With its new Hexx desktop, Voodoo attempts to give LAN-party gamers a compact system that doesn't skimp on performance. The result is a powerful but awkward hybrid of a small-form-factor (SFF) system and a standard full-size PC. The $3,300 Voodoo Hexx delivers fast performance, thanks to its AMD Athlon 3400+ CPU, its dynamite video card, and its dual Serial ATA RAID 80GB hard drives connected to a full-size Intel 875 chipset, but a memory-configuration gaffe keeps the system from achieving its full potential. More problematic, the power supply couldn't be in a worse spot for upgrades. We've seen true SFF PCs, such as the , that don't have the expansion room of the Hexx, but these systems are much smaller and more portable and have the space for a full-size graphics card. The Voodoo Hexx is barely more portable than a full-size tower, rendering the supposed benefits of the hybrid design meaningless. The squat case of the Voodoo Hexx looks odd, but since we reviewed the desktop, Voodoo has ceased to surprise us with its willingness to take chances. Although we commend the company for taking risks with unusual designs, the Hexx itself doesn't merit praise. Packing a full-size Via K8T800 motherboard into a package designed to look like a small-form-factor case results in a PC that offers little of an SFF PC's portability and none of the roomy work space of a full-size desktop tower, due to the Hexx's cramped, poorly conceived case interior.
The numbers don't lie. The Voodoo Hexx's 15.3-by-10.1-by-15-inch (H, W, D) case has slightly greater volume than a standard 17.3-by-7-by-18.5-inch midtower, which right away makes us question what benefits the unusual proportions actually deliver. They certainly don't make transportation easier.
Even without a tape measure, once you remove the side panel, the Hexx's biggest design flaw becomes immediately apparent. Transplanted from its traditional position at the top of the unit, the power supply sits in front of the expansion-card slots and right up against the hard drive bays. To get to the AGP slot, the PCI slots, the memory slots, or the hard drive bays, you must remove three thumbscrews on the back panel, then wrestle with the power supply to yank it out of the case. The stiff cabling connected to the power supply and the internal components makes removal and especially reinstallation exceedingly difficult, and the sharp edges of the power supply itself even make it dangerous. Our lab technician, no stranger to desktop interiors, cut his hand while trying to put the power supply back in place.
Should you manage to get at the available space inside the Hexx, you'll find a fair amount of room to upgrade and expand. Two unoccupied 5.25-inch drive bays sit at the top of the case, and one unused 3.5-inch bay resides in a stack of three hard drive slots, the pathway for which, of course, is blocked by the power supply. (If only Voodoo had rotated the drive cages 90 degrees, so that the drives slid in and out perpendicularly.) All four PCI slots are also free, as is one of the three memory slots.
At least you shouldn't have any hassles adding peripherals. Two USB 2.0 ports and one FireWire connection dot the lower edge of the Hexx's front panel for painless plug-ins. The back panel houses the standard menagerie of motherboard ports, including four more USB 2.0 ports, an additional FireWire jack, and sound and network ports. Voodoo's desktops are typically replete with top-of-the-line hardware, and the Hexx is no exception. Our test unit came loaded with AMD's 2.2GHz Athlon 64 3400+. Backed up by dual Hitachi 7,200rpm RAID-configured drives and the new 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra, the Hexx will have no trouble powering next-generation games. We question the wisdom of using 1GB of Corsair PC4000 DDR SDRAM, which is not certified by AMD for use with its CPUs. The Hexx's benchmark performance on CNET Labs' tests don't speak well for the .
The clear, generous 19-inch Iiyama ProLite E481S-B LCD and the Creative MegaWorks 550 5.1-channel speakers we received with our Hexx should satisfy all but the most demanding gamers, who wouldn't choose an LCD for gaming anyway. Voodoo offers several variations of the Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS sound card, but our review unit's sound was piped through the motherboard's integrated audio solution, a reasonable choice if you're not picky about audio quality. keyboard and optical mouse are fantastic input devices, and are also available in matching colors with the case, assuming you opt for one of the eight Allure paint jobs Voodoo offers for around $260. Voodoo offers a broad selection of hardware and customization options on the Hexx's online configurator, where you'll find the most basic configuration starting at $1,370.
Media creation is a cinch, with the addition of our Editors' Choice-winning multiformat 8X . Voodoo throws in one blank 4.7GB DVD+R disc to sweeten the deal. The Hexx comes with a wide array of media applications, many bundled with individual hardware components. Nero Express 6.0 and facilitate disk burning, and Roxio's PhotoSuite 5.0 SE and CyberLink's PowerDirector assist with photo and video editing. You'll also be able to choose between CyberLink's PowerDVD 5.0 and InterVideo's WinDVD XP Platinum for watching DVDs. Application performance
Though powerful, the Voodoo Hexx features some strange configuration decisions. It uses an AMD Athlon 64 3400+ processor with 1GB of PC4000 DDR SDRAM, which is intended to run at 500MHz, as opposed to the standard 400MHz PC3200 RAM we see in most performance PCs. Because the Hexx's chipset doesn't support 500MHz memory, the speed defaults to 400MHz, which means that the only reason to use PC4000 with the Via K8T800 chipset is to give overclockers more overhead. But if boosting the speed is your goal, the Hexx is still not the system for you.
After the Hexx returned an unimpressive 174 on SysMark 2004, we were a bit puzzled, since that score is nearly 8 percent slower than Voodoo's Rage F-50, a PC that uses the same CPU but standard PC3200 memory. We then tested the Hexx using a pair of PC3200 sticks. When the SysMark scores went up to where we expected, we knew the PC4000 memory was creating a bottleneck.
We investigated further by talking to AMD. AMD doesn't certify RAM beyond PC3200 to work with its Athlon CPUs, and it can't guarantee that a system with noncertified RAM will perform as expected. Even AMD doesn't claim to know the exact reason for the performance loss with the PC4000 memory, but the important point is that using PC4000 memory with a current AMD CPU prevented the Hexx from achieving its full performance potential. The Hexx is by no means a weak system, however, and the 8 percent performance difference between memory types will probably be imperceptible during day-to-day use.
Finally, the idea that you would want the PC4000 for overclocking is also flawed. Athlon 64 3400+ CPUs generally do not have strong tolerance for overclocking, and the Hexx's cramped interior presents a difficult environment for managing the thermal increase inherent in boosting a CPU's speed beyond its specified settings.
|BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating||SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating||SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating|
3D graphics and gaming performance
The Voodoo Hexx is the first desktop we've seen with the new 256MB graphics card. This card features a new graphics processor and boosts performance tremendously compared to older graphics cards. Our high-end Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmark proves this point; the Voodoo Hexx blew everything else out of the water. Its score of 121.2fps was nearly 40 percent faster than the next-best system's, the using an . Memory quibbles aside, the Voodoo Hexx will handle any game you throw at it in the foreseeable future.
|Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768||Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,600x1,200 4XAA 8XAF|
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and resolutions of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 10x7 tests, and are set to 4X and 8X respectively during our 16x12 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal provides an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).
Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Windows XP Home; 3.4GHz Intel P4 Extreme Edition; Intel 875P chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two Seagate ST3120026AS 120GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801ER SATA RAID controller
Polywell Poly 939VF-FX53
Windows XP Professional; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-53; Via K8T800 Pro chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5900XT 256MB; two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB 10,000rpm Serial ATA; integrated WinXP Promise FastTrak 579 controller
Windows XP Professional; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 FX-53; Nvidia Nforce-3 Pro 150 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5950 Ultra 256MB; two WDC WD360GD-00FNA0 36GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; one WDC WD2000JB-00EVA0 200GB ATA/100 7,200rpm; integrated WinXP Promise FastTrak 378 controller
Windows XP Professional; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz PC4000; Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra 256MB; two Hitachi HDS7225080VLSA80 80GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Via Serial ATA RAID controller
Windows XP Professional; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; ATI Radeon 9800 XT 256MB; two Hitachi HDS722512VLSA80 120GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm; integrated Via Serial ATA RAID controller Voodoo has always been at the top of the pile with its customer service and support, so it's no surprise that the Hexx comes with a potent warranty and servicing package. The standard warranty lasts one year and covers parts, labor, and two-way shipping. Buyers can upgrade to a three-year warranty with the same coverage for a little over $300. Voodoo also runs what it calls the Select Upgrade Assurance program, which lasts the life of the system and permits you to send in your system for component upgrades. You pay the price of Voodoo's cost for the part, plus 10 percent and a labor fee.
Voodoo tells us it hopes to implement 24/7 phone support hours in a few months, but it currently runs a toll-free line from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Online support is always available and provides services such as live support chat, FAQs, user forums, and links to manufacturer Web sites and several well-known computer hardware enthusiast sites. Within the black Voodoo binder that comes with the system are the obligatory driver CDs, three system-recovery CDs, and hardware manuals for all the major components. Unfortunately, you won't find a system manual.