots give you plenty of expansion room, making the Gamer Ultra 6500 SE a strong base system for future upgrading. A 52X CD-RW drive and a 16X DVD-ROM drive occupy two of the four 5.25-inch bays, and two of the three 3.5-inch bays remain available on the inside. You can also add a pair of memory sticks to the two already in residence (for a maximum of 3GB). Three available PCI slots round out the interior, and a wide selection of connectivity options awaits you on the outside, including eight USB 2.0 ports, three FireWire ports, a Gigabit LAN port, and 56Kbps modem--plus the usual list of rear-panel legacy ports. Both the side and the top of the Gamer Ultra 6500 SE feature a pair of microphone and headset jacks, but you can't use more than one of each type at the same time.
Neither the Gamer Ultra 6500 SE's Athlon 64 3000+ processor nor its Nvidia GeForce FX 5700 graphics card represent the pick of their respective litters, but the computer still managed a respectable 108.5 frames per second (fps) on our Unreal Tournament 2003 test at a 1,024x768 resolution. That's almost faster than you can visually follow and nearly twice as fast as the 60fps sweet spot. The score dropped to a paltry 25.3fps when we switched to the more demanding 1,600x1,280-resolution test. We didn't expect a tremendous performance increase at that level given the Gamer Ultra 6500 SE's hardware, but it fares well compared to similarly priced competition. Keep in mind, though, that Unreal Tournament 2003 is not the most advanced 3D game around, so if you have Doom 3-like aspirations, you may need to dial down the quality settings to achieve playable frame rates or choose a more powerful graphics card (Cyberpower gives you plenty of options). But thanks to the Gamer Ultra 6500 SE's 512MB of system memory, in addition to its CPU and graphics card, you should be able to run most common applications and play at least older 3D games with little trouble.
Rounding out the multimedia capabilities, the midrange, six-piece Logitech Z-640 speaker system matches the system-integrated 5.1 audio well, although we suggest keeping the volume down to a reasonable level unless you're a fan of distortion. In addition to the respectable speakers, we are also extremely impressed that Cyberpower includes a decent, 17-inch CTX LCD monitor with the Gamer Ultra 6500 SE and manages to keep the price of the whole package less than $1,000.
A one-year onsite warranty with toll-free technical support protects this amazing deal. What more could you want at this price, you ask? How about Cyberpower's own Ultra 8500 SE? With double the Gamer Ultra 6500 SE's 512MB of memory and a higher-end GeForce FX 5900 graphics card, the slightly upscale version spanks the Ultra 6500 SE system hard, turning in roughly twice the performance on our 3D gaming tests for about $160 more. That's the only rub we ran into, but incrementalism always does that to you--and always costs incrementally more.
|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 2004, 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).
|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 provides 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).
Please read more about how we test desktop systems.
Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 6500 SE
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000+; Via K8T800 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5700; Hitachi HDS722516VLAT20 160GB 7,200rpm
Dell Dimension 3000
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Celeron D 330; Intel 865G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 96MB (shared memory) integrated Intel 865G; Seagate ST340014A 40GB 7,200rpm
Windows XP Home; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon XP 3200+; Nvidia Nforce-2 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; 64MB (shared memory) integrated GeForce4 MX; WDC WD1600BB-22GUA0 160GB 7,200rpm
Hypersonic Fury GX
Windows XP Professional, 3.0GHz Intel P4; Intel 865PE chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon 9800XT; Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Systemax Ascent 64
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000+; Via K8T800 chipset; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; 64MB ATI Radeon 7000; Samsung SP1203N 120GB 7,200rpm