Although it doesn't compare favorably to the budget competition, the PC Club Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 is well assembled. Inside the Apex midtower case, cables are neatly tied and routed out of the way, which makes working inside the case easier while also improving airflow. The system is quiet during operation; its three fans spin in near silence. And with four 5.25-inch drive bays (three free), two 3.5-inch front-accessible bays (one free), and five 3.5 internal hard drive bays (four free), you have ample room to gradually add to the system.
Our review system keeps the price down in part by using integrated ATI Xpress 200 graphics, but the motherboard serves up a x16 PCI Express slot for later adding a discrete graphics card. PC Club offers a wide selection of graphics cards, with many a selection of many low-end and midrange cards. We'd advise against doubling the price of the system by adding in a supercharged $500; it wouldn't be a good fit for an otherwise low-end PC (for one thing, you'd have to upgrade the system's default 350-watt power supply). The Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 is flexible in letting you add either PCI or PCI Express expansion cards; there are two PCI slots and one x1 PCI Express slot. We also appreciate that a multiformat media card reader is a standard feature on this Apex case.
What's in the case is less impressive than the expansion opportunities it affords. Our review unit came equipped with 512MB of memory and an 80GB hard drive, which pales in comparison to the 1GB of memory and the 250GB hard drive found on both the Cyberpower Back to School 2006 and the eMachines T6536 systems.
The big issue we have with the PC Club Enpower Sabre EN-SB7, however, is the type of memory used and the number of channels connecting the CPU and the RAM. With a Pentium D 805 processor, the lowest-end chip in Intel's first-generation dual-core series, we'd expect to see DDR2, a more advanced type of memory supported by this chip. In fact, we can't remember the last time we saw a system that paired DDR memory with a dual-core Intel processor of any variety. And PC Club's otherwise wide-ranging online configurator for the Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 doesn't give you the option for DDR2--just different size allotments of DDR400 (PC3200) memory. Worse, the low-end Intel D101GGC motherboard doesn't support dual-channel memory, so even though the system features two 256MB DDR400 memory modules, it's operating with single-channel memory, which hampers its overall performance.
The Enpower Sabre EN-SB7's showing on CNET Labs' new benchmarks was a mixed bag. It trailed the slightly pricier Cyberpower Back to School 2006 on every test, not surprising given each system's specs and the fact that the PC Club system uses single-channel memory and integrated graphics that leach resources from the main memory. The Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 was able to flex a little muscle on our Multitasking test; its dual-core processor allowed it to plow through the test faster than the eMachines T6536 and its single-core AMD Athlon 64 CPU. The PC Club system ran into the most trouble on our Photoshop test, where a larger allotment of memory running on two channels (not to mention dedicated graphics memory) would have helped it achieve better results. As it stands, it took more than twice as long as the eMachines T6536 to complete the test.
Stick to the bundled apps and you'll fare better. The PC Club Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 ships with Microsoft Works 8.5 and a 60-day trial of Office 2003 Small Business Edition. In addition, you receive a year of antivirus and antispyware coverage via Computer Associates' eTrust software. The standard OS is Windows XP Home. A basic keyboard and mouse ship standard with the default configuration, but neither was included with our review unit.
PC Club backs the Enpower Sabre EN-SB7 with a one-year depot warranty; you pay to ship the system back for repairs, and PC Club covers the return costs. Alternatively, should you live near one of PC Club's retail stores (primarily located on the West Coast), you can bring in the system for repairs. The company promises to have your PC back to you within 48 hours. Phone support is available weekdays during business hours.
Cyberpower Back to School 2006
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ AM2 socket; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7300GS (PCIe); WDC WD2500JS-00NCB1 250GB SATA 7,200rpm
DV Nation MiniPC
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.7GHz Intel Pentium M 735; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; integrated Mobile Intel 915 Xpress graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; RAM HD
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3800+ 939 socket; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated Nvidia 6100 graphics chip using 256MB shared memory; WDC WD2500BB-22RDA0 250GB SATA 7,200rpm
PC Club Enpower Sabre EN-SB7
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Pentium D 805; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip using 256MB shared memory; WDC WD800JD-00LSA0 80GB SATA 7,200rpm