Let's prise the side off this thing and take a look inside.
Taking centre stage inside the Matrix Titan GTO is an AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+, of the Socket 939 variety. This is still a capable mid-range dual-core CPU, albeit a good few hundred megahertz behind the top models now. Mesh has chosen to use Asus’s A8R32-MVP motherboard
, based on ATi’s CrossFire Xpress 3200 chipset. Twin full-speed 16x PCI Express slots are available, providing a clear graphics upgrade path.
Of the four RAM slots, two are taken by a pair of 512MB PC3200 DDR modules, so there’s two more free for upgrade. But as the Matrix Titan’s name suggests the flagship component is the Connect3D-branded ATI Radeon X1800GTO
. Well, we say flagship, but this is hardly a top-of-the-range card. It is a great choice for those who like to get their hands dirty, though. It may be a 12-pipe version of the X1800 with 500MHz core and 500MHz memory, but it has loads of room for improvement. Even with just ATI’s built-in Overdrive Automated Clock Configuration we were able to push the clocks to 574MHz core and 549MHz memory. This lifted 3DMark06 from 3170 to 3444.
It is also possible to change the BIOS on some X1800GTO's to turn on the remaining four pixel pipelines. So you can in theory transform this card into a X1800XL using a utility such as ATI Winflash, although we didn’t for this review. Best of all, the GTO is capable of running CrossFire without the necessity of a CrossFire Edition card or dongle, as we reported here
. With GTOs retailing for £140 or less, adding a second one is not such a crazy idea.
Storage is again reasonably well catered for, if a tad pedestrian. The SATA hard disk is Maxtor’s ubiquitous Diamond Max 10, although it does at least have a healthy 250GB capacity. Not one, but two optical drives are supplied, presumably for faster disk-to-disk copies. The DVD-RW is Sony’s DV-G120A, offering 16x DVD writing, 8x dual-layer writing to DVD+R9 and 4x to DVD-R9, 48x CD writing and even 5x DVD-RAM rewriting. The DVD-ROM merely offers 16x DVD reading and 40x CD reading. If you want to add more drives, there’s one extra front-accessible 5.25in bay free and a couple of internal 3.5in ones.
As Mesh is supplying a complete package rather than just a system box, we should say a few words about what else is included. The 19in ViewSonic TFT has a great 2ms response time, so is very suitable for gaming. But it has a relatively low 1,280 x 1,024 resolution by today’s 1,920 x 1,200 widescreen standards. However, we proved that the Radeon X1800GTOs sweet spot was 1280x1024 when we evaluated the card's performance in March
To complement the excellent Creative X-Fi XtremeMusic sound card, you also get Creative Labs Inspire T7900 7.1 surround speakers, which offer 8W from each of the six satellites, 20W from the centre, and 24W from the subwoofer. These aren’t premium speakers, but they’re not bargain basement either, and you get a lot of them. The motherboard also includes two Ethernet ports, an eSATA port for externally attached SATA disks, and FireWire on an extra bracket. However, although there are a couple of USB ports on the front fascia, no FireWire or audio connections are available here, which is a little inconvenient. But the volume control dongle on the Creative speakers does include mic and headphone minijacks.
System and Styling:
Although it would be unfair to call this PC ugly, it isn’t particularly stylish either. But the chassis is fairly well featured for its size. General system cooling is taken care of by a 120mm fan at the rear, and there’s the potential to fit an additional 80mm unit at the front. There’s also a dedicated 80mm blower over the Akasa CPU heat sink. The build is relatively tidy, too, with Akasa rounded cables serving the twin optical drives and floppy. This leaves most of the internals readily accessible. However, the Asus motherboard has the PCI Express 1x slot right next to the Master PCI Express 16x, so you won’t be able to use it if you opt for a dual-width graphics card such as ATi’s Radeon X1900XTX.
Despite the fairly mainstream cooling and full complement of fans, the Mesh wasn’t particularly noisy. The graphics card does ramp up the volume a bit when you overclock and fully load it, but you’re unlikely to notice with the X-Fi audio pumping semi-automatic gunshots through the 7.1 speakers. Overall, we’d say this was a well-mannered PC.