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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

There's not much to dislike about the expandable and affordable Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE. For just over $1,100, you get a capable gaming PC and a decent 17-inch LCD monitor. It even comes with an SLI motherboard, so if you get the hankering to upgrade later, this starter PC gives you plenty of options.

3 min read

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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.

6.9

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

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.
Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE

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_pc="" 4505-9696_7-31447734.html?tag="txt" "="">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.

There's no add-on sound card; the motherboard's integrated 7.1 sound chip supplies the system's audio, with the output going to a basic Logitech X-230 2.1 speaker setup. The X-230s aren't room-shaking by any means, but they don't sound bad for $50 speakers. The included ViewSonic Q7b 17-inch LCD monitor has a 12ms response rate--fast enough to prevent blurs in 3D shooters. Its resolution tops out at 1,280x1,024 pixels, which is as high a resolution as you'd want to use for gaming with the stock graphics card.

The minimal software bundle mainly consists of tools bundled with the various components, such as Nero Burning ROM and InterVideo WinDVD. You can choose from an à la carte software menu at checkout, however, adding an office suite and games for an extra cost.

Cyberpower offers an amazing level of configurability, far more than you get from a large company such as Dell or Sony and even more than with the Velocity Micros and the Hypersonics of the world. For instance, Cyberpower lets you choose from 15 different cases, 13 different power supplies, and 14 different motherboards on this model alone. About the only feature you're forced to accept with the Gamer Ultra 8500 SE is the AMD Athlon X2 3800+ chip, which is bizarre considering that you can surround it with such high-end parts as a pair of 512MB GeForce 7800 GTX cards. The sheer breadth of configuration options might not surprise you once you realize that Cyberpower offers 38 different named PCs.

Cyberpower's standard three-year warranty and lifetime support are impressive, considering that the Gamer Ultra 8500 SE is a budget system. Onsite service is available at minimal extra cost. For documentation, Cyberpower provides the bare basics: manuals for components such as the motherboard and monitor, but nothing specific to the system. Online support is negligible, with only a few links to driver downloads, some of which lead to dead Web pages. We'll also add that it's hard enough for vendors that sell 5 to 10 systems to provide reliable tech support. Considering how many parts and possible configurations Cyberpower has to deal with, we have to wonder about overall quality assurance and the comprehensiveness of the support coverage.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

Half-Life 2 (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4XAA 8XAF  

Multimedia tests
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Sorenson Squeeze 4.0 video-encoding test (in seconds)  
Adobe Photoshop CS test (in seconds)  
Apple iTunes 4.7.1.30 MP3-encoding test (in seconds)  

System configurations:
ABS Ultimate M5 Vortex
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3800+; Nvidia Nforce-4 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT (PCIe); Seagate ST3200826AS 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Cyberpower Gamer Ultra 8500 SE
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+; Nvidia Nforce-4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6600 (PCIe); Maxtor 6L200M0 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Dell XPS 200
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 3.0GHz Intel Pentium D 830; Intel 945G chipset; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 224MB (shared) integrated Intel 950G; Maxtor 6L160M0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Polywell MiniBox2 939NP
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+; Nvidia Nforce-430 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (shared) integrated Nvidia GeForce 6150; two WDC WD2500KS-00MJB0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce-4 RAID-class controller (RAID 0)
Sony VAIO VGC-VA11G
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 3.2GHz Intel P4 640; ATI Radeon RC410M chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon X700 (PCIe); two Maxtor 6L160M0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

6.9

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

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6Support 6