Mesh Matrix II 955BE Hush Gaming PC Page: 1
Introduction
 
How many of you readers go out and buy prebuilt desktop computers or order them online? Right, and how many of you build your own? If I were to ask this infront of an audience of conventional guys and gals, I would assume that many more would raise their hands to the former question and goodness, why would I expect anything else? The computer is simply a tool to carry out one's everyday computational needs, whether it's word processing, web browsing or something more powerful such as CAD, Gaming or heavy video/music editing and production so realistically how many people would care to learn about the innards of one and decide that they wish to build one instead? Backed with customer service that hopefully means that the end user needn't have to educate themselves with anything related to the back end of a system, it should pretty much be a deal clincher right? Sadly for some this is not the case.
 
To those who raised their hand to the latter question at the beginning of my opening paragraph, I would like you to cast your mind back to the major reasons as to why you built your own computer. The following reasons should cover pretty much every DIY builder.
 
  • ­ I was simply interested about how a computer is built
  • Higher end desktop computers tend to be sold at an unnecessary premium when compared to the cost of it's consituent parts.
  • Prebuilt computers tend to be less flexible in terms of overclocking, tweaking and upgrading.
  • Customer support can be horrific, especially when forwarded to call centres abroad and so I prefer to be able to diagnose my system's own problems and handle it directly with the product manufacturer or e-tailer.
 
Personally speaking, all of the above applied to me in some way, while #2 and #3 were the main factors that influenced me to take the DIY route. Some of us may have been building our own computers for 5, possibly 10 or more years and so it's left me wondering... Hypothetically speaking, would DIY builders notice if computer manufacturers were to suddenly offer everything that they want in a computer in a single ready made package, all at a price tag similar to the computer's internal components? Times have changed and manufacturers have cottoned on to the needs of some (if potentially niche) users. We live in a day where major manufacturer Dell offers both Intel and AMD Desktops that can be overclocked. We live in a day where most manufacturers conform fully to the ATX industry standard and a handful of manufacturers even have local call centres. Futher, the state of economic affairs have also resulted in “credit crunch” deals to convince the buyer to spend spend spend and as a result the pricing isn't even much higher than the DIY route. So today, we'll be looking at an example of a prebuilt computing solution that fits all of the aformentioned criteria. The Mesh Matrix II 955BE Hush desktop computer.
 
Mesh shouldn't need an introduction. Based in London, they've been in the business for a staggering 22 years. With a wide range of computers from the entry level all the way to mighty Core i7, Quad SLI/Crossfire systems as well as the ability to build and customise your own computer online, they have a strong hawk's eye on all key market segments and as a result are able to offer so many solutions thanks to strong marketing and R&D departments. The system that Mesh sent to our labs is of no exception.
 
Specifications
 
• AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition 3.20GHz CPU
• Gigabyte GA770T-UD3P Socket AM3 Motherboard
• 4GB Samsung PC3-12800 DDR3-1333 CAS9 Memory
• HIS Radeon HD 4870 512mb Graphics Card
• Samsung 750GB 7200RPM SATA 3.0GB/s HDD
• LG GGC-H2O Blu Ray Reader, 22x DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
• NZXT Hush Alumium ATX Mid Tower Chassis
• HEC 550W ATX2.0 Power Supply Unit
• Akasa AK-876 Heatpipe CPU Cooler
• Iiyama Prolite E2208HDS 1080p, 10000:1, 2ms Widescreen Monitor
• Logitech Cordless Keyboard/Mouse Set
• 10 x USB Ports (8x Rear / 2x Side)
• 8 Channel Realtek ALC888
 
Could you believe that this is the specification list from a major prebuilt computer manufacturer? Mesh quite openly listed the entire specifications of their Matrix II 955BE system and as you can see, the entire list consists of retail components that one could buy off the shelf from a computer hardware store. Included are reliable and well reputed companies, Akasa, Gigabyte, HIS, Samsung, LG, NZXT, Iiyama, Logitech. The ladies and gents in R&D have certainly said no to compromise and hats off to them for doing so.
  


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Packaging and Initial Impressions
 
The Matrix II 955BE system arrived in two packages, one containing the Iiyama Prolite 22” Monitor and the other containing everything else. Opening the main box, the first piece of information viewable to the user behind the keyboard/mouse set was a double sided A3 size “Quick Start” guide containing a fairly comprehensive list of FAQ's and instructions for setting the computer up. It contained very useful information for a basic user and it conveys it without making the end user feel like an idiot. Next was a Quality Control check, which listed the components of the computer verifying that everything functioned exactly as it should before being packaged and shipped. Nice touch. Finally at the bottom of the box lay the computer, packed in a retail NZXT Hush box. This added another layer of security for the desktop and it goes without saying that the system arrived intact. A similar story for the monitor, which was very well packed by Iiyama themselves.
 
Mesh Matrix II Box Mexh Matrix II Box
 
The Matrix II 955BE included all the cables required to get started. The only CD included however was the motherboard’s preinstalled drivers. I was disappointed to find that Mesh had not included a Windows Vista Installation CD or even a Recovery Disk.
 
 Mesh Matrix II Unboxed Mesh Matrix II Sideways
 
Mesh Matrix II Rear Mesh Matrix II Side
 
Note the “MESH” sticker situated on the rear of the case, situated on top of the back and side panels. This is intended to void the machine’s warranty if one were to try and tamper with the system’s internals. After setting everything up on the desk, I couldn't help but stand back and appreciate the setup. As a package it was aesthetically pleasing with the styling cues from monitor and the front of the case. Naturally, looks aren't even a fraction of the story and the system must perform and on that note I pushed the power button and the Matrix II 955BE jumped into life.
 
 iiyama Screen
 
Everything seemed to be operating fine until the Windows Vista “Loading” bar disappeared and I was greeted with the dreaded “No Monitor Signal!” error. The system had not hung or locked up as there was sufficient Hard Disk activity to presume that it had booted into Vista. Only until we removed the DVI cable and replaced it with an Analog VGA input were we able to view anything past the Vista loading point. I was surprised that this had gone unnoticed during Quality Control check, even though it seems to be a software related fault. Seeing that graphics cards today usually ship with a Dual DVI configuration and no analog connection and the system itself doesn't come bundled with a DVI to VGA adapter, most users would be left with a computer that effectively isn't working.
 
 
 
Mesh had left the main desktop screen relatively clean, except for trials for Norton Antivirus and BullGuard security softwares. A default Vista background was used, but with Mesh's logo in the bottom right. Any software that you don't wish to use or try are easily removable and even if you wished to keep them, the overall setup isn't terribly bloated for a Vista Home Premium installation. There is however some work to be done with 51 processes running at idle and a memory usage of just over 1.0GB.

 
Interior
 
As previously mentioned, a warranty sticker effectively prevents the user from entering the Matrix II 955BE's chassis without voiding it. While pondering with a hand to my chin stubble, I glanced at the warranty sticker and then at a monitor showing the front page of overclock3d.net. Quite shortly, my pondering ended with a "Pffft" *slashes sticker*. Let's have a look inside...
 
 Mesh Matrix II Inside Mesh Matrix II Inside
 
Mesh Matrix II HDD Mesh Matrix II Cables
 
Once again Mesh shows no compromise to their craftmanship. The cabling inside has been carefully tied and routed around the case. Also note the aftermarket Akasa Tower Heatpipe cooler.
 
The end result is a system that does not rattle or shake and will arrive at your doorstep in the same condition that it was built. Personally, this is the first prebuilt system that I've seen to have been built to such a high standard. 


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BIOS
 
Given that the Matrix II 955BE comes with a retail motherboard, the BIOS is very comprehensive offering a full host of overclocking functions and memory tweaking options. The Gigabyte GA770T-UD3P is a relatively new Socket AM3 motherboard to the market offering a robust solution with respectable 8+2 phase power regulation, 2 ounces copper PCB and the incorporation of the updated SB710 Southbridge which supports Advance Clock Calibration, a fairly redundant feature for Phenom II Quad Cores, but offers the ability to unlock Dual and Tri Core CPU's. For performance purposes, up to DDR3-1666 is supported, an increase from the default DDR3-1333 officially supported by AMD. Overclocking shall be covered towards the end of the review.
 
 Mesh Matrix II BIOS Mesh Matrix II BIOS
 
Mesh Matrix II BIOS MESH Matrix II BIOS
 
Testing
 
3DMark
 
 
As shown, the system is performing exactly as it should be and based on it’s scores, one would consider it a rather potent gaming machine.
 
 
Another set of excellent results in Futuremark’s latest 3D Benchmarking program.
 
 
PCMark Vantage
 
 
This is Futuremark’s overall system benchmark, which will test aspects of the system which are also in keeping with general purpose usage. This makes it a slightly more sensible benchmark. Again, very predictable results are generated by the Matrix II 955BE.
 
 
Cinebench
 
 
Cinebench is a CPU intensive benchmark, which renders a photograph with either one of the CPU’s cores or all of them. Once it has finished rendering the photograph, a score is generated. The Phenom II X4 955 performed very well in this test, rendering the photograph in just over a minute in multithreaded mode. While a Core i7 would have finished the benchmark quicker, the result is well within the realms of it’s competing Core 2 Quad Q9x50 processors.
 
 
 
Sisoft Sandra
 
 
This result showed the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition performing just behind the Core 2 Quad Q9550 according to SiSoft Sandra’s preloaded CPU data.
 
 
This result showed the Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition performing between the Core 2 Quad Q9550 and QX9650 processors, an excellent result given the price of the CPU in relation to Intel competition.
 
 
 
Memory bandwith and latency was exactly as expected when compared to preloaded data for DDR3-1333 Memory. No weakness in the hardware was apparent.
 
 
The Samsung 750GB 7200RPM Hard Disk Drive performed very well in this test and also indicates that the AMD SB710 Southbridge will not hold back drives of this calibre.  


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High Definition & Gaming Tests
 
Unlike the synthetic benchmarks, you as the reader are able to have a better grasp of understanding how well the Matrix II 955BE performs. A series of games are run, all using the monitor’s native resolution of 1920x1080 and finally, 4x Anti Aliasing and 8x Anisotrophic Filterising was applied.
 
 
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
 
Microsoft Flight Simulator X, built upon an ageing engine is not an efficient game at all. The initial release of the game did not take advantage of Direct X 10 features, nor was it optimized for multiple cores. Observations of poor performance were widespread and even after service packs that amended much of these problems, many still struggle to play the game with respectable frame rates. Also, even though the game likes lots and lots of video memory, it is widely CPU dependant even at high resolutions.
 
 
As you can see, the Matrix II 955BE performed admirably during our tests. We know that the HD 4870’s 512mb of onboard memory could well have held the game’s performance back but even so the frame rates were more than playable. Bare in mind that flight simulators are slow running games and that even frame rates as low as 20fps will appear surprisingly smooth.
 
 
FARCRY 2
 
 
FarCry 2 by comparison is a more recent release and much better coded. There were occasional moments where stutters were apparent and this is shown by the minimum frame rate readout however largely speaking, the frame rates remained above 40 and the overall game play was enjoyable and the eye candy very attractive.
 
 
CALL OF DUTY 4
 
 
This game needs no introduction with it’s high popularity and so one would also like to see high levels of performance from it as well! CoD4 however isn’t the most demanding of games and so even with a plenty of AA and AF at 1920x1080 resolution, the Matrix II 955BE ate it for breakfast.
 
 
Racedriver GRID
 
 
Also a popular game amongst our virtual petrol heads, Racedriver GRID performed incredibly well with very fluid frame rates.
 
 
Microsoft HD Showcase
 
 
We used three 1080p high definition clips to test the Matrix II’s video playback and aside inspecting the clarity and fluidity, we made a note of CPU utilization. The image quality when paired with the Iiyama 2208HDS Monitor was fantastic and there was no sign of any abnormal behaviour such as stuttering. CPU utilization remained low.


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Power Supply Performance
 
Personally, I have never heard of the brand HEC. One could consider it a fair assumption that even though the unit itself doesn’t seem to be 80PLUS certified, Mesh Computers aren’t the sort of people that would use substandard equipment in their machines, however just to be sure we cracked open the Multimeter and had a look for ourselves.
 
 
The Voltage rails remained solid throughout idle and load with the system’s current configuration without any significant fluctuations. All voltages were well within ATX specification and as such I feel that the HEC 550W PSU is more than adequate for the task.
 
 
Temperatures
 
Our temperature testing consists of a 60 minute OCCT Linpack CPU stress test followed by the monitoring of overall system load in 3DMark Vantage. While these applications may induce a load that exceeds what conventional games and real world programs use, it gives us a better insight of how well the computer may handle higher ambient temperatures or how well it may perform after months and months of use with increasing dust build up.
 
 
 
Our OCCT Linpack test revealed that the AMD Phenom II X4 955 CPU was hitting temperatures as high as 65 celcius under full load. While we appreciate that this one of AMD's fastest CPU's and runs at a nominal voltage of 1.3500V, 0.025V higher than most of the product family and that the Linpack test is particularly intensive, we still felt that the temperatures were higher than expected. Furthermore, the computer took just short of 6 minutes to return to the idle temperatures previously reported before the test had begun.
 
Upon opening the chassis and looking around the CPU area we observed that some thermal paste was oozing around the base of the heatsink. One shouldn't discount the possibility that too much thermal paste was applied so the heatsink was removed and we cleaned the base of it and the CPU’s heatspreader, then applied a pea size portion of Arctic Ceramique on it’s centre. After leaving the system to warm up and idle for an hour, the Linpack test was rerun and this time load temperatures had dropped slightly to 63c. This was still higher than expected. Taking a hint from the slow cooldown time and the 7c increase in GPU temperatures from Idle to Load, we figured that the quality of airflow in the case itself may be the main factor. Upon removing the side panel of the case, temperatures decreased by 4-7c across the board. It was also noted that the Akasa
CPU Heatsink's fan as well as the Power Supply Unit's fan had decreased notably in RPM. Dropping a high end set of components into a relatively small mid tower case aimed towards silent use may result in higher ambient temperatures and that the only way to keep things silent are to opt for larger heatpipe coolers on major heat sources with larger diameter fans (that can then be run at lower speeds) bolted on. In fairness, credit goes to Mesh for implementing a three heatpipe tower cooler with 92mm fan for the CPU but the graphics card cooler uses a smaller high RPM fan but much more importantly does not have a ducting system that exhausts hot air out of the case, unlike the reference HD 4870 cooler design by Ati.
 
All in all, even though the temperatures were somewhat high, there was no reason for concern. As mentioned, our testing process will inevitably stimulate higher load temperatures than in real world applications. It was however disappointing that the NZXT Hush Chassis wasn’t able to cope particularly well with the heat output of the components inside.


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Noise
 
The noise levels of the Matrix II 955BE Hush were higher than we would've liked. The NZXT Hush's case fans operate very quietly however and the Akasa CPU Cooler was not particularly obnoxious either. The HEC 550W Power Supply Unit's small 80mm fans emitted slight whines under long periods of load but the real problem child inside the computer was infact the HIS Radeon HD 4870 graphics card. Rather than using the reference dual slot cooler designed by ATI, HIS uses their own solution, which features a relatively small fan and a flower style heatsink without heatpipes. What's worse is that the graphics card doesn't seem to control it's fan speed at all and as a result operates at 100% duty speed regardless of whether the system is idling on Vista desktop or whether the user is playing a game. It would be less of an issue if the system was this loud during a heavy gaming session where presumably one would have the sound cranked up high or at least be wearing a headset. During day to day general usage however, it's very intrusive. Many may find the noise levels acceptable but personally I feel that it's a real fly in the ointment when the system on the whole is built to an incredibly high standard. The noise levels could have easily been addressed by opting for a graphics card, which doesn't operate at a fixed fan RPM and just as equally use a power supply with a 120mm intake fan.
 
 
Overclocking
 
 
With processor temperatures already coming close to AMD's recommended maximum for the 955 Black Edition, we felt that it wasn't wise to restrict our overclocking efforts to the highest safe overclock with the default voltage of 1.3500V. Despite this, we still reached a rather respectable 3.60GHz core clock speed. This was achieved by raising the CPU Multiplier from 16x to 18x. To squeeze a little more out of the CPU, we attempted lowering the CPU Multiplier to 15x and raising the base HTT clock to 240MHz, resulting in the same clock speed but with a higher Northbridge frequency of 2.160GHz. To offset the lower frequency assigned for the memory when dropping the divider, slightly more aggressive memory timings of 7-7-7-20 were applied. The HIS Radeon HD 4870 was also successfully overclocked, resulting in a core clock of 780MHz and an effective GDDR5 memory frequency of 3740MHz.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A number of tests were run once more to see how much of a difference our tweaks made.
 
As you can see, considerable gains have been achieved across the board. Free performance gains from a prebuilt computer. Excellent.


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Pricing and Conclusion
 
Aside from products that truly are directly comparable to a surprise that a young reprobate may leave on your doorstep consisting of a flaming brown paper bag that conceals a moderate helping of their pet's droppings, I strongly believe that any product is an excellent purchase...at the right price. What we have here is an all in one desktop package utilising today's high end components, a respectable keyboard/mouse and a proven 22” widescreen monitor with a price tag of £799 inclusive of VAT. To those who spec and build computers on a fairly regular basis, you may have grunted with a confused “huh?” or perhaps at least raised an eyebrow. To those, who think I'm a blithering idiot and haven't the faintest about what I'm trying to say, I invite you to take a look at the graph below. Do note that whenever a particular component could not be located on retailer websites, another item of equivalent specification was chosen.
 
 
The graph details the total price to buy the Mesh Matrix II 955BE Hush computer in parts from two hardware websites. Before anyone asks, no there's nothing wrong with the data. It is infact around £130 cheaper to buy this high end AMD Phenom II Quad Core computer prebuilt from a computer company than to buy it in parts and spend time putting it together. Our review sample was built to a very high standard with fabulous cable management as shown by the photographs presented earlier. Mesh's customer support is located in the UK and in our own experience we were able to get through to customer services within 5 minutes.
 
Other than a couple of nitty gritty moans in the review, I struggled to find many reasons to not recommend this computer. It's cheaper than building it yourself, the components selected are of high quality, the operating system hasn't been bloated with dozens of trials, it's overclockable and it performed very well throughout our entire testing process. The major annoyances about the computer lay with noise levels from the graphics card and the NZXT Hush's ability to maintain lower ambient case temperatures.
 
If I were to suggest anything to Mesh, it'd be to remove the NZXT Hush case from the “Gaming” and “Performance” line-up of computers and replace it with something that offers more airflow, such as the Antec Three Hundred. Respectable build quality and a number of 120mm/140mm fans that operate quietly on low speed. Next, would be to withdraw the use of HEC power supplies, or at least the HEC 550W unit. It's a reliable unit and I wouldn't for a moment be concerned about it burning my house down but it's small fans are noticeable under extended periods of load and they don't particularly help exhaust heat from the rest of the case either. An 80PLUS certified unit from OCZ, Corsair, Enermax and others are likely to be similarly priced and sport 120mm exhaust fans that will inevitably reduce ambient case temperatures and as a result prevent CPU and GPU fans from having to operate so fast. On the same token, it would also be wise to be certain that the particular graphics card being used in the system does adjust it's own fan speed as a high end graphics card like the HD 4870 will operate very loudly without such automated control. These changes would have a positive effect on both temperatures and noise and in the long term would result in happier customers.
 
So here's the verdict. Prebuilt computers have come a long way from what they used to be and if you don't have the effort or wish to spare the effort of building one yourself, there are prebuilt alternatives available. The Matrix II 955BE Hush is an example of this, offering a stunning value for money, high performance and no nonsense piece of kit. Never had I thought that I'd ever return to purchasing a prebuilt computer but having had a glimpse of today’s offerings, maybe one day I will.
 
 
The Good
- Fabulous performance
- Value for money is second to none
- Offers full support for overclocking
- Upgradeable.
 
The Mediocre
- While upgradeable, opening the side panel will physically void the system’s warranty seal.
- No Operating System CD included.
- Noise levels were unnecessarily high. Any higher and this point would’ve made it to “The Bad”.
 
The Bad
- None.
 
 
 
 
Thanks to MESH for sending the Matrix II 955BE Hush in for review. Discuss this review in our forums