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ZT Group Pro A7055 review: ZT Group Pro A7055

Hard drive hogs will love the ample storage space and the dual optical drives, including a DVD burner. All these features don't leave much room in the budget for high-end audio and video, but multiple PCI slots provide room for expansion.

rickbroida
Rick Broida
rickbroida

Rick Broida

Senior Editor

Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").

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The ZT Group Pro A7055 strives to excel in a few key areas--speed and storage--rather than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. At the expense of multimedia power, it trades a low-end graphics card and an underwhelming speaker system for gobs of storage and solid performance. That should please business users more concerned with work than play. Better still, ZT Group backs the PC with a three-year warranty, giving it an edge over many of the other $999 systems we've reviewed.

7.0

ZT Group Pro A7055

The Good

Dual optical drives; large hard drive; lots of expansion space; three-year warranty.

The Bad

Noisy; no FireWire ports; hard-to-reach media-card reader.

The Bottom Line

Dual optical drives (including a DVD burner) plus generous hard drive storage and several PCI slots make this a good choice for upgraders and digital pack rats, even if there isn't much left in the budget for audio and video features.
ZT Group Pro A7055

The mostly black A7055 tower features attractive silver accents on its front bezel, but overall it's a fairly generic case. Two problems with it: you need a screwdriver to remove the side panel, and you can't easily access the 7-in-1 media reader when the tower sits on the floor. There's a protruding ridge just above the reader that blocks it from view. We also found the tower a bit noisy, owing to its two large cooling fans, though the hum is much less noticeable when you put the system under a desk.

Inside the case, you'll find neatly bundled cables and plenty of room to tinker. The ZT Group Pro A7055 provides ample expansion space: four PCI slots, three open drive bays, and one SDRAM socket. Outside the case, you'll find the usual USB 2.0 assortment: four ports in back, two in front. However, the A7055 lacks FireWire ports, so don't plan on capturing video from a camcorder without extra equipment.

If you do end up with the means to offload video, you'll have plenty of space to store it--or anything else. ZT Group supplies a generous 200GB hard drive, the largest we've seen in a $999 system. Equally generous, the A7055 comes with a pair of optical drives: a NEC dual-layer DVD burner and a Sony DVD-ROM. None of our five comparison PCs came with two optical drives.

The 17-inch Cisnet CL7510 LCD monitor produced decent results, though it's certainly not the best flat-panel we've seen. Images looked a bit grainy, and the default contrast setting resulted in a dim overall appearance. However, the display improved when we manually raised the contrast, and text looked surprisingly sharp for an analog LCD. Plus, the monitor's 16ms response time means it can handle games and movies without ghosting or other distracting effects.

Speaking of games, don't expect to run Doom 3 or any other graphics-intensive titles. The Nvidia MX 4000 video card is a weak link in the A7055 chain, delivering low-end performance (although not as low as integrated graphics subsystems such as the one on the Gateway 5310S). It's an acceptable card for everyday applications, but insufficient for demanding games, video, and other multimedia. The A7055 has an AGP slot rather than the more modern PCI Express input, meaning your video-card upgrade options will be limited. ZT Group also serves up a lightweight sound system: Logitech's X-230. Although it consists of a subwoofer and two satellites, they're low-wattage, weak-sounding components--fine for basic PC audio, but definitely below the bar for music and movies.

With a respectable score of 173 on BAPCo's SysMark 2004 test, the ZT Group Pro A7055 was the second-fastest machine in our budget-desktops roundup--not surprising, given its 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+ CPU and 512MB of RAM. The only faster system, by 6 percent, was the iBuyPower Value Pro System, which came with a faster (despite the slower clock frequency) 2.2GHz Athlon 64 3500+ chip and twice the memory.

ZT Group provides Microsoft Works Suite 2004, a suitable accompaniment for a system in this class, but we wish it had included antivirus software as well. More commendable is the company's three-year warranty--a threefold increase over the warranties offered by Gateway, iBuyPower, and other $999-system sellers. Admittedly, the warranty doesn't include onsite service, and buyers have to pay one-way shipping charges for returns, but it's still a generous policy. We also liked the simple, comprehensive support section on ZT Group's Web site, although the site doesn't mention the toll-free number (866/298-1032) for the company's 24-hour tech-support line.

Application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo's SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus demo (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,024x768 with no antialiasing and no anisotropic filtering  

Half-Life 2 custom demo (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
800x600 with no antialiasing and no anisotropic filtering  
* iBuyPower Value-Pro ran Half-Life 2 using DX9
** ZT Group Pro A7055 ran Half-Life 2 using DX7
*** Shuttle XPC K6200h ran Half-Life 2 using DX8.1

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Gateway 5310S
Windows XP Home SP2; 3.06GHz Intel Pentium 4 519; Intel 915GV chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated Intel 915GV graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; Seagate ST3160023AS 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
iBuyPower Value Pro
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.2GHz AMD Athlon 64 3500+; Nvidia Nforce-4 chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6200 TurboCache PCI-Express; Western Digital WD1600JD-98HBB0 160GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
Shuttle XPC K6200h
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.8GHz Intel Celeron D 335; ATI 9100IGP chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; integrated ATI 9100 graphics chip using 128MB shared memory; Western Digital WD1600JB-00GVA0 160GB 7,200rpm EIDE
Sys MediaMax S2600
Windows XP Home SP2; 1.8GHz AMD Sempron 3100+; Via K8M800 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 AGP; Western Digital WD800JD-75JNCO 80GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA
ZT Group Pro A7055
Windows XP Home SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 3400+; Via K8T800 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 MX 4000 AGP; Western Digital WD2000JB-00GVC0 200GB 7,200rpm EIDE

7.0

ZT Group Pro A7055

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 7Support 7
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