If you're looking for blazingly fast performance but care not a whit about aesthetics, then Polywell may have the perfect PC for you. Systems from smaller vendors are often hit or miss, and Polywell is no exception. But when the company nails a concept as with the Poly 590SLI2, you can get a solid computer for less than what high-end boutique vendors would charge. The Polywell Poly 590SLI2 is one of the first systems we've seen with AMD's new Socket AM2 chipset and the new top-of-the-line Athlon 64 FX-62 CPU. Add in two GeForce 7900 GT graphics cards in an SLI setup, 7.1 Creative speakers, and a 20-inch Samsung LCD, and the $4,399 price doesn't look quite so steep. Still, if you absolutely must be the first on the block to get an FX-62 system, you probably will want a four-card quad-SLI rig--and once you're in this price range, what's another $1,000 or so between friends? (Yes, Polywell also offers a quad-SLI config for this machine.) Speed-conscious buyers should also consider the imminent release of the next generation of Intel CPUs, which could quickly turn your envy-inducing FX-62 system into yesterday's news.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Polywell Poly 590SLI2 is how nondescript it looks. At first glance the default black case seems more like a budget system chassis than a high-end screamer. If basic black doesn't suit you, the system's configuration page on Polywell's Web site lets you swap in a variety of cases, ranging from subtle to gaudy. Despite its bleak look, the Poly 590SLI2's standard case holds up well upon closer inspection. It has room for four optical drives, two 3.5-inch external drives, and four hard drive slots, which means there's plenty of room for expansion down the road.
Our test system features an Asus M2N32-SLI ATX motherboard, which along with AMD's new Athlon 64 FX-62 processor, boasts 2GB of DDR2 RAM (four 512MB sticks) and two 150GB 10,000rpm Western Digital Raptor hard drives, striped together in a RAID 0 array (essentially combining them into one giant hard drive, but without the data redundancy of other flavors of RAID setups). There are also two Sony optical drives on board, one DVD burner, and one CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive.
Connectivity options include six USB 2.0 ports (two front, four back), three FireWire ports (one front, two back), and DVI and S-Video outputs. One external 3.5-inch drive bay holds a media card reader.
If you're looking for a major speed boost from the new dual-core 2.8GHz Athlon 64 FX-62 CPU, you won't be disappointed. The chip helped the Polywell Poly 590SLI2 post the fastest numbers we've seen from a reviewed system to date on CNET Labs' SysMark 2004 application benchmarks, coming in at 327. Technically, the other FX-62 system we've looked at, the Falcon Northwest Mach V, was even faster at 339, but a preproduction Asus motherboard kept us from giving the Mach V a formal rated review. A typical high-end FX-60 system such as the ABS M6 Sniper scored 12 percent slower in the same test.
As you would expect from two GeForce 7900 GT cards in an SLI setup, the Polywell Poly 590SLI2 is a ridiculously fast gaming rig. It's no secret that even the newest games can't really take advantage of the four GPUs in the new breed of quad-SLI systems. The Poly 590SLI2 's 143.4 frames per second in Doom 3 at 1,600x1,200 resolution is fast enough to satisfy the most jaded gamer. Nevertheless, knocking the specs back a notch each to an AMD Athlon FX-60 CPU and a pair of GeForce 7800 GTX video cards, as in the Velocity Micro FX-60, drops the frame rate only slightly, to 132.4 frames per second--a difference the naked eye would have a hard time distilling.