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Systemax Sabre Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93 GHz review: Systemax Sabre Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93 GHz

The Systemax Sabre can't compete with the higher-end PC shops' design and innovation, but Systemax blows them away with its aggressive Sabre pricing. If you're a gamer or simply someone looking for a powerhouse desktop for less, this desktop is one of the best deals on the market, despite its relative lack of polish.

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Rich Brown
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Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

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Systemax sent us its default Sabre configuration, which includes an Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800 processor, an ATI Radeon X1900-based CrossFire graphics card setup, and 2GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; you even get a pair of fast 150GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000rpm hard drives. In price, specs, and performance, that config stacks up well against similar systems' from Dell, Gateway, and other high-end PC vendors. You might want to tweak the hard drive configuration a bit, as 300GB goes pretty fast these days. Luckily, the Systemax Sabre's online configurator lets you customize those specs and others with a reasonably wide selection of options.

7.0

Systemax Sabre Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93 GHz

The Good

Outstanding deal on a high-end PC; Core 2 Extreme CPU; ATI CrossFire graphics; 10,000rpm hard drives; bundled Razer Copperhead gaming mouse and a Saitek Eclipse backlit keyboard.

The Bad

No-frills design won't win any awards; the system's many cooling fans makes for a loud PC.

The Bottom Line

The Systemax Sabre can't compete with the higher-end PC shops' design and innovation, but Systemax blows them away with its aggressive Sabre pricing. If you're a gamer or simply someone looking for a powerhouse desktop for less, this desktop is one of the best deals on the market, despite its relative lack of polish.
Systemax is by no means alone as a vendor of affordable, spare PCs. iBuyPower, Cyberpower, Polywell, and others all reduce costs by building and selling desktops with off-the-shelf parts. This type of PC doesn't have as much of an identity as a model from a high-end, boutique vendor such as Alienware or Falcon Northwest, and you often can't buy this type of PC with factory-overclocked parts, liquid cooling, or other performance-enhancing tweaks. But once you jump over to TigerDirect.com and see the price tag on its high-end, house-brand model, the Systemax Sabre, you'll discover that the company's cost-cutting measures amount to a major advantage in price. For $3,499, the Systemax Sabre is one of the best deals we've seen for such a high-end combination of parts. It costs hundreds less than similarly equipped PCs and makes an attractive option for DIY overclockers and gamers who value price over polish.

Systemax keeps the Sabre's price low by skipping some of the intangibles--custom paint jobs, hand-tied internal cable routing, proprietary cooling systems--found on PCs from the boutique shops. The red-painted case we received is actually out-of-stock at the time of this writing, so right now Systemax offers the same model in only a blander blue and gray. Four of the Sabre's fans are lit with red LEDs, and the internal cables are arranged neatly enough, but those two features and the see-through side panel are about it for unique design elements (and at this point, they're not that unique). The Sabre has little-to-no functional customizations such as sound-dampening foam, and the system is noticeably loud, thanks to its eight fans between the system, the CPU, the power supply, and the two graphics cards.

Many people might be willing to forgive a boring or even offensive design if the price and the performance are right, and in that case, we can wholeheartedly recommend the Systemax Sabre. The system to which it's most comparable is the Gateway FX510XT, a fixed configuration more or less. That PC costs $500 more than the Sabre, and the two have nearly identical performance. The Gateway has 4GB of memory (more than Windows XP can use) and slower 7,200rpm hard drives. Systemax's customization options are limited, so you can't get match it exactly to the Gateway, but if you configure the Sabre with 900GB of 7,200rpm storage (its current high-capacity limit), you'd actually drop the price another $100. Clearly, the Sabre is a much better deal. The only other systems that beat it on performance are either overclocked, like the WinBook PowerSpec Extreme 9800, or have a different and (possibly) more advanced chipset, like the Dell XPS 700. And even those performance wins aren't by all that much.

Mainstream performance results (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Multitasking test  
Apple iTunes encoding test  
Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test  
Dell XPS X700
100 
135 
136 
Gateway FX510XT
129 
134 
139 
Systemax Sabre
130 
134 
132 
Dell XPS 410
161 
165 
170 
Note: * System is overclocked.

Microsoft Office productivity test
(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 700
88 
126 
115.2 
Systemax Sabre
66 
117 
131.1 
Gateway FX510XT
63 
109 
123.9 
Dell XPS 410
NA 
60 
111.1 
Note: * System is overclocked.

A DVD burner, a CD-RW/DVD combo drive, and a media card reader round out the system itself, and extras include a Razer Copperhead gaming mouse and a Saitek Eclipse backlit keyboard for gaming in the dark. Clearly those devices and the config in general make the Sabre a gaming-oriented box, but with all of those optical and removable media options, it makes sense to use this system with your digital still or video camera or for general digital media consumption.

Systemax's support for the Sabre is frustratingly average, but that low overhead probably helps keep the costs down, as well. Again, this system is best suited for those who already know their way around a PC. The default one year of parts-and-labor coverage also comes with a year of onsite service through a third-party provider. Systemax has added a direct customer-support phone number to its Web site (an improvement from when we looked at it alongside the Wildcat a few months back), but otherwise the Web site still has a lame outsourced support link that is not system specific, nor is it even that generally useful.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell XPS 410
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; Intel 965G chipset; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS; (2) Western Digital 300GB 10,000rpm SATA; Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 1)

Dell XPS 700
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; (2) 512MB Nvidia GeForce 7900 GTX SLI; (2) Western Digital 320GB 7,200rpm SATA; Nvidia Nforce RAID class controller (RAID 0)

Gateway FX510XT
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon X1900 XT (CrossFire mode); (2) 500GB Hitachi 7,200rpm SATA; Intel 82801GR/GH SATA RAID controller (RAID 0)

Systemax Sabre
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; (2) 512MB ATI Radeon X1900 XT (CrossFire mode); (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm SATA; Intel 82801GR/GH SATA RAID controller (RAID 0)

WinBook PowerSpec Extreme 9800
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.2GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme X6800; 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; (2) 512MB ATI X1900 Crossfire; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm SATA; 400GB Samsung 7,200rpm SATA; Intel 8201GR/GH SATA RAID controller (RAID 0)

7.0

Systemax Sabre Core 2 Extreme X6800 2.93 GHz

Score Breakdown

Design 5Features 9Performance 7Support 5
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