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Polywell Poly 690G-5200 review: Polywell Poly 690G-5200

Polywell Poly 690G-5200

Rich Brown Former Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
Expertise Smart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Rich Brown
4 min read

Polywell's low to midrange Poly 690G-5200 sounds like a decent desktop for the money. It's got a better-than-average dual core AMD processor, AMD's brand new 690G chipset, and it only costs $899. Its unassuming case neither offends nor impresses, and even though its performance lags a bit considering its specs, it's still a fair deal. Any good feeling we had for this system disappears, however, once you add the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium to the mix. There's simply no reason for a computer in this price range to make the leap to 64-bit. Thus, we can't recommend this PC, at least as configured.


Polywell Poly 690G-5200

The Good

A fair price for the hardware.

The Bad

The 64-bit Windows Vista limits your options for adding peripherals and introduces the potential for compatibility headaches; integrated graphics chip sucks system memory, hindering overall performance.

The Bottom Line

By submitting this system with 64-bit Windows Vista, Polywell opens it up to driver conflicts, application incompatibility, and underwhelming performance on memory intensive tasks. We're not sure what the benefits are, either. You can configure it with 32-bit Windows, and improve on the hardware to bring its performance up, but at that point it loses its price advantage. Pass this one by.

Before we realized it came with an overzealous operating system, we had high hopes for the Polywell as another good deal from a lesser-known vendor. Its 2.6GHz Athlon 64 X2 5200+ has twice the L2 cache than the Athlon 64 X2 5000+ chip in the Dell Dimension E521, a system that costs about $100 more. The Polywell matches or surpasses the Dell and others like it with 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 memory, and its 250GB hard drive and its combination of DVD burner and DVD-ROM drives gives you all of the standard definition disc flexibility we expect from a modern PC.

To be fair, the Polywell performed to expectations on all but our Photoshop test. Because it has the fastest CPU in its class, it outperformed the competition on our iTunes and CineBench tests. It lagged on Photoshop, though. We suspect the reason is due to the system's integrated graphics chip. All of the other PCs in this price range come with a dedicated graphics card that doesn't share system memory. Photoshop is not as graphics intensive as a 3-D game, but it's still a powerful graphics app that presents a challenge to a PC that relies on an integrated graphics chip.

Multimedia multitasking test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Polywell Poly 690G-5200

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Polywell Poly 690G-5200

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Polywell Poly 690G-5200

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Polywell Poly 690G-5200
HP Pavilion a1740n

Quake 4 performance (in frames per second)
1,024 x 768 (4X AA, 8x AF)  
Polywell Poly 690G-5200

We also weren't expecting much from this Polywell system as a gaming PC, due to its integrated graphics chip, and its five frames per second score on our Quake 4 test came in about where we expected. We should acknowledge that the graphics chip is one of the components AMD was excited about in its new 690 chipset, featured here in this system. We never really take vendor claims about integrated chips and acceptable gaming performance seriously, which is why we were more excited for the AMD's new chipset as a multimedia enabler. The graphics chip has integrated HDCP support for decoding HD movies, and certain motherboards using it will come with an HDMI output built-in. The motherboard in this PC is not one of those.

What's ironic about the distribution of memory resulting in reduced Photoshop performance is that the 64-bit version of Windows Vista would actually let you add a ton of memory to this system, and if Polywell had taken advantage of it, this system's Photoshop time likely would have been faster. You could argue that if you consider this system a low-cost entry point into 64-bit computing it's not a bad deal, if you're willing to increase the memory yourself down the road. Possibly, but right now, driver and application support for 64-bit Vista is so limited, you'd likely run into more problems than any short-term savings would make up for. Polywell offers this system with the 32-bit version of Vista, but you would still need to add a discrete graphics card to make this a better all-around desktop. At that point, the Polywell's price advantage over the Dell Dimension E521 thins considerably, especially when you consider support.

Our commenters like to assail Dell's support, but when you consider Dell's, HP's, and eMachines's remote support capabilities, it becomes clear why, even though Polywell's one year of parts and labor coverage is standard for this kind of PC, the financial resources of the first-tier vendors give them a distinct customer service advantage over the little guys. A 64-bit PC especially would lend itself to all manner of issues with installing peripherals and other incompatibilities. Polywell at least has 24-7 phone support, but its Web-based help is cryptic and incomplete.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell Dimension E521
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.6GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5000+; 2,048MB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 Pro HyperMemory graphics card; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm hard drive

HP Pavilion a1740n
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300; 2GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 224MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive

iBuyPower Value-640
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.13GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6400; Intel P965 Express chipset; 1,024MB 677MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS; 320GB Seagate 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive

Polywell Poly 690G-5200
Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit); 2.66Ghz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5200+; 2GB 667Mhz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon X1200 integrated graphics; 250GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

WinBook PowerSpec T470
Windows Vista Home Premium; 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300; 2,048MB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7300 GT graphics card; 300GB 7,200rpm Samsung hard drive


Polywell Poly 690G-5200

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 4Performance 5Support 5