PowerSpec Extreme 9800 - Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93 GHz review: PowerSpec Extreme 9800 - Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93 GHz

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The Good Strong application performance and overall bang for the buck; factory-overclocked; dual 10,000rpm hard drives.

The Bad Boring case; cramped interior.

The Bottom Line Its case design has room for improvement, but for pure bang for your buck WinBook's PowerSpec 9800, with its factory-overclocked Core 2 Extreme CPU, makes a tempting offer. Look elsewhere if you want to make a strong visual impression, but its performance compares well to systems that cost hundreds more.

6.9 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Support 6

Before we found out that Dell was giving its customers the brush-off, we would have said that the $4,500 WinBook PowerSpec 9800, despite its great benchmark scores, wasn't nearly as attractive a system or a deal as the Dell XPS 700. Since Dell isn't shipping a comparable XPS 700 until at least October, however, this Intel Core 2 Extreme-based WinBook PC suddenly takes on a brighter outlook. We still think you should wait until ATI and Nvidia release their next-gen graphics cards later in the fall before investing in a high-end gaming PC, but if you're in the market for an overclocked, high-performance system right now, the WinBook PowerSpec 9800 offers strong bang for your buck.

The PowerSpec 9800 has very similar specs to many of the other Core 2 Duo systems we've reviewed over the past few weeks. It comes with a Core 2 Extreme X6800 CPU, 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, a 512MB ATI Radeon X1900 XT 3D card in dual-card CrossFire mode, a pair of fast 10,000rpm 150GB Western Digital Raptor hard drives, and a 300GB 7,200rpm drive for added storage. In short, it's as fully loaded a desktop as you can find right now, and it will meet all of your gaming, digital-content-creation, and pretty much any other high-end needs. Like systems from Alienware, Falcon Northwest, and Velocity Micro, WinBook overclocks the CPU (which is also covered by the warranty), bumping the chip from 2.93GHz to 3.2GHz. What's also impressive is that its strong application performance beat out Alienware's Area-51 7500, which at 3.26GHz was overclocked just a bit more aggressively.

Multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
DivX 6.1 and McAfee VirusScan 2006  
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 test bed
Note: System is overclocked.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test  
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 test bed
Note: System is overclocked.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test  
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 test bed
Note: System is overclocked.

Microsoft Office productivity test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Microsoft Office productivity test  
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 test bed
Note: System is overclocked.

Where the WinBook doesn't top the Alienware, the two systems are, for all intents, exactly tied. The gaming story is a little different, though. The Alienware demonstrated a clear advantage on our F.E.A.R. benchmarks at both resolutions, potentially a result of the Alienware's Nvidia graphics cards working on an Nvidia chipset. WinBook's scores are fine, however, even at 1,600x1,200, and should play any game on the market at high detail levels without trouble.

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  
*Velocity Micro Raptor DCX
*Alienware Area-51 7500
* WinBook PowerSpec 9800
Dell XPS X700
Gateway FX510XT
AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 test bed
Note: System is overclocked.

Although its case is boring compared to those of the Dell XPS 700, the Alienware Area-51 7500, and even the strong-but-staid Velocity Micro Raptor DCX, the PowerSpec 9800 earns points because of its low price. It comes in $500 less than the Alienware and $1,500 less than the Velocity Micro. And while Dell's is less expensive at only $4,005, if you ordered a WinBook today, you'd actually have it in your possession within a week. The same can't be said for the Dell.

If there's one system that the WinBook PowerSpec 9800 is most similar to, it's the Gateway FX510XT, the newest addition to Gateway's desktop family. At roughly $4,000 (without monitor) that system also has a better price than the WinBook, but it doesn't ship overclocked, and as a result, it's not as fast. It also has one fewer PCI slots than the WinBook. Both cases feature an uninspired design, which is fine--we understand that neon-yellow alien-head-shaped cases aren't for everyone. The interior of the Gateway is laid out better; the WinBook's hard drives don't face out, and they're also blocked in the drive cage by the 3D cards. Gateway's BTX case design makes it easier to swap the hard drives in and out. We'd rather have the faster performance, but if you do a lot of drive swapping, you should keep WinBook's difficulties in mind.

For the rest of the system, WinBook offers some impressive features, some of which likely contribute to its performance success. Its two 150GB Raptor hard drives are the fastest around, and the 300GB storage drive gives you plenty of space for digital media. The pair of DVD burners (WinBook trumps the single-burner Gateway here, as well) includes one with LightScribe functionality, not a make-or-break feature, but still fun to have for home-brew disc making. The obligatory media card reader rounds out the package for portable storage.

Compared to that of Gateway, WinBook's support is decent, but as we've said for all of these high-end gaming boxes, we think a three-year warranty should be the standard for any system that costs more than $3,500. WinBook gives you only one year of parts-and-labor coverage, but at least it includes onsite service. Its online support is also limited, but unlike Gateway's site, WinBook's links to the graphics driver software, arguably the most important driver to make available. Its phone support is not 24/7 like Gateway's, but it is toll-free and open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

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