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Polywell Poly i680SLI - Core 2 Extreme QX6700 2.66 GHz review: Polywell Poly i680SLI - Core 2 Extreme QX6700 2.66 GHz

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On the outside, the Poly i680SLI doesn't look that remarkable. It has a generic third-party chassis that has some awkward design elements. Its power and reset buttons and all of the frontside ports hide behind an unnecessarily bulky plastic door that sits on the machine's upper front edge. And its fan ports, including the massive 120mm side panel vent, come with blandly stylized plastic trim. Perhaps using an uninspired case helps Polywell keep the costs down, but even a nice case would add only an extra $100 or so.

polywell-poly-i680sli-tower-1-x-core-2-extreme-qx6700-2-66-ghz-ram-2-gb-hdd-2-x-150-gb-dvd-writer-cd-rw-dvd-gf-8800-gtx-x-2-gigabit.jpg
7.8

Polywell Poly i680SLI - Core 2 Extreme QX6700 2.66 GHz

The Good

Potent GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card and Intel quad-core CPU blow through current games and are poised for next-gen gaming excellence; decent amount of expansion room; price tag won't bankrupt you as much as typical high-end PC's would.

The Bad

Boring chassis with a few silly or superfluous design elements; needs a bigger power supply if you want to add a second graphics card.

The Bottom Line

We expect that we'll see better-looking and better-thought-out PCs with Nvidia's new GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card inside, but Polywell gets the distinction of having the first PC in our Labs with this next-gen part. And while its visuals and its power supply could use some attention, its price-performance ratio is hard to beat.
Last week we got a crack at a few new PCs with Intel's new quad-core chips. This week, we have the quad-core Polywell Poly i680SLI, which has the new chip as well as Nvidia's latest, the next-gen GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card. This potent combination of high-end parts makes Polywell's new PC the first we've seen that looks truly ready for next-gen gaming. It might be a little while before you can put all of the new hardware to the test, but while you wait for the software to catch up, you should be able to shred through current-generation games at the highest possible resolutions and with maximum detail levels. And the best part is that Polywell has put a semi-approachable price tag on this PC. For $3,799, you can have one of the fastest gaming PCs on the block today and be ready for the games of tomorrow.

Inside, Polywell paid a bit more attention to the Poly i680SLI's appearance. The hard drive and the optical drive cables are mostly tied down and routed out of the way. Polywell opted for the "stash the power supply cables in the empty drive bay" approach, which always looks a little sloppy, but at least the power supply's cables are bound in mesh.

The Poly i680SLI's basic specs include a 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700, a 768MB GeForce 8800 GTX 3D card, two 150GB 10,000rpm hard drives, and 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM. All of those parts are plugged into Nvidia's latest high-end motherboard chipset, the i680SLI. Polywell played a conservative hand here and didn't overclock anything. That's probably a smart move. We've heard from various PC vendors that they're happy with the GeForce 8800 GTX's stock heat spreader, but if you touch the card while it's running, it feels very warm even at its stock speeds.

We're not too worried about the lack of overclocking given the Polywell's performance. On our 3D gaming tests, the Poly i680SLI and its single GeForce 8800 GTX card beat two heavily overclocked PCs running an ATI Radeon X1950 XT CrossFire setup, each with two previous-gen $500 3D cards. The only system that was faster was Dell's XPS 710, and that comes with a previous-generation Nvidia Quad SLI setup. For all of the Dell's raw horsepower, it doesn't support the image quality and next-generation features of the Polywell's single GeForce 8800 GTX. You can make the argument that there are no games that will really challenge the GeForce 8800 GTX card today, but if you can get this kind of performance and be ready for next-gen titles when they hit next year, there's almost no reason not to buy this system now.

Multitasking test (simultaneous McAfee AntiVirus scan, DivX 6.1 video encode, CAB file extraction)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

Multimedia multitasking test (simultaneous QuickTime and iTunes encoding)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
In seconds  

CineBench 9.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Multiple CPUs  
Rendering Single CPU  
Gateway FX530XL
1696 
516 
Apple Mac Pro
1604 
494 
Dell XPS 710
1309 
429 
ABS Ultimate X9 III
1049 
566 

3D gaming performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
F.E.A.R. 1,600x1,200  
F.E.A.R. 1,280x1,024  
Quake 4 1,600x1,200  
Quake 4 1,280x1,024  
Dell XPS 710
97 
115.3 
109 
107.9 
Polywell Poly i680SLI (quad-core)
89 
119.3 
123.5 
126 
Gateway FX530XL
72.3 
88.7 
123.2 
132.1 
ABS Ultimate X9 III
67 
82 
139 
150.9 

If you're wondering why we might argue against the Poly i680SLI, you have to look a little deeper. Due to its Nforce i680SLI motherboard, this PC can, in theory, support two GeForce 8800 GTX cards in full, dual-x16-bandwidth SLI mode. That would clearly be overkill for any game available today, but we expect that cranking up a next-gen game, such as Crysis, on a large LCD would probably put that extra horsepower to use. But with the Poly i680SLI's 700-watt power supply, we wouldn't recommend it. Neither would Nvidia. For two GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, Nvidia suggests at least a 750-watt power supply. The configuration Polywell sent us is about 50 watts short. Polywell will offer a 1,000-watt power supply, which should do the job, but it will also add to the cost.

That actually leads us to a point that's in the Polywell's favor. Because its 3D performance is so strong with just a single card, you have lots of room for upgrades. The Nforce i680SLI motherboard has two spare PCI slots, as well as another x8 PCI Express slot. That means you can add a sound card, a TV tuner, and a physics card, either after the fact or on Polywell's configurator, if you wanted to make this system as fully loaded as you can. There's also room for two more memory sticks, as well as one more hard drive.

The Poly i680SLI comes with Polywell's standard one year of parts-and-labor coverage, as well as 24/7 phone support. Polywell's Web site remains a jumble of links and poorly organized help documents. You can find some of what you're looking for if you squint hard enough. Polywell maintains a serial number-based tracking system, however, which presumably will help expedite over-the-phone issues.

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System configurations:

ABS Ultimate X9 III
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.38GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 920MHz; (2) 512MB ATI X1900 CrossFire; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm SATA/150; Intel 8201GR/GH SATA RAID controller (RAID 0) Apple Mac Pro
OS X 10.4.8; 2x 3.0GHz Xeon 5160; 1,024MB DDR2 FB-SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB ATI Radeon X1900; 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm SATA/150

Dell XPS 710
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7950 GX2 (Quad SLI); (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0); 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive

Gateway FX530XL
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 overclocked to 3.2GHz; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon X1950 XT (CrossFire Mode); (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0)

Polywell Poly i680SLI (quad-core)
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0);

polywell-poly-i680sli-tower-1-x-core-2-extreme-qx6700-2-66-ghz-ram-2-gb-hdd-2-x-150-gb-dvd-writer-cd-rw-dvd-gf-8800-gtx-x-2-gigabit.jpg
7.8

Polywell Poly i680SLI - Core 2 Extreme QX6700 2.66 GHz

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 9Support 6