Polywell Poly i570SLI review: Polywell Poly i570SLI

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The Good Competitive configuration for the price; gigantic fan keeps collective noise down; CPU overclocking bolsters performance.

The Bad Motherboard only has two memory slots; boring design.

The Bottom Line It's not particularly attractive, and the motherboard limits you to two memory modules, but Polywell's Poly i570SLI PC is a capable gaming box at a fair price. Its CPU is even overclocked to give it that extra edge. We don't recommend it if you anticipate needing strong vendor support, but if you're a confident PC user looking for a good deal, it's a solid, no-frills choice.

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6.6 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Support 5

Polywell's Poly i570SLI Core 2 Duo system skirts the edge of the elite gaming PC segment by virtue of its high-end specs and $2,999 price. Highlights include an overclocked Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 chip, a brand-new GeForce 7950 GT graphics card, and the usual assortment of performance-quality parts. The case Polywell sent us also has a massive 250mm fan on the side that's responsible for the bulk of the system cooling, the first such setup we've seen. Aside from a larger-than-expected cooling fan and the overclocking, the rest of the system offers nothing you can't find from other third-tier vendors, such as Cyberpower and Systemax, and as usual, it lacks the polished build-quality of systems from the more specialized gaming PC companies. Still, the price isn't bad for the parts and the performance you get. If you're bargain hunting for a performance PC and aren't too concerned about the fit and finish, Polywell's Poly i570SLI lets you stretch your gaming dollars.

Apart from the aforementioned giant fan, Nvidia's new 512MB GeForce 7950 GT graphics card is really the only other item of note with the system. The 3D card is one of the last we expect from Nvidia's current generation of 3D chips, and as such, its aggressive performance and pricing make smooth PC gaming a bit more attainable. (Contrary to what the model name might suggest, our review unit came equipped with a lone GPU.) On our gaming tests, the Polywell finished last out of the five systems we compared it to, but it also costs about $1,200 less than the other contenders. Its scores are playable, even on the demanding 1,600x1,200-resolution F.E.A.R. test, which is no small feat. For $3,000, you have a right to expect that kind of capability from a gaming PC, and Polywell delivers. It helps that Polywell overclocked the CPU to 2.93GHz from the stock 2.6GHz. You'd have to call Polywell to request such a tweak, though, as it's not listed as an option on the Poly i570SLI's online configurator.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: * System is overclocked.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: * System is overclocked

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: * System is overclocked

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Note: * System is overclocked

3D gaming performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
F.E.A.R. 1,600x1,200 SS 8xAF  
F.E.A.R. 1,024x768 SS 8xAF  
Quake 4 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF  
Dell XPS X700
Systemax Sabre
Gateway FX510XT
Note: * System is overclocked

As for the fan, usually we find system fans--typically of the 80mm and 120mm variety--stationed at various points inside a case, and their collective spinning is part of the reason why PCs can be so noisy. The Poly i570SLI still has fans on the CPU and on the 3D card, but we've seen other PCs with up to nine independent fans circulating air around the case. But with only a single 250mm fan on the side panel doing all of the system cooling, the noise drops considerably. The case also has an external switch on the fan that lets you set it to blow in or out, or you can shut it off completely.

Working alongside the Core 2 Duo chip and GeForce 3D card is 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM, an adequate amount today, although if you switch to Windows Vista when it comes out, you might want to double that. Unfortunately, the Nvidia NForce 570 chipset motherboard has only two memory slots, so you'll need to get rid of the two sticks currently in place to go to 2GB. At least there's plenty of room to add hard drives. Our Poly i570SLI review unit already offers up a speedy storage configuration consisting of two 150GB 10,000rpm hard drives. If you want to add another internal drive you have the option, there's also an external Serial ATA jack if you want to attach some external storage. Polywell has also blessed this PC with both a DVD burner and a CDRW/DVD combo drive. You'll also find an extra PCI Express graphics slot if you want to double up the graphics cards, but there's a caveat: Nvidia recommends at least a 500-watt power supply for SLI configs, and the system Polywell sent us has only a 400-watt unit. You can instead choose a 700-watt model at the time of checkout for an additional $83.

We should also mention that for this price you get a 20-inch, swiveling, wide-screen Samsung LCD. This is an outstanding display, among the best in its class, and it adds only $388 to the price--roughly the current rate for such a display. The included Logitech wired keyboard and wireless optical mouse are nothing special, but they do get the job done. Polywell has a few other options available, but for what's ostensibly a gaming PC, Polywell's input device selection is a little buttoned-up. No Razer, no Logitech G5. You can always opt out of a mouse and keyboard altogether and find a set you like on the open market.

Polywell's support options reside firmly within the industry standard of one year of parts-and-labor coverage (although the company used to offer three years of parts and five years of labor) and 24/7 phone service, at least with the default plan. You can extend the warranty and add onsite service for extra. Online support is unfortunately weak. The FAQ addresses only five random questions, the driver links are confusing at best, and your only other option is to submit an e-mail form.

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