The PC Club Enpower Sabre Extreme's generic-looking midtower case has been personalized with a glowing Enpower logo on the front--perhaps not the first brand name you'd want to advertise to friends and family, but the gray-and-black case should otherwise blend inoffensively into most home computer setups. The front panel is largely featureless, except for a single DVD burner and a multimedia card reader. USB 2.0 and audio ports are hidden on the side of the front panel.
Inside, there are 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), leaving plenty of room for expansion down the road. The lone hard drive in our review unit was 250GB, and the system only had 1GB of RAM (two 512 modules, with two free slots remaining), which is the bare minimum we'd recommend these day for a new PC--particularly one that features a Vista-ready 64-bit processor.
The single x16 PCI Express slot on our review unit was taken up by an Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT video card, leaving two (fairly useless at the present) x1 PCI Express slots and three standard PCI slots free. You could easily add a dedicated sound card or TV tuner to one of those PCI slots. PC Club offers sounds cards such as the SoundBlaster X-FI Platinum (a $179 upgrade) and a generic single-tuner TV tuner card for $39.
Because of its powerful Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU, we expected the PC Club Enpower Sabre Extreme to perform impressively. Of course, it can't hold a candle to the overclocked Core 2 Duo E6700 CPU in the $4,000 Falcon Northwest Mach V, but it was also surprisingly slower than the Dell XPS 410, which has the same Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU (but costs about twice as much at $2,405). The Dell's 2GB of RAM to the PC Club's 1GB is definitely a contributing factor, leaving the PC Club only marginally faster than the other budget Core 2 Duo system we've look at, the Velocity Micro Vector GX Campus Edition. For the price, however, the PC Club Enpower Sabre Extreme's overall application performance satisfied us. It'll ably run the vast majority of today's apps with aplomb, and--with a dollop more memory--it should stand up to the rigors of Vista and the 64-bit apps of tomorrow.
Gamers will be pleased with the Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT card, which is near the top of the line for single-GPU graphics solutions. With Quake 4, we saw 111.1 frames per second (fps) at 1,024x768, which is more than adequate for even serious gamers. The overclocked dual-GPU GeForce 7950 GX2 in the Falcon Northwest Mach V improved on that by only 3.1fps, but you can expect a bigger differential at higher resolutions.
The included 19-inch wide screen VA1912WB is the most expensive monitor option offered in the configurator on the PC Club Web site. Removing it saves you $399, and you can add a cheaper 19-inch LCD from Neovo for $279. Bundled software was a seemingly random mix of games (King Kong, Age of Empires III, Rise of Legends) and standard multimedia apps, including PowerDVD 6 and an OEM version of Nero for CD and DVD burning. You can upgrade the Windows XP Home operating system to Windows Media Center Edition for a reasonable $29.
The warranty covers a standard one-year term. Enpower is the house brand for the California-based PC Club chain of computer stores, and the warranty requires you to call your local store branch or the company's central toll-free number (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT). The Enpower Web site features a basic user forum, a handful of driver downloads, and a short FAQ page but no online chat or detailed warranty information.
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Dell XPS 410
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; Intel 965G chipset; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900GS; (2) Western Digital 300GB 10,000rpm SATA; Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 1)
Falcon Northwest Mach V (Intel Core 2 Duo)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.14GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6700; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; Intel 975X chipset; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2 SLI; Western Digital Raptor 150GB 10,000rpm SATA;
HP Pavilion d4600y
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; Intel 965G chipset; 512MB ATI Radeon X1600; (2) Samsung 250GB, 7,200prm, SATA; Intel ICH8R SATA RAID controller (RAID 0)
PC Club Enpower Sabre Extreme
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; Intel 965G chipset; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GT; Western Digital 250GB, 7,200prm, SATA
Velocity Micro Vector GX Campus Edition
Windows XP Home SP2; Intel Core 2 Duo E6300; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; Intel 975X chipset; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS; Western Digital 250GB 7,200rpm SATA