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Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53 review: Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53

Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
5 min read
The Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53 looks no different from many of the other Polywell systems that have passed through CNET Labs. The boxy, aluminum midtower case lacks any sort of geek chic--the only adornment is a cheesy Polywell sticker plastered just below the power button on the front panel. Inside this ho-hum-looking system, however, resides the very latest desktop technology from AMD. Gamers will want a system with a more recent graphics card, if you're a digital-content creator or another sort of power user, the Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53's bleeding-edge desktop performance will do the trick.
The $2,549 Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53 gave us our first glimpse at one of the new 64-bit AMD chips: the high-end Athlon 64 FX-53. If you think that name looks familiar, you're right: it's the same as AMD's last-generation performance chip. In fact, the two chips run at the same 2.4GHz speed, share the same 1MB amount of L2 cache, and are built on the 0.13-micron process. The differences in the chips are few: the new FX-53 chip has 939 pins to its predecessor's 940, and it supports the use of unbuffered memory.
Buffered (or registered) memory is primarily used in servers where reliability is more of a concern than raw performance. Buffered memory improves reliability of high-speed data access but slows down performance. The older 940-pin FX-53 was basically a renamed AMD Opteron server processor aimed at desktops. With the 939-pin FX-53, you get a more consumer-friendly CPU that allows you to use faster and cheaper unbuffered memory. More power for less dough is music to any desktop buyer's ears.
Our Poly 939VF-FX53 test system in particular uses 1GB of unbuffered DDR400 SDRAM--standard issue for almost all performance PCs these days. Both CPU and memory sit on an MSI 6702E motherboard with Via's K8T880 Pro chipset. As you can see on the charts below, the Poly 939VF-FX53's application performance is on a par with that of systems running Intel's current speed leader, the 3.4GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition chip. It also edged by 5 percent the Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD, which uses the older 940-pin Athlon 64 FX-53 chip. Of course, this performance difference could come from the Poly 939VF-FX53's two 10,000rpm Western Digital hard drives (in a RAID 0 configuration), which offered better performance than the Vision FX AVD's two 7,200rpm drives.
The Poly 939VF-FX53's 3D graphics scores are less impressive. Using an older Nvidia card, the GeForce FX 5900XT, our test system turned in a substandard 47.7 frames per second on our high-end 1,600x1,200 Unreal Tournament 2003 test. Gamers will surely see improved frame rates with a more current graphics card, such as the GeForce 6800 Ultra or ATI Radeon X800.
As configured, our Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53 test system is better suited for high-end graphics tasks other than 3D gaming--digital content creation and DV editing, for example. The system's two optical drives, a multiformat 8X DVD-RW drive and a DVD-ROM drive with media-card slots, give you flexibility with burning chores, and the aforementioned 10,000rpm hard drives give you quick access to your data.
Polywell backs the Poly 939VF-FX53 with a generous three-year-parts, five-year-labor warranty that includes one year of toll-free, 24/7 phone support. Keep Polywell's number handy, though, because the user manual is just a generic system manual and online support offers little help.
Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4X AA 8X AF  

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at a resolution of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 10x7 tests, and are set to 4X and 8X respectively during our 16x12 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal is an excellent way to compare the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
System configurations:
Alienware Area-51
Windows XP Professional; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller
Falcon Northwest Mach V 3.4 Extreme Edition
Windows XP Home; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller
Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53
Windows XP Professional; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-53; Via K8T800 Pro chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5900XT 256MB; two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated WinXP Promise FastTrak 579 controller
Velocity Micro Vision FX AVD
Windows XP Professional, 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-53; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; one WDC WD2000JB-00EVA0 200GB ATA/100 7,200rpm; integrated WinXP Promise FastTrak 378 controller
Voodoo Rage F-50
Windows XP Professional, 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800XT 256MB; two Hitachi HDS722512VLSA80 120GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm; integrated Via Serial ATA RAID controller