ViciousPC Phantom review:

ViciousPC Phantom

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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Very fast; stylish case; lots of expandability; three-year warranty; relatively quiet.

The Bad Speakers aren't as impressive as other components; no IEEE 1394.

The Bottom Line A budget PC that looks and acts like a high-priced gaming system, the ViciousPC Phantom is a solid value.

8.0 Overall

The ViciousPC Phantom stands out among budget gaming systems. It's one of the fastest game PCs we've tested; it comes with top-drawer components; and it looks cool, with a sleek, black tower case that combines impressive styling and a practical, expandable design. While the Phantom has a few compromises in its audio system and its service and support policies, it's still a solid bargain. However, the Alienware Aurora DDR offers a slightly better price (about a $40 difference), has a 100GB hard drive compared to the Phantom's 80GB, and edges the Phantom in performance, too. The ViciousPC Phantom stands out among budget gaming systems. It's one of the fastest game PCs we've tested; it comes with top-drawer components; and it looks cool, with a sleek, black tower case that combines impressive styling and a practical, expandable design. While the Phantom has a few compromises in its audio system and its service and support policies, it's still a solid bargain. However, the Alienware Aurora DDR offers a slightly better price (about a $40 difference), has a 100GB hard drive compared to the Phantom's 80GB, and edges the Phantom in performance, too.

Speed to spare
The Phantom performed impressively in CNET Labs' tests. The system teams a 1.67GHz AMD Athlon XP 2100+ processor with 512MB of DDR memory and an Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600-based video card. The Phantom's Quake III benchmark result of 194.7fps (frames per second) and its MadOnion 3DMark2001 Pro scores of more than 10,000fps mean the Phantom has the power to run games at higher resolutions, with bigger textures, and with more complex geometry. Count on fast application performance, as well.

If you decide to expand your system, the Phantom's roomy case offers six open drive bays and three available slots. Although we appreciate the case's black paint job and tool-free access panel, we especially like the attention ViciousPC pays to keeping the case both cool and quiet. A huge, five-inch fan sits directly behind the processor, circulating plenty of air while making very little noise; the CPU fan and the other case fans are relatively quiet, as well.

No sonic boom
Two of the six USB ports are on the front of the case, which is a welcome feature for those who swap game controllers often. There's also a space for an IEEE 1394 connector on the front, should you decide to upgrade to a Sound Blaster Audigy card, which supplies the interface. The Nforce 415 chipset's integrated audio supports all the major 3D audio standards and digital output, but the Phantom includes a set of midrange, analog Creative Inspire 5.1 5300 speakers. These work well at medium volumes but can't match the sonic power of the Creative Inspire 5.1 5700 and Klipsch ProMedia 4.1 speakers included with systems such as the Boldata Challenger N2000 and the Falcon Northwest Talon 4.2. If you have about $200 extra in your budget, we'd suggest upgrading to the Klipsch speakers.

Style-conscious gamers will appreciate the coordinated look of the Phantom's peripherals. The speakers and the headphones are black, as is the NEC FE950+ monitor, which boasts a flat screen, a sharp picture, and reasonably fast refresh rates. We particularly like the Logitech MouseMan Optical's side-mounted third button; it's great for quick access to weapon-change commands during games.

Good software, decent docs
The Phantom's nice features extend to the software bundle, which includes Corel WordPerfect Office. Unfortunately, the documentation is barely adequate for novices; the only literature specific to the system is a multipage troubleshooting FAQ. To its credit, ViciousPC organizes all component manuals into a three-ring binder that also contains driver and operating-system CDs.

Service and support is also adequate. The Phantom comes with a lengthy, three-year parts and labor warranty. ViciousPC says that toll-free tech support, currently limited to West Coast business hours, will be available 24/7 by this summer. You can opt for onsite service through 2Net, at prices ranging from $39 for a year to $169 for three years.

Performance test
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800 processor, an Intel 815EEA motherboard chipset, 128MB of 133MHz SDRAM, a GeForce2 with 32MB DDR, ATA/100 hard drive, Windows 2000 with Service Pack 1, and Windows' display properties set to 1,024x768 and 16-bit color at 75Hz
Longer bars indicate better performance

Overall rating   
Internet content creation   
Office productivity   
ViciousPC Phantom
176 
217 
143 
Boldata Challenger N2000
174 
217 
140 
Falcon Northwest Talon 4.2
168 
206 
137 
Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
160 
191 
134 
 
Quake III Arena test
Measured in frames per second; longer bars indicate better performance
ViciousPC Phantom
192.6 
Boldata Challenger N2000
179.8 
Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
174.3 
Falcon Northwest Talon 4.2
151.0 
 
3D test: MadOnion's 3DMark 2001 Pro
Longer bars indicate better performance
16-bit color   
32-bit color   
ViciousPC Phantom
10,413 
10,075 
Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
9,963 
9,675 
Boldata Challenger N2000
8,407 
8,242 
Falcon Northwest Talon 4.2
6,059 
5,977 
 
Boldata Challenger N2000
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB GeForce3 Ti 500; IBM IC35L060AVER070 60GB 7,200rpm

Falcon Northwest Talon 4.2
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 1800+ 1.53GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 64MB Nvidia GeForce3 Ti 200; IBM Deskstar IC35L040AVER070 40GB 7,200rpm

ViciousPC Phantom
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600; IBM IC35L060AVER070 60GB 7,200rpm

Xi 2000+ MTower Gamer
Windows XP Home; Athlon XP 2000+ 1.67GHz; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600; Maxtor 6L040J2 40GB 7,200rpm

The Phantom's impressive performance comes from teaming a 1.67GHz AMD Athlon XP 2000+ with 512MB of DDR memory and an Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600-based video card with 128MB of video memory. The Phantom's Quake III benchmark result of 194.7fps borders on absurdly fast, as do its MadOnion 3DMark 2001 Pro scores of over 10,000fps. The system posts very fast mainstream benchmark scores, as well.

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