MESH Matrix II 920 (Phenom II) PC System Page: 1
With an internet full of 'companies' that promise the world yet deliver nothing, to the local shops that lead you to believe that the 3 year old components collecting dust on their shelves are still "the latest thing", picking the right system integrator to build your brand new PC system can be a daunting task. The current state of the world economy certainly doesn't help things either, with integrators and retailers such as ones covered here recently going bust and leaving a lot of customers out in the cold when it comes to future support on their recently purchased systems.
However, one company that seems to have weathered such storms well over the past two decades is MESH Computers. Founded in 1987 and based in London, England; MESH have provided over half a million systems to both the home, education and government markets. Here's what Tony Riccardi, Sales & Marketing Director for MESH had to say in a recent conversation about the company:
"MESH is all about delivering award winning product, with great service, at a competitive price.
If you're not sure how good MESH is at doing this, you'd need to go through the history of the UK PC market
and look at the history of companies like Dan, Elonex, Opus, Time, Carrera, MJN, Tiny, Apricot and Evesham.
MESH has big plans for 2009, including a complete revamp of its existing designs - and the MESH Matrix II
is the first of these.
Among the new suppliers being used by MESH is HIS for advanced ATI graphics solutions. MESH has been testing
the in-game and in-PC performance of various solutions and will be moving multiple SKUs (Single Known Units)
across to HIS during January.
All MESH systems are 'turnkey', in that all you need to do is switch them on - backed by a strong warranty."
With so many years experience under their belts, MESH have naturally become very close partners with both AMD and Intel. So much so that a large majority of all AMD CPU launches from the early K6 chips (K6, K6-2, K6-3) to the Athlon XP and more recently Athlon 64's have been performed hand-in-hand with MESH. Therefore it's certainly no surprise that our first encounter with AMD's eagerly awaited Phenom II chip comes in the form of a neatly wrapped MESH system...
And here she is. The first of MESH's 2009 system revamps, imaginatively named the "Matrix II". However unlike the film, buyers are not given the option of the Blue or Red pill, instead red and green are the orders of the day in the form of the AMD Phenom II X4 920 Quad Core AM2+ processor and a HIS (ATI) 4850 IceQ graphics card.
Here's the full system specs (pre-launch) as provided by MESH:
• AMD Phenom II X4 920 Quad Core Processor AM2+
• Genuine Windows Vista™ Home Premium with Service Pack 1, 64-bit - English
• NZXT HUSH Silent Brushed Aluminium ATX Midi Tower - Silver + 550W PSU
• ASUS M3A , AMD Socket AM2+ Phenom ATX Mainboard
• 4096MB 800MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM - (2x 2GB)
• 500GB Serial ATA Hard Drive with 16MB Buffer
• Samsung 22x Dual Layer DVD Writer Super Format +R/-R/RW/RAM
• 512MB ATi 4850 Graphics accelerator - DVI, DirectX 10.1 PCI Express 2
• 22" Iiyama ProLite E2208HDS-1 LCD Widescreen Digital & Multi Media TFT Display
• 7.1 High Definition onboard sound card - for 8 Channel Cinema sound
• Creative Labs T6100 - 5.1 Speakers with Subwoofer
• Logitech Cordless Keyboard & Cordless Optical Mouse
• Free Microsoft® Works® 8.5 + Limited Microsoft Office Trial
• Free Cyberlink Video Editing Suite - 7 titles (oem)
• 52-in-1 Multi-format Memory Card Reader (ATX)
• 1 Year Hardware Warranty - Return to Base Parts and Labour (UK Mainland only)
With an expected retail price of £749 including VAT the Matrix II initially looks like quite an attractive proposal. Ready to run straight out of the box, you get a mid-range Creative Labs 5.1 surround sound package, Logitech cordless mouse & keyboard, Iiyama 22" widescreen TFT and a pretty sexy base unit loaded with a 64-Bit Vista operating system along with a few other mediocre software packages.
Now that we've got the formalities out of the way, let's move over to the next page and take a look at the system in more detail...
MESH Matrix II 920 (Phenom II) PC System Page: 2
The NZXT HUSH is a massive improvement over the generic and quite tacky looking plastic fronted cases used on the original Matrix series. Both the top and side panels of the case are finished in glossy black paint that gives the case a certain wow factor while also remaining quite durable (yes we accidentally put it to the test!). The front of the case is quite stylish and features a swing-open door that conceals the DVD-RW drive and card reader, while the V-shape cut-out at the bottom of the door gives unobstructed access to the power and reset switches.
Our only gripe about the choice of case is the total lack of any front-facing USB ports, which makes plugging in devices such as digital camera's and USB flash drives quite a chore. Unfortunately this is further compounded by a limited number of USB ports at the rear that leaves you with only three ports after plugging in the wireless dongle for the keyboard and mouse.
With the entire system set-up on a desk the silver and black detailing of the speakers and case make the entire system look like it was designed to work together. This is certainly more than can be said for systems from most integrators who often throw a PC together using whatever components work out best on paper.
Of course there's more to a PC than what it looks like on the outside, and while we already know that a large number of the components on the inside are from well respected brands such as HIS and ASUS, there are still plenty of areas where quality compromising cost cutting can be made. With this in mind, let's have a nose around inside the belly of the beast.
On opening the case the first thing we noticed was the sound dampening material lining both of the side panels and carpeting the floor. This is actually a feature of the NZXT HUSH chassis rather than anything MESH have added themselves, but it's still extremely good to see that such a well featured case has been chosen.
The overall system build is clean and professional with a fair amount of attention being paid to cable routing and bundling, which combined with the two 120mm fans placed at the front and rear, should provide decent airflow through the case.
Bonus points definitely needs to be given to MESH for choosing to use the HIS 4850 IceQ inside the Matrix II. Not only does the card provide an excellent balance of price and performance, but the non-reference cooler is extremely quiet and does a great job of keeping the card cool.
Equally, the ASUS M3A78 Pro motherboard is also worthy of a mention. MESH could have easily cut corners here, saving a few quid by going for a lesser motherboard. Instead they chose a board that provides full 1080p High-Definition output via HDMI, Hybrid Crossfire support and ASUS' Express Gate technology.
Unfortunately the DDR2 memory kit used inside the Matrix II seems to be unbranded. This isn't necessarily a bad thing however as the chips used on the modules are manufactured by Samsung, so there is certainly some level of quality there. Just don't expect them to go much higher than their stock speed of DDR2-800 if you're planning on overclocking.
The installed PSU is a rather generic-looking 550w model manufactured by HEC. In the 3 years of reviewing PSU's here at Overclock3D this is certainly not a brand we've ever come across in the past, but MESH assure us that it has been used in a large number of their previous systems over the years and has always proved to be stable and reliable.
Now let's put these components through their paces in our tests over the next page...
MESH Matrix II 920 (Phenom II) PC System Page: 3
For the benchmarking stages of today's review we are going to be placing the Matrix II alongside the recently reviewed YOYOTech Spartan 300. We must stress at this point that this is NOT a head-to-head comparison as the systems are aimed at quite different markets with the Spartan 300 being a base-unit only compared to the all inclusive package of the Matrix II. However, with both systems being based around an HD 4850 graphics card, it will certainly be interesting to see how the rest of the system performs.
As we will be using most of the results from the earlier YOYOTech review the suite of applications and games remains roughly the same. However, for the sake of completeness we will also be including a couple of more up-to-date games to give a better idea of how the Matrix II performs with the very latest releases.
Synthetic CPU & Memory
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• SuperPI Mod 1.4
• PCMark Vantage x64
Disk I/O Performance
• HD Tune Pro 3.10
3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark Vantage
• POV-Ray 3.6
• Unreal Tournament III
• Call of Duty 4
• Far Cry 2
Stability & Overclocking
MESH state that the Matrix II (and indeed all of their systems) are "turnkey", in that all you need to do is turn them on and they simply work straight out of the box. This was certainly the case for the sample system that we received, which gave us absolutely no issues at all on first boot. However, the ability to power-on first time is hardly a great test of stability and for this reason we subjected the Matrix II to an entire day's (12hrs) worth of OCCT and ATITool Artifact Scanning. At the end of the day, the system had pretty much heated the entire office, but impressively it hadn't faltered once.
Of course, knowing that the Matrix II was fully stable at stock settings left us itching to find out just how much extra performance we could squeeze out of the Phenom II processor before things started to get a little wobbly. Unfortunately the BIOS on the ASUS M3A78 Pro didn't quite seem to get along wih the Phenom II and options such as VCore and CPU Multi had no effect. Never less, by increasing the FSB setting alone and running the memory on a divider this is what we managed to achieve:
Interestingly the Phenom II 920 was actually capable of completing POST at 4.2GHz. But without Vcore options at the very least, there was absolutely no chance of making this stable.
Now let's move on to some benchmarks and see how the system performs at its stock speed of 2.8GHz.
MESH Matrix II 920 (Phenom II) PC System Page: 4
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
SuperPI is the benchmark of choice for many overclockers as it's lightweight to download and can give a quick indication on how good a system is at number crunching. A test of 8 million itterations was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest times removed from the results and an average calculated from the remaining three.
Despite the heavy overclock applied to YOYOTech's Spartan 300 system, the MESH Matrix II comes out on top in the Sisoft CPU and Memory Bandwidth results. This is no doubt thanks to the Phenom II being quad-core with an on-die memory controller. SuperPI results are a tad on the slow side, but this benchmark hasn't been AMD's cup of tea for quite some time and doesn't really bode with real world performance.
MESH Matrix II 920 (Phenom II) PC System Page: 5
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmarking suite from Futuremark. Differing significantly from their 3DMark suites, PCMark performs a series of benchmarks designed to recreate and benchmark scenarios of a PC being used for everyday tasks. Vantage has a Vista only requirement as it actually relies on several different components from the OS in order to run correctly.
POV-Ray is short for the Persistence of Vision Raytracer, a tool for producing high-quality computer graphics. The freely available software suite is bundled with a benchmarking scene that uses many of POV-Ray's internal features to heavily test the abilities of the CPU.
Cinebench 10 shows that it can put the power of the Phenom II quad-core to good use by scoring some very impressive results in the multi-core rendering results. Only in the single core rendering and OpenGL sections of the benchmark is it beaten by the YOYOTech system, but this is no surprise considering the YOYOTech Spartan is heavily overclocked while the MESH Matrix II is running at stock speeds.
PCMark results are also very respectable despite not having any previous results to compare to.
MESH Matrix II 920 (Phenom II) PC System Page: 6
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
Call of Duty 4 is a stunning DirectX 9.0c based game that really looks awesome and has a very full feature set. With lots of advanced lighting, smoke and water effects, the game has excellent explosions along with fast gameplay. Using the in-built Call Of Duty features, a 10-minute long gameplay demo was recorded and replayed on each of the GPU's using the /timedemo command a total of 5 times. The highest and lowest FPS results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
Crysis is without doubt one of the most visually stunning and hardware-challenging games to date. By using CrysisBench - a tool developed independently of Crysis - we performed a total of 5 timedemo benchmarks using a GPU-intensive pre-recorded demo. To ensure the most accurate results, the highest and lowest benchmark scores were then removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
With both the MESH Matrix II and the YOYOTech Spartan 300 being based around the same HD 4850 graphics card, it's interesting to see the Matrix II gaining the upper hand by quite a significant amount in the 3DMark 06, 3DMark Vantage and Call of Duty 4 results. Only in 3DMark 05 and Crysis does the Spartan 300 give it anything to worry about, and even then the Matrix II manages to redeem itself at the higher resolutions.
MESH Matrix II 920 (Phenom II) PC System Page: 7
FarCry 2 is based upon the Dunai engine developed by Ubisoft and takes advantage of multi-core processors along with support for the DirectX 9 and DirectX 10 API. Running the Far Cry 2 benchmark tool the test was run 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being omitted and the average calculated from the remaining 3.
Race Driver: Grid is a visually taxing game that perhaps represents a challenge to any graphics system. The benchmark was run a total of 5 times using Fraps with the highest and lowest scores removed leaving the remaining 3 runs to calculate the average fps.
Unreal Tournament 3 is the highly anticipated game from Epic Games and Midway. The game uses the latest Unreal engine, which combines fast gameplay along with high quality textures and lighting effects. All benchmarks were performed using UTbench with a fly-by of the DM-BioHazard map. As usual, all benchmarks were performed 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining three.
GRID proves to be yet another favourite of the Matrix II with the Spartan 300 trailing behind at both low and high resolutions. Unfortunately Unreal Tournament 3 shows a definite preference for braun over brains, making more use of the overclocked dual-core E7200 inside the Spartan 300 rather than the superior architecture of the quad-core Phenom II.
MESH Matrix II 920 (Phenom II) PC System Page: 8
Having gone over the MESH Matrix II system with a fine toothed comb over the previous few pages, one question remains that neatly brings together our conclusion: What do I get for my £749 of hard earned cash?
First and foremost you get a professionally built PC that features the very latest AMD Phenom II CPU coupled with an excellent HIS 4850 IceQ graphics, large 500GB hard disk, good quality ASUS motherboard and 4GB of RAM all up and running on a 64-Bit version of Windows Vista. You also get a minimal, yet useful collection of pre-installed software. As the results have shown over the previous few pages, this is more than capable of playing the latest games at high resolutions while also performing equally well in our PCMark Vantage, PovRay and Cinebench tests which mimic both general day-to-day usage along with more specialist usages such as 3D Rendering and Encoding.
Externally the Matrix II is far more than just your average base unit. MESH have really gone to town this time around, packaging the system up in a rather sexy looking NZXT HUSH case complete with sound insulated panels. Add to this the highly respectable Creative T6100 5.1 surround setup that provided plenty of 'oomph' for both gaming and movies and the tasty 22" iiyama TFT capable of running at native 1080p resolution. Essentially, you have an entire system that not only integrates together perfectly in its appearance, but also as a home gaming/multimedia/office PC.
From an enthusiasts perspective, one of the biggest bugbears regarding pre-built systems is that they can often be constructed for 'much less' if you're willing to put in the time yourself. However, while there is certainly some truth in this (system builders need to make money too, right?) the £749 price tag is far from excessive considering the screen, keyboard and speaker setup alone totals £250. Additionally the Matrix II just works straight out of the box and with the entire system being backed with a 1 year RTB warranty that even permits you to perform your own hardware upgrades, it's hard to argue that the small difference in cost isn't worth it for the piece of mind.
Of course it'd be rude to end this review without giving a special mention to the Phenom II (Dragon) Platform. Having placed the Phenom II 920 clocked at 2.8GHz against an Intel Dual Core E7200 clocked at 3.5GHz (with much faster memory) it's clear to see that AMD's Dragon package that can take to the field and stand toe-to-toe with Intel's all conquering Conroe technology. Not only did the Phenom II match it with the blue team in almost every benchmark we threw at it, but in some it totally blew it away. This combined with greatly improved overclocking abilities could see AMD return to the hearts of many enthusiasts.
- Great package that looks and feels like it was designed to work together.
- Gaming performance on-par and often better than a heavily overclocked Intel E7200 based system.
- Well built with exceptionally tidy internal cabling.
- Case, graphics card, motherboard and screen are all top quality components.
- An 'all-round' machine. Doesn't tie itself down to just one task.
- System not totally frigid. Motherboard makes overclocking and tweaking possible.
- No-name PSU and memory let down the impressive components list. *
- Motherboard could have been Crossfire enabled.*
- Zip, nadda.
* MESH have informed us that options will be available to upgrade these components. Please contact MESH's sales team for further information.
Thanks to MESH for providing the Matrix II for review. Discuss this review in our forums.