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ZT Group Pro Gaming PC X6647 - Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73 GHz review: ZT Group Pro Gaming PC X6647 - Pentium 4 Extreme Edition 3.73 GHz

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The Good Strong 3D performance; quiet; highly expandable; huge hard drive.

The Bad Disappointing application performance for the price; questionably useful decibel meter.

The Bottom Line ZT Group's Pro Gaming X6647 looks like a fast PC on paper, but its overpriced Intel CPU doesn't live up to expectations.

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5.6 Overall

Review Sections

The $2,999 ZT Group Pro Gaming X6647 pairs Intel's highest-end processor with ATI's highest-end graphics card and achieves only mixed results. We expected a PC with Intel's new 3.73GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition and ATI's 256MB Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition graphics card to make a better showing in CNET Labs' tests. Its 3D graphics prowess is up to snuff, but its overall application performance leaves us wanting. Still, we like the design and think ZT Group did a fine job assembling the Pro Gaming X6647. Luckily, you can customize the system before you buy. We recommend you do so and select the 3.8GHz Pentium 4 570 instead of the Extreme Edition chip. You'll save around $500, and you should hardly notice the change in performance, if you do at all.

Our Pro Gaming PC X6647 review unit uses Cooler Master's tasteful, functional black Cavalier case (you can also order it in silver). The aluminum-and-steel case has an understated design (at least among gaming PCs), yet still manages to include touches that any gamer will appreciate: a clear side panel, a cool blue-cathode lighting strip, and a blue-lit fan on the 450-watt power supply. The Cavalier case also features a decibel meter on the front; we'd prefer it had a thermometer instead to help with overclocking.

The interior cabling is fairly well organized, but not as neatly arranged as in pricier systems from vendors such as Falcon Northwest and Voodoo Omen. The front-panel door has a removable spring-and-post hinge, though, so you can set the door to open to the left or the right, depending on your preference.

The front edges of both side panels feature various inputs and outputs: two USB 2.0 ports and a six-pin FireWire port on the left, and headphone and microphone jacks and a volume wheel on the right. The wheel controls only the integrated audio jacks, however, which are disabled by the system's Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum sound card. Around back you'll find the standard complement of expansion ports: four more USB 2.0 connections, two additional six-pin FireWire ports, and a Gigabit Ethernet port.

You have just as much flexibility for internal upgrades, with two x1 PCI Express slots and two PCI slots (the graphics card's fan blocks a third PCI slot). There's room for three additional hard drives and two more 5.25-inch drives, and two memory slots also remain vacant. The system runs cool and quiet, thanks to the combination of a 120mm exhaust fan and an 80mm intake fan.

In addition to the high-end CPU and graphics card, ZT Group also gives the PC Gaming X6647 an ample dose of system memory by way of 1GB of 533MHz Crucial DDR2 SDRAM. There's only one hard drive, but it's a big one: a 400GB Serial ATA Seagate Barracuda running at 7,200rpm. Assorted multimedia components include a double-layer, multiformat DVD burner, a CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive, and a 7-in-1 memory-card reader with a floppy drive.

With all its high-end parts, the ZT Group Pro Gaming X6647 is a fast PC--just not fast enough. Its 218 score on our SysMark 2004 test suggests that day-to-day use won't be a problem, but it also came in behind three other systems that use the allegedly slower 3.8GHz Pentium 4 570 chip. Intel claims that the 3.73GHz Pentium 4 Extreme Edition should be 3 percent faster than the mainstream 3.8GHz Pentium 4 570, due to the Extreme Edition chip's larger L2 cache (2MB vs. the 570's 1MB). Our comparison systems' RAID 0 hard drives likely gave them a speed boost over the Pro Gaming X6647's single Serial ATA drive, but considering the added $500 that you pay for the Extreme Edition chip, slower drives or no, the Pro Gaming X6647 should have been faster.

The Pro Gaming X6647's 3D graphics performance, however, definitely met expectations. Using ATI's highest-end part, the 256MB Radeon X850 XT Platinum Edition, the ZT Group Pro Gaming X6647 posted scores in Half-Life 2 that beat out those of the iBuyPower Gamer SLI, a system that uses a graphics card with two processing units on it. The Pro Gaming X6647 couldn't quite top the Overdrive PC Torque SLI--a true dual-card SLI configuration that's also one of the fastest and most finely tuned PCs we've come across--but the ZT Group system will provide fast frame rates and high detail levels for any 3D game you care to throw at it.

Bundled input devices consist of a wireless remote for the Sound Blaster card and Logitech's excellent Cordless MX Duo multimedia keyboard and optical mouse set. You'll have to part with more money for a monitor and speakers, since they were not included in our test system's price.

Software titles include Nero 6.0 for disc burning, Cyberlink's PowerDVD 6.0 for watching movies, and two games: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. The system also comes with Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition and Microsoft Works 8.0.

ZT Group backs the Pro Gaming PC X6647 with a generous three-year parts-and-labor warranty, but you'll have to obtain an RMA number and foot the bill to ship the system back for repair. Telephone support is available weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET. Calls aren't toll-free, but we were immediately connected to a tech-support representative on each of our three calls, and our questions were answered quickly. You can purchase a one-year onsite service contract for an additional $53, and $143 buys you a three-year onsite service plan. You can also get hold of tech support via e-mail, and the company's Web site has a support page with troubleshooting tips, user guides, and a driver database. Hard documentation was scarce, with nothing in the box but a manual for the case and a quick-setup guide for the sound card.

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

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver). Depending on the class of the system, we may report only the office-productivity or Internet-content-creation portions of SysMark.

Half-Life 2 Custom Demo (in fps)**  
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Half-Life 2 1,024x768 4XAA 8XAF  
Half-Life 2 1,600x1,200 4XAA 8XAF  

* Overdrive Torque 64 CPU and graphics card are overclocked.
** Half-Life 2 test results are absent for the Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 and the MPC Millennia 940i Dream Machine because they were tested before we incorporated Half-Life 2 into our benchmark suite.

Valve Software's Half-Life 2 showcases some of the latest in DirectX 9.0 image quality, accompanied by tremendous GPU taxation. Those factors, and its vast popularity among PC gamers, make it an ideal game to test a desktop's 3D capabilities. Using a demo file created in our Labs that incorporates all of the game's taxing features, Half-Life 2 gives us a great indication of how a PC will handle today's most challenging 3D games. Our custom demo is set in the canal level and encompasses advanced effects such as light from the flashlight and water effects. We make sure to update Half-Life 2 with the latest patches before we start testing. Depending on the type of system being tested, we perform two runs of the demos at a resolution of 1,024x768 for lower-end desktops, then an additional two runs each of 1,280x1,024-resolution and 1,600x1,200-resolution tests for high-end systems. We configure the display settings via the game's own options screens, not the Windows graphics driver settings, and within the game we set antialiasing and anisotropic filtering to 4X and 8X for all resolutions.

System configurations:

Falcon Northwest FragBox 2
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.8GHz Intel P4 570; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); two Maxtor 6B300S0 300GB 7,200rpm, Serial ATA; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

iBuyPower Gamer SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.4GHz AMD Athlon 64 4000+; Nvidia Nforce-4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6600GT (PCIe, SLI, Dual GPU); two WDC WD2500JD-98HBB0 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Silicon SiI 3114 SoftRAID 5 controller

MPC Millennia 940i Dream Machine
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.8GHz Intel P4 570; Intel 925X chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe); Hitachi HDS722525VLSA80 250GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; two Hitachi HDS724040KLSA80 400GB Serial ATA 7,200rpm; integrated Intel 82801FR SATA RAID controller

Overdrive PC Torque SLI
Windows XP Professional SP2; 2.6GHz (overclocked to 2.8GHz) AMD Athlon 64 FX 55; Nvidia Nforce-4 Ultra SLI chipset; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; 256MB (2) Nvidia GeForce 6800 Ultra (PCIe, SLI); two WDC WD740GD-00FLX0 74GB Serial ATA 10,000rpm; Maxtor 6Y200M0 200GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA; integrated Nvidia Nforce RAID-class controller

ZT Group Pro Gaming PC X6647
Windows XP Professional SP2; 3.73GHz Intel P4 Extreme Edition; Intel 925XE chipset; 1,024MB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz; 256MB ATI Radeon X850XT PE (PCIe); Seagate ST3400832AS 400GB 7,200rpm Serial ATA

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