Adorned with neon lighting, color LEDs, and old-school knobs and switches, Elite PC's Titan 4 certainly looks the part of a luxury gaming rig. Fortunately, this $3,000 system isn't all flash and no substance-it stocks AMD's fastest-yet Athlon XP processor, a DVD burner, a bleeding-edge ATI video card, and plenty of other enviable accoutrements. It also boasts a well-rounded warranty and commendable documentation. Only a disappointing software bundle and few speaker options keep the Titan 4 at an arm's length from perfection. As for the price, well, as the saying goes, if you have to ask, you probably can't afford it.
A mammoth, easy-to-work-with Elements Dragon Series tower serves as the centerpiece of the Titan 4. Its side panel is one big window, giving a clear view of the blue neon tube and tri-color LED-lit fans inside. Its 450-watt power supply ensures ample power for the existing components and any you care to add in the future, and its 10 drive bays certainly support expansion opportunities, although just three remain unoccupied. One RAM slot and three PCI slots round out the internal expansion options. We particularly like the special locking mechanism that holds the optical drives in place; to remove one, you just unplug the cables and slide it out-no screwdriver required, no messing with snap-on bezels or hard-to-reach levers.
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The funky fan control panel is more form than function.
Of course, most modern expansion happens outside the case. The Titan 4 follows suit with a quartet of USB ports at the rear and one up front. We'd bemoan the lack of a sixth port if the mouse and/or keyboard insisted on their own USB connections, but both have PS/2 adapters, leaving all five USB ports available. What's more, the presence of a built-in 6-in-1 media card reader-a common external peripheral-reduces the need for that sixth port.
Just north of the card reader lies an industrial-looking fan-control module consisting of four metallic dials, two old-fashioned radio switches, and bright blue LEDs for each. Though functional, this largely decorative doodad serves little practical purpose. And with the tower's hinged front door closed, the retro effect is lost.
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|The Titan 4 gives you ample room to expand.|
Other boutique PCs we've seen have colored components that match the case, but the Titan 4 is a bit of a mÃ©lange. The accompanying ViewSonic monitor is dark gray; the Logitech mouse and keyboard, silver and black; and the Altec Lansing speakers, black and chrome. There's nothing that stands out as garish, but the Titan 4 certainly doesn't qualify as color-coordinated. Still, the system is so easy to work with, we'd happily exchange color coordination for utility.
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Dual 10,000rpm Serial ATA 36GB hard drives are certainly fast; too bad they don't have a larger capacity.
As we've seen from the Polywell Poly 880NF3-3200, the combination of AMD's Athlon XP 3200+ and 1GB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM can be a potent one indeed. Like the Polywell, the Titan 4 includes a pair of 10,000rpm Western Digital 36GB Serial-ATA hard drives connected in a striped array (RAID-0), though here to an onboard RAID controller instead of a dedicated card. The nature of this RAID configuration is that you net about 70GB of contiguous space. For literally a few dollars more, you can opt for a single 120GB drive at the time of purchase-an option to consider if you plan to do a lot of video editing or other space-intensive tasks and you don't mind losing the considerable performance boost afforded by the 10,000-rpm drives and Serial-ATA interface.
For gamers, the primary audience for the Titan 4, we can think of no better video card than the ATI Radeon Pro 9800 that comes with this system. Although this card didn't perform quite up to our lofty expectations in the Titan 4, it's still among the fastest cards currently available and sure to keep the pixels popping in even the most advanced games. The 19-inch ViewSonic P95f+ CRT monitor is a good match, offering crisp and colorful text and graphics, as well as a game-friendly brightness-enhancing mode that's just a button-push away.
An Altec Lansing 5100 speaker system delivers 5.1-channel surround-sound goodness from sleek, compact, and refreshingly attractive satellite speakers. However, it's a decidedly mid-range setup, lacking the floorboard-rattling punch afforded by higher-end (and more expensive) speaker bundles from Klipsch and Logitech. Elite PC doesn't offer these brands, so if you want ultimate audio, you'll have to shop for your speakers elsewhere.
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Sony's DRU-500AX supports the four popular DVD-recordable formats.
As for the DVD experience, Elite PC has you covered. Our Titan 4 configuration came with a 16X DVD-ROM drive and Sony's coveted DRU-500AX DVD burner, which supports the four popular DVD-recordable formats. Unfortunately, you don't get the great selection of software normally bundled with that drive. Instead, Elite PC supplies NTI DVD-Maker Gold 6.0, Ulead DVD Movie Factory, CyberLink PowerDVD, and handful of other programs. These are capable tools, but we'd rather have the richer, more capable Sony suite ,which includes Veritas RecordNow DX for mastering both writable and rewritable DVDs and CDs; Veritas DLA (Drive Letter Access) for packet writing; Veritas Simple Backup for backing up data; Sonic MyDVD, which turns your home movies into video DVDs; ArcSoft ShowBiz for video editing; MusicMatch Jukebox, which lets you play, record, and organize your music; and CyberLink PowerDVD 4.0 for DVD-movie playback.
Similarly, for a system ostensibly designed with gaming in mind, it's surprising to find no games bundled with the Titan 4. In fact, save for the aforementioned DVD titles, Elite PC supplies just one piece of software: PCWorks Suite 2002, a compilation of shovelware that includes Quicken 2001 Basic, Print Artist Special Edition, and MusicMatch Jukebox 6.1 (several versions out of date). Elite PC does offer upgrade options, includingand .
The Elite PC Titan 4 is one of the first PCs we've tested that uses AMD's new Athlon XP 3200+ processor. Compared with another 3200+ CPU-based system, the , the Titan 4 runs a bit slower. A contributing factor to the performance delta is a difference in file systems: the Polywell uses the &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ewebopedia%2Ecom%2FTERM%2FF%2FFAT32%2Ehtml">FAT32 file system, and the Elite uses &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ewebopedia%2Ecom%2FTERM%2FN%2FNTFS%2Ehtml">NTFS. Though it's widely debated, we believe systems that use FAT32 will have a slight performance increase because it has much less overhead than NTFS. (NTFS includes built-in security features not found on FAT32, creating a better environment for our benchmarks for FAT32). That said, the Elite PC Titan 4 performed quite well and will provide more than enough power for any application.
Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, 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).