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Freeway Tech Innovation A2800M review: Freeway Tech Innovation A2800M

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The Good Speedy CD burner; AGP slot allows for better performance; case leaves plenty of room for expansion; three-year warranty with onsite service for the first year.

The Bad Non-DDR memory holds back application performance; flimsy keyboard and mouse.

The Bottom Line The Freeway Innovation A2800M delivers the features and performance that any good budget PC should--but only with the proper memory upgrade.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Support 7.0

Review Sections

Freeway Tech may call its line of value desktops the Innovation line, but the term can't possibly refer to the older SDRAM memory found in some Innovation systems, including that of our A2800M test system. The A2800M uses older SDRAM, whereas the vast majority of PCs these days--even in the budget class--use speedier DDR (double date rate) SDRAM. This choice of memory drags down the system's application performance, but by including a dedicated graphics card (albeit a slow one), a fast CD burner, and a three-year warranty, Freeway Tech makes up the difference. Upgrade to DDR memory, and the Innovation A2800M is a worthy contender within the budget class.



Beige as far as the eye can see.
The Freeway Innovation A2800M certainly won't turn heads with its design--unless a sea of beige startles you. Beneath the boring exterior, however, resides a thoughtfully crafted budget PC. Any budget system worth your money should have room to grow, and the A2800M has that, inside and out.



Front-mounted USB 1.1 port.


Four USB ports on back support the faster 2.0 spec.


Beneath the CD burner, there are three free 5.25-inch drive bays, plus one open external 3.5-inch bay and four free internal 3.5-inch bays. The motherboard gives you four free PCI slots, one of which you might use for a modem card, should you still be clinging to your old dial-up connection. The Innovation is also network- and broadband-ready with dual Ethernet jacks.


The A2800M has room to grow with you.


Of the system's five USB ports, the four in back support USB 2.0 (you get only one 1.1 port up front). The back panel contains all of the legacy ports you'd expect, including parallel, serial, and PS/2 connections.




A speedy 38X/16X/48X CD burner.
While the vast majority of PCs today use DDR SDRAM with an effective speed of 266MHz or faster, the A2800M has 256MB of SDRAM running at 133MHz. This difference in memory speed is the culprit for the system performing roughly 20 percent slower than other PCs in its processor class. With an Athlon XP 2000+ at its core, however, the A2800M is the second-fastest system among the five budget PCs that CNET Labs recently tested. Still, we suggest that you spend the extra $50 or so to upgrade to 256MB of DDR SDRAM.

Move past our test system's memory, and its feature set looks much more appealing. Consider first the A2800M's pair of speedy storage devices: the 7,200rpm 40GB Maxtor hard drive and the MSI 48X/16X/48X CD-RW drive, with Nero Burning ROM software. The A2800M is one of only two budget PCs we've seen recently to come with a dedicated graphics card. The 64MB ATI Radeon 7000 is hardly cutting-edge, but it will do the job if you have a mild interest in gaming. If your gaming needs have surpassed the Radeon 7000 capabilities, Freeway Tech offers more power cards as upgrade options.

The bright, clear Daewoo 17-inch CRT monitor is the highlight of the bundled peripherals. On the opposite end of the peripheral spectrum lies the flimsy, plastic keyboard and roller-ball mouse sans scroll wheel. It's worth the few extra dollars to choose one of the five mouse upgrade options. You'll also need to pony up for a productivity suite, such as Microsoft Office--our A2800M test system shipped without one.


Application performance
The vast majority of today's desktops include a type of system memory called DDR (double data rate) SDRAM, which usually runs at effective speeds of 266MHz and faster. The Freeway Innovation A2800M, however, uses older and slower SDRAM running at 133MHz. As a result, this Athlon XP 2000+-based system's overall application performance is roughly 20 percent slower than that of other Athlon XP 2000+-based desktops we've seen that use 266MHz DDR SDRAM. Despite the hit in performance that Freeway Tech's choice of memory architecture causes, the A2800M is still the second-fastest desktop of the five that we recently tested.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation rating  
SysMark2002 office productivity rating  
Cyberpower AMD Value XP (Athlon XP 2100+, 256MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz)
173 
218 
137 
Freeway Innovation A2800M (Athlon XP 2000+, 256MB SDRAM 133MHz)
142 
182 
111 
MicroPro MicroHome 199B [2.0GHz Celeron, 256MB DDR SDRAM (shared memory) 266MHz]
127 
178 
91 
Nutrend Centra 4 AMD [Athlon XP 2100+, 128MB DDR SDRAM (shared memory) 266MHz]
116 
165 
82 
Gateway 300S Plus [2.1GHz Celeron, 128MB DDR SDRAM (shared memory) 266MHz]
114 
170 
77 


To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, 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).

The A2800M is only one of two systems in this roundup to come with a dedicated graphics card; the other three systems all use slower, integrated graphics solutions. Despite the dedicated graphics card, the A2800M's 3D graphics performance is only marginally better than what you'd typically see from integrated graphics. Chalk up the disappointing performance to a slow graphics engine--the ATI Radeon 7000--which represents a technology that is already several generations old. As with the integrated graphics solutions, the A2800M's graphics engine lacks the power to drive today's demanding 3D games and educational titles.

3D graphics and gaming performance
3D graphics performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Second Edition Build 330 (16-bit color)  
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Second Edition Build 330 (32-bit color)  
Cyberpower AMD Value XP (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440SE)
5,716 
4,795 
Nutrend Centra 4 AMD (integrated Nvidia GeForce2)
2,528 
1,647 
Freeway Innovation A2800M (ATI Radeon 7000)
1,812 
1,271 
Gateway 300S Plus (integrated Intel 845G/GL)
1,300 
823 
MicroPro MicroHome 199B (integrated SiS 650)
1,276 
821 


To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark 2001 Pro Second Edition, Build 330. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 (DX8) interface at both 16- and 32-bit color settings at a resolution of 1,024x768. A system that does not have DX8 hardware support will typically generate a lower score than one that has DX8 hardware support.

3D gaming performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Quake III Arena  
Cyberpower AMD Value XP (Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440SE)
104.4 
Nutrend Centra 4 AMD (integrated Nvidia GeForce2)
29.9 
Freeway Innovation A2800M (ATI Radeon 7000)
19.8 
MicroPro MicroHome 199B (integrated SiS 650)
18.7 
Gateway 300S Plus (integrated Intel 845G/GL)
12.7 


To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Quake III Arena. Although Quake III is an older game, it is still widely used as an industry-standard tool. Quake III does not require DX8 hardware support--as 3DMark2001 does--and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low- to high-end graphics subsystems. Quake III performance is reported in frames per second (fps).

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Cyberpower AMD Value XP
Windows XP Home; 1.73GHz AMD Athlon XP 2100+; 256MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440SE 64MB; Western Digital WD400EB-00CPF0 40GB 5,400rpm

Freeway Tech Innovation A2800M
Windows XP Home; 1.67GHz AMD Athlon XP 2000+; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; ATI Radeon 7000 64MB; Maxtor 6E040L0 40GB 7,200rpm

Gateway 300S
Windows XP Home; 2.1GHz Intel Celeron; 128MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; integrated Intel 845G/GL 32MB (shared memory); Western Digital WD400EB-11CPF0 40GB 5,400rpm

MicroPro MicroHome 199B
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz Intel Celeron; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; integrated SiS 650 32MB (shared memory); Western Digital WD400EB-00CPF0 40GB 5,400rpm

Nutrend Centra 4 AMD
Windows XP Home; 1.73GHz AMD Athlon XP 2100+; 128MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; integrated Nvidia GeForce 2 32MB (shared memory); Western Digital WD400BB-00DEA0 40GB 7,200rpm
We were pleasantly surprised by the length of the Freeway Tech Innovation A2800M's warranty. While more and more companies are issuing standard one-year warranties, the A2800M ships with a three-year parts-and-labor agreement, including onsite service for the first year. Toll-free phone support is available weekdays during West Coast business hours.

As with many small-sized companies, unfortunately, Freeway Tech does not ship a printed user manual with the Innovation A2800M. You'll have to rely on the motherboard manual should you have any questions about the system. Online help is limited to an e-mail address for Freeway Tech's support team.

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