Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE - Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2 GHz - 17 TFT review: Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE - Athlon 64 X2 3800+ 2 GHz - 17 TFT

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The Good Stylish case; excellent productivity performance; inexpensive; highly configurable, including SLI capability; three-year warranty.

The Bad Wimpy graphics card for a gaming PC; some of the fans are noisy; poor documentation.

The Bottom Line The Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE offers passable gaming performance and plenty of power for your boring everyday apps; spring for a faster video card if you want to play the latest games with the graphics maxed out.

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6.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Support 6

Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE

PC gamers have to laugh when they hear people complaining about the prices of the next-generation Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game consoles. After all, a hard-core gamer can easily spend $3,000 or more on a fully equipped gaming rig. Luckily for those with more modest gaming budgets, Cyberpower offers a dual-core, SLI-capable gaming PC complete with LCD monitor for $1,116. Admittedly, that's almost three times the price of a next-generation game console, but it's only $100 or so worth of upgrades behind the sub-$2,000 gaming PCs we saw back in December. Even in its current configuration, the Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE will make a great starter system for a new gamer.

The Cyberpower Gamer Ultra SE's sleek red-and-chrome case certainly doesn't scream bargain system. It boasts design elements commonly found on expensive boutique gaming PCs, such as a clear side window, blue fluorescent interior lighting, cool retro analog gauges, and cables that are carefully wrapped and hidden for clear airflow. But all the neon and chrome is the PC equivalent of a spoiler and racing decals on a Honda Civic--it looks sporty, but it's not going to win any races.

Peering inside the window, you'll find a system that is midrange now but can be upgraded down the road. The most exciting feature is the SLI-capable motherboard. The PC's brain is an Athlon 64 X2 3800+, AMD's lowest-end but still very powerful dual-core chip. It's backed by 1GB of memory, so between the memory and the dual-core chip, you have plenty of room to multitask. Less impressive is the mediocre-performing GeForce 6600 video card, which is the system's Achilles' heel.

How much does the GeForce 6600 hurt gaming performance? The Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE achieved a decidedly pedestrian 41.7 frames per second (fps) on our Half-Life 2 test, compared to the 85.9fps achieved by the ABS Ultimate M5, a $1,999 machine equipped with a GeForce 6800 GT and an extra gigabyte of memory. The Cyberpower's frame rate is still very playable, and if you dial down the antialiasing and the filtering, you'll get even better speeds. We like what the Cyberpower shows us about pricing, though. That GeForce 6800 GT card in the $1,999 ABS system is probably the main reason for its better score, and it's only a $117 upgrade, which will still save you $600 or so. Sounds like a good deal to us.

In fact, this PC should run all the latest games, though you may have to turn down some of the eye candy to get playable performance. For instance, Quake 4 looked noticeably choppy at the monitor's top 1,280x1024 resolution but played fine at 800x600. The good news is that thanks to the SLI motherboard, you can drop in a second GeForce 6600 for a minor speed boost, or add a pair of faster cards to turn the machine into a gaming monster. Just make sure to research the power-supply requirements of your upgrades, since the stock model's 480-watt supply might need an upgrade as well.

The system includes all the basic ports and peripherals plus a few extras. It has a PCI Wi-Fi card, a double-layer Sony DVD burner, and a front-mounted flash-card reader. You'll find six USB 2.0 connectors, a pair of FireWire ports, a Gigabit LAN jack, and the usual legacy port on the back.

Cyberpower cools the case with a mix of quiet and noisy components. The pair of 120mm case fans run whisper-quiet at low speed (dual speed controls are mounted on the case), but the clear 80mm fan on the case door is rather noisy, as is the stock heat-sink fan for the processor. The case offers plenty of room for future expansion, with four open 3.5-inch bays, three available 5.25-inch bays, two available PCI slots, two available PCI Express slots, and an open PCI Express graphics slot for SLI use.

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