Commodore Gaming GX Desktop Computer

PC World
Tuesday, November 20, 2007; 4:19 AM

For those who grew up in the 1980s, the name Commodore is synonymous with computer gaming. The latest rebirth of the legendary name comes via Commodore Gaming, which is now taking orders in North America. The line is launching with four different models, from an entry-level power PC (the Commodore G) to an extreme gaming rig (the Commodore XX).

PC World was given an exclusive opportunity to test the Commodore GX, a desktop computer that boasts many of the features any power user might want, including a fast processor, plenty room for expansion, one of the most customizable case designs we've seen, and dual-graphics-board capability. We chose to test a configuration using a single 768MBPoint of ViewGeForce 8800 GTX graphics board, so as to compare it against other models in our Power PCs chart, which is oriented toward mainstream users. (Systems with more than one graphics card are tested for our Gaming PCs chart).

One of the GX's most distinctive features is its jazzy painted chassis. When ordering a GX atthe company's site, you can choose from over 100 different case paint jobs (called C-kins, pronounced "skins"), ranging from colorful gaming and digital artwork to landscapes, photo images, and retro art concepts. The design is baked onto four panels (sides, top, and front) and then covered with an antiscratch layer. Each set of panels is also interchangeable. At any time, you can order an entirely different set (for around $195) and replace the old panels using just a screwdriver.

Our review system's fantasy design (with goblins, castles, and floating orbs) definitely stood out among the other PCs in thePC World Test Center. Though Commodore Gaming's systems are configurable, it's worth noting that the company currently offers only your choice of Intel Core 2 Quad processors and nVidia-based graphics boards.

The $3000 (as of November 2, 2007) GX model we tested comes with a 2.4-GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 processor, two 1GB DDR2 Corsair RAM sticks, a multiformat DVD writer, a multiformat card-reader drive, and one 500GB, 7200-rpm Samsung hard drive. Also included in our test system's price is a nice 22-inch wide-screen Samsung LCD monitor.

In our WorldBench 6 Beta 2 tests running 32-bit Windows Vista Ultimate, the GX earned a mark of 97, a result that's roughly 11 percent slower than even the 108 score earned by the Polywell Poly P3503-3DT and by the Gateway GM5632E. The GX struggled most with the Photoshop CS2 and Winzip portions of its tests, its plodding marks representing the lowest scores for all power systems we've tested recently. In these disk-intensive portions of our tests, the GX probably fell behind because its 7200-rpm hard drive couldn't match the 10,000-rpm hard drives used by several other systems. The GX also lacks the performance benefit of a RAID array.

In our graphics tests, the GX's smooth frames-per-second rates earned it a very good score, but, again, it wasn't the fastest system we've tested. Using a single, 768MB GeForce 8800 GTX graphics board, the GX registered a respectable 141 fps running Doom 3 at 1024 by 768 resolution. That result is about 8 percent faster than the 130 fps earned by the next-slowest model (Xi's MTower PCIe, which also uses an 8800 GTX graphics board), but about 10 percent behind the 161 fps posted by the system that is next-fastest (War Machine's M1 Elite). However, serious gamers can boost the GX's gaming chops by using dual graphics boards in an SLI configuration, since the system uses an Asus P5N32-E SLI-ready motherboard.

The end result: This particular Commodore GX configuration's performance wasn't strong enough to help it earn a spot on our chart. But stay tuned: We wouldn't be surprised to see a more fully loaded GX find its way onto our Top 5 Gaming PCs chart in the near future.

The GX's design allows for expansion and lots of connectivity. The midsize tower's front door opens flush against the side of the case and conveniently out of the way. Connectivity options include two USB slots, one FireWire port, and two audio connections in front, with six USB ports, one FireWire port, and two gigabit ethernet ports in the back. The side panel contains a sizable 250mm fan that generates some noise but not enough to be truly disruptive. The panel opens easily, but you need to disconnect the fan to set the panel aside. The interior is well-organized, and upgrades would be mostly tool-less.

Two additional 120mm fans on the front and rear panels and a CPU heat sink also help keep components from overheating. Another interesting innovation is Commodore's custom air-cooling system (called Ice Cube) that converts heat from the power supply into cool air and discharges it throughout the system. When I placed my hand over the rear fan exhaust, I could definitely feel cool air coming out from the back.

In our test system, three of the six external bays and two of the three internal drive bays were open. Two of the memory DIMM slots were open, too, but I had to move part of the cooling system out of the way to reach them. Four expansion slots were taken (by a Sound Blaster X-Fi sound card, a dual USB connector card, and an extra-wide graphics card), leaving just two open slots (one PCIe x16, one PCI) for upgrades.

The 22-inch wide-screen flat-panel monitor included in this system's price (a Samsung SyncMaster 226BW) displayed fine image quality in photos, movies, and text screens, but a height adjustment control would make the display more convenient.

Gamers will appreciate the comfortable Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard and G5 mouse, both of which include useful extras such as macro keys and customizable buttons that are easy to use. Fans should also enjoy the 50 classic Commodore (C64 emulator) game pack that's included.

Custom case artwork and an innovative air-cooling system help the Commodore GX stand out, but it'll take beefed-up performance to make it a winner.

--Richard Jantz

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