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Uberclok Ion review: Uberclok Ion

Given its higher-end hardware, it's no surprise that the Uberclok beat the Gateway on our new game tests. Both of these systems are respectable gamers, but the Uberclok shines on high resolutions, more so than the Gateway. We remain disappointed in the Crysis performance of these two systems, however. For $1,999, it seems fair to expect that you should be able to play any game on the market at a reasonable resolution. Crysis, though, seems to be too demanding, even at a modest 1,280 x 1,024. Dropping the detail and resolution will get you better results, but we hate to have to make the compromise.

The good news is that it's easy to upgrade the Ion by adding a second graphics card. Thanks to the Nvidia NForce 680i SLI-based motherboard, you get a second PCI-Express graphics card slot. Uberclok itself offers a second GeForce 8800 GT card upgrade for $290, that's also overclocked to match the first one (to 675MHz core and 972MHz memory, from 600MHz and 900MHz, respectively). You can also purchase a second card on your own for $250 or so. The 650 watt ThermalTake power supply should provide enough juice between the overclocked CPU and two graphics cards, but if Nvidia were to come with a two-chip card like the Radeon HD 3870 X2 and you had a mind to put two of them in this system, (assuming the motherboard would support it) chances are you'd need to upgrade the power supply to something in the 1,000-watt range.

For the rest of the hardware, Uberclok includes few surprises. The dual-layer DVD burner and secondary DVD drive are relatively standard for performance systems. The five-in-one media card reader gives you further removable media flexibility. 500GB of hard drive space seems about right for this price range, although we expect to see larger drives trickle down sooner rather than later. Our major complaint about the design is that the bulky hard drive cage looks cumbersome to work with if you wanted to add a second hard drive. We also think the case is a little clunky and plastic-looking, but you may disagree. Unlike the Gateway there's no TV tuner card in this Uberclok Ion, but we expect most gamers won't really miss that feature.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this review, we want to give Uberclok particular credit for its Web site. Too often we see smaller vendors such as AVADirect, iBuypower, and others take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to their online configurators. Not only does that make for a daunting buying experience, it also hurts our confidence that those vendors will be able to effectively support all of the literally millions of hardware combinations they sell. Uberclok's focused approach not only limits you to reasonable choices for its dedicated gaming systems, it also uses plain-spoken, forthright language ("Cost-conscious? You don't need a Killer NIC") to help you choose the right options.

For support, Uberclok offers three years of parts and labor, along with a 30-day money-back guarantee. It does not have 24-7 phone support, but its toll-free line is open from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. Its Web site doesn't have a lot to offer as far as support resources for DIY tech support, but it does have a helpful FAQ that answers questions regarding the long-term reliability of overclocking, as well as general configuration advice.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Dell XPS 420
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 256MB Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card; two 320GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drives

Gateway FX7020
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.3GHz AMD Phenom 9600; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

Uberclok Ion
Windows Vista Home Premium (tested); Windows XP Professional SP2 (second partition); 3.2GHz (overclocked) Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT graphics card; 500GB 7,200 rpm Seagate hard drive

Velocity Micro ProMagix E2400
Windows Vista Ultimate; 2.7GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS graphics card; two 320GB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drives

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