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As boring as ZT System's Affinity 7308Ma may look on the outside, it's actually one of the best deals we've seen for a $699 desktop. Not only does it pack a Blu-ray drive and almost every display output known to man, but also its quad-core AMD Phenom II X4 chip helps this PC set a new performance standard for its category. Midtower PCs might seem boring in the crowd of Netbooks, Nettops, and touch-screen all-in-ones, but for those still interested in an affordable, workhorse desktop, the Affinity 7308Ma should prove an enticing bargain.
The Affinity 7308Ma case is certainly not alone in its bland appearance, but as with the legions of beige PCs years ago, we wonder how long before we see a public outcry for vendors to update the generic glossy black plastic look that seems to have become the new universal standard. In any case, the 7308Ma won't win any style awards, but its design is also simple enough so as to avoid offense.
The highlight feature of the Affinity 7308Ma has to be its Blu-ray drive, followed closely by its display output flexibility. With VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort video outputs, you can connect this system to virtually any modern display device on your desk or in your living room. This is not to say we necessarily advocate sticking a midtower desktop in your home audio/video stack, but should you aspire to such an arrangement, the Affinity 7308Ma has you covered.
|ZT Affinity 7308Ma||Dell Inspiron I530-120B|
|CPU||2.8GHz AMD Phenom II X4 920||2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7400|
|Memory||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip||128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||750GB, 7,200rpm Seagate||750GB, 7,200rpm Seagate|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray drive/dual-layer DVD burner||Dual-layer DVD burner|
|Operating system||64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1||64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1|
When we line the ZT Affinity 7308Ma against its competition from the mainstream PC market, you can see just how much this system shines despite its boring exterior. A Blu-ray drive is very hard to find at the $700 price range, as are quad-core CPUs, much less fast ones. Compared with a representative Dell midtower, the ZT system comes up short only on its memory allotment. As you'll see on our performance charts, though, that memory difference doesn't seem to matter, and comparing this system with the $900 Dell XPS 430 might provide a more even matchup.
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
Thanks to its 2.8GHz AMD Phenom II X4 quad-core CPU, the ZT Affinity 7308Ma trounced almost everything in its own $700 price category, and it also took down the significantly more expensive, Intel-powered Dell XPS 430. That Dell PC has a dedicated graphics card, and the ZT system has only an integrated 3D chip (hence the absence of any 3D gaming performance tests), so these application scores don't tell the whole story for the Dell. But what's clear about the Affinity 7308Ma is that ZT chose the CPU for that system wisely. We recommend this PC to anyone that needs good old-fashioned desktop horsepower at an affordable price.
In addition to its lightning-fast performance, the Affinity can also boast about the speed at which it lets you use at least some of its features after powering on. Thanks to Asus' ExpressGate software, you get a handy pre-Windows software environment from which to get online and play various kinds of media. We don't think that ExpressGate offsets the clunkiness of the midtower design for the Affinity's living room appeal, but we're glad ZT chose media-friendly software and a Blu-ray drive over a less-useful TV tuner card to give this system some home media appeal.
Should you want to add a TV tuner card, or any other basic upgrade or peripheral, chances are the Affinity 7308Ma has the port you need. The inside of the case includes one graphics card slot, two PC expansion slots, room for two more memory sticks, and three spare hard-drive bays. An eSATA port and a single optical audio output are the highlights from the back panel, along with a handful of USB 2.0 inputs and a standard array of 7.1 audio jacks. A media card reader, a pair of USB 2.0 inputs, and headphone and microphone jacks line the front of the system. In short, this system has every port, jack, slot, and input that we expect to find in an up-to-date midtower in this price range, which is actually commendable since Dell, HP, and Apple often can't because of their reliance on outdated or specially made chipsets.
ZT's support policies similarly meet our expectations. The standard one year parts-and-labor warranty comes accompanied by 24-7 toll-free phone support, which is all we really ask for in a default support plan. Online you get the basic FAQ, driver, and user guide downloads, as well as ZT Systems' tech support e-mail address and phone number.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Apple Mac Mini
Mac OS X v10.5 Leopard; 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo; 2GB 1,067MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 9400 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 5,400rpm hard drive.
Dell Inspiron I530-120B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E7400; 6GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 750GB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.
Dell XPS 430
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Quad CPU Q8300 ; 6GB DDR3 1,066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 120 Graphics card; 750GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 500GB Samsung 7,200rpm hard drive.
ZT Affinity 7308Ma
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium SP1; 2.8GHz AMD Phenom II X4 920; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics chip; 750GB, 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.