Overdrive's Gemini.SLI is an expertly tweaked system whose performance rivals that of similar systems with higher-end stock components. Equipped with only a midrange AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ processor, our test unit was able to play in the same performance ballpark as the , the , and other systems running AMD's flagship Athlon 64 FX-60 CPU. The Gemini.SLI's overachieving performance comes from aggressive overclocking that pushes its 4400+ processor to 2.7GHz--well beyond its standard 2.0GHz operating speed. Still, despite that impressive technical feat (backed by the warranty, no less), we have reservations about this $4,008 Gemini.SLI. Considering the lack of a significant cost-benefit by going with overclocked parts and a potential motherboard-based roadblock to future 3D performance, we think you're better off choosing a system stocked with faster parts rather than relying on Overdrive's overclocking.
Despite our issues, we have to hand it to Overdrive. Like perhaps no other company, it digs deeper into the fine details of BIOS settings and other overlooked areas of PC design, often resulting in category-leading performance. The Gemini.SLI is not the fastest PC we've ever seen, but it comes awfully close. Its overall SysMark 2004 score trailed only the overclocked FX-60-based Falcon Northwest Mach V (though the Gemini.SLI notched a superior office-productivity score, making this the fastest machine we've seen for running Microsoft Word). The Gemini.SLI's 3D gaming results were less impressive but still plenty fast. Its twocards helped it deliver 96.1 frames per second (fps) on our demanding Half-Life 2 test (run at 1,600x1,200). The two FX-60-based PCs from Falcon and Velocity Micro posted 109.1fps and 106.3fps, respectively. While those systems beat the Overdrive, the configurations we reviewed cost at least $1,000 more. If that sounds impressive, don't get too excited. When we align the specs of competing systems while preserving the core components to preserve the same performance outlook, the Overdrive loses some of its appeal.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Doom 3 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF||Doom 3 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF||Half-Life 2 1,600x1,200 4xAA 8xAF||Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4xAA 8xAF|
The Velocity Micro Raptor 64 Dual X makes a good comparison system for the Gemini.SLI; theand the systems we reviewed lack the Overdrive's build quality, and the Falcon Northwest Mach V is significantly overpriced. The Gemini.SLI has a relatively spare configuration: for $4,008, you get only one optical drive, no mouse or keyboard, and an aging Sound Blaster Audigy SE sound card. When we configured an Overdrive Gemini.SLI and a Velocity Micro Raptor 64 with nearly identical specs, the only difference was the CPU and the motherboard. A Gemini.SLI, equipped with an overclocked Athlon 64 X2 4400+, came to $4,343; a Velocity Micro system with an Athlon 64 FX-60 came to $4,375. Clearly, Overdrive's overclocked CPU doesn't save you much money. (For the sake of transparency, Velocity wouldn't let us configure a single primary hard drive, so we went with two 74GB Raptor drives, the closest we could get to the single 150GB Raptor drive in the Gemini.SLI.)
As we mentioned earlier, we have an issue with the Gemini.SLI's motherboard. The de facto standard for elite-level gaming PCs is a dual x16 PCI Express Nvidia SLI or the rarer ATI CrossFire-capable board; greater graphics bandwidth lets more information pass through (4,000MB per second on x16 vs. 2,000MBps on x8). Though very few games and applications are fully able to take advantage of dual x16 yet, having the overhead is wise protection for the future. Bucking this trend, Overdrive stocked the Gemini.SLI with Asus's A8N-SLI Deluxe, which offers only dual x8 PCI Express graphics throughput. Overdrive told us that for all non-FX-60-based PCs, it prefers the A8N-SLI Deluxe board because it's more stable and allows for better overclocking; we're not sure it's worth cutting off your PC's future graphics performance. Fortunately, you can upgrade to the dual x16-capable Asus A8N32-SLI motherboard with the Gemini.SLI for only $27 more.
ABS Ultimate M6 Sniper
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60; Nvidia Nforce4 SLI x16 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (SLI); two Western Digital WD946D 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA, one Seagate 500GB Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce4 Serial ATA RAID Controller (RAID 0)
Falcon Northwest Mach V (AMD Athlon 64 FX-60)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.9GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60; Nvidia Nforce4 SLI x16 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7800 GTX (PCIe, SLI); two Maxtor 68300S0 300GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA 150; integrated Nvidia Nforce4 RAID class controller (RAID 0)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.7GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+ (overclocked); Nvidia Nforce4 SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT (PCIe, SLI); one 150GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000rpm Serial ATA; one 250GB Seagate Barracuda 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce4 Serial ATA RAID Controller (RAID 0)
Polywell Poly 939N4X2
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60; Nvida Nforce4 SLI x16 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (SLI); two Western Digital WD946D 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA, one Western Digital WDC2500KS-00MJB0 250GB Serial ATA II; integrated Nvidia Nforce4 Serial ATA RAID Controller (RAID 0)
Velocity Micro Raptor 64 DualX (AMD Athlon 64 FX-60)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.9GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-60; Nvidia Nforce 4 SLI x16 chipset; 2,048MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; two 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7800GTX (PCIe); two Hitachi 500GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce4 Serial ATA RAID controller (RAID 0)