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ABS Ultimate X8 review: ABS Ultimate X8

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The Good Strong configuration for your PC dollar; plenty of room for post-purchase upgrades.

The Bad Liquid cooling hardware too loud and too cumbersome; online support needs some work.

The Bottom Line ABS's Ultimate X8 Stealth Extreme is most definitely not stealthy thanks to its loud cooling hardware, but for sheer bang-for-the-buck, this high-end gaming PC has a lot to recommend it. Whether you like it as is, or plan to make upgrades later, this PC makes a strong gaming box. Just don't expect it to win any design awards.

7.1 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 5

We've seen seven or eight PCs with an overclocked Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 quad core chip. All of them together might make less noise than the ironically named ABS Ultimate X8 Stealth Extreme. Its bulky, boxy case also looks less like a PC and more like a modern design housing concept. Despite all that, we actually like this PC's bang-for-the-buck quite a bit. Its price-performance ratio stacks up strongly against other high-end gaming PCs. No one (except maybe Nvidia) would blame you if you wanted to hold off on an expensive gaming PC purchase to see what AMD's next-generations 3D cards have to offer after their supposed May debut, but if you're only concern is getting the most PC for your money, ABS makes a compelling argument with this $3,120 system. Just be sure to store it under your desk, and perhaps in a soundproof room.

Because Nvidia's Windows Vista graphics card drivers still lack full support for two GeForce 8800 GTX cards in SLI mode, ABS sent this system in with only one of those 3D cards, which also happens to be our current gaming card of choice. Combined with the 3.2GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6700 chip (overclocked from 2.66GHz), 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM, the two 150GB, 10,000 rpm hard drives, the X8 Stealth Extreme has a near identical configuration to the Polywell Poly i680 SLI we reviewed way back in November 2006. The only major configuration difference is that the Polywell system didn't come overclocked. That config represents what we consider an ideal gaming PC right now, and the ABS has the performance scores to prove it.

On all but CNET Labs' Photoshop benchmark, the X8 Stealth Extreme finished roughly where we expected. Thanks to its tuned processor it competed strongly on our iTunes and CineBench tests. And its Editor's Choice-winning GeForce 8800 GTX graphics card helped it achieve solid game performance, even at very high resolutions. Our suspicion with its slower-than-we-imagined Photoshop performance is that the combination of Windows Vista and its single graphics card held it back some. All other comparable systems but the Gateway use Windows XP, and the Gateway has 4GB of RAM to the ABS's 2GB. Still, at only 20 seconds behind the Alienware, the ABS isn't all that slow. We'd also argue that you probably wouldn't purchase this PC if rendering photos is your primary goal. And especially since this X8 Stealth Extreme costs nearly $2,500 less than a competing, nearly identical Alienware Area-51 7500, we're willing to forgive it a few seconds of nonessential performance for the sheer value.

As we don't necessarily recommend this desktop as a first-rate photo editing system, we also don't recommend it as a silent PC. You need look no further than its back panel to see why. ABS employed a Gigabyte 3D Galaxy II liquid cooling set up, which involves mounting a heat exchanger on the outside of the system, and snaking thick plastic tubing around the inside of the PC. It's a noisy, cumbersome rig, which we've seen from ABS before. We didn't mind the Gigabyte cooler the first time we saw it, but since that time we've seen Gateway ship its FX530XT with a Core 2 Extreme QX6700 overclocked to 3.2GHz with only a stock cooling fan. Given that, it seems to us that the GigaByte cooler in the ABS is vast overkill. It could have at least gone with a more self-contained liquid cooling unit like Dell, Velocity Micro, and others have with CoolIT's Freezone to minimize the cooling hardware's overall footprint.

Other hardware with this config includes the requisite two optical drive combo of a dual-layer DVD burner and standard DVD-ROM drive. The burner is a newer 18X model, which should lend a little boost to disc reading times, too. ABS included no media card reader, but there's room to add one. You also have room inside to add two more hard drives, two more sticks of memory, and at least one other graphics card, as well as another standard width PCI card. The 850 watt power supply is on the low-end of Nvidia's recommendation for running two GeForce 8800 GTX cards in one PC. Considering that the quad core chip isn't shy about power consumption, you might consider taking ABS up on its offer for a 1,100 watt PSU for only $28 more.

ABS's online support for its high-end gaming PC remains the same as when we reviewed its Ultimate X9 III last year, which is to say, it seems well-intentioned, but it's unfortunately incomplete. Both its FAQ and its driver download sections are helpful on some subjects, like networking, but also have no content whatever relating to graphics cards, presumably a popular topic for this kind of computer. The one year parts and labor warranty is about what we'd expect though. And while it's not 24-7, phone support is available for a generous-enough window, from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday, and on Saturday and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
ABS Ultimate X8 Stealth Extreme
129 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
ABS Ultimate X8 Stealth Extreme
127 

Cinebench 9.5
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
ABS Ultimate X8 Stealth Extreme
1659 
533 
Alienware Area-51 7500
1658 
525 
Dell XPS 710 H2C
1606 
523 

Quake 4 performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048 x 1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
1,600 x 1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)  
1,280 x 1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Dell XPS 710 H2C
114.6 
114.3 
130.3 
Alienware Area-51 7500
105.7 
121.2 
125.7 
Polywell Poly i680SLI Quad Core
104 
122.8 
126 
ABS Ultimate X8 Stealth Extreme
99.4 
118.9 
120.7 
Gateway FX530XT (Windows Vista)
35.7 
65 
76.7 

F.E.A.R. performance (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
2,048 x 1,536 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
1,600 x 1,200 (4x AA, 8xAF)  
1,280 x 1,024 (4x AA, 8x AF)  
Dell XPS 710 H2C
103 
145.7 
156.7 
ABS Ultimate X8 Stealth Extreme
60.3 
92 
124 
Alienware Area-51 7500
59 
88.3 
115 
Gateway FX530XT (Windows Vista)
49 
75.7 
92.7 

System configurations:

ABS Ultimate X8 Stealth Extreme
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; two 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0)

Alienware Area-51 7500
Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 2,048MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; two 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA hard drives (RAID 0); 250GB Samsung 7,200rpm Serial ATA hard drive

Dell XPS 710 H2C
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 4,096MB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; (2) 768MB Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTX; (2) 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0); 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drive

Gateway FX530XT
Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 (overclocked to 3.2GHz); 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz (3,066MB reported); two 512MB ATI Radeon X1950 XT (CrossFire mode); two 150GB Western Digital 10,000rpm Serial ATA/150 hard drives (RAID 0)

Polywell Poly i680 SLI 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);

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