Top 10 performance desktop PCs
Intel's Sandy Bridge processors are still the popular kids on the block, but the new Sandy Bridge Extreme Edition has arrived, to take top honors on our Performance PC benchmarks
Polywell Poly X5800A3-990X Review, by David Murphy March 1, 2011
Diverse connection options and a great wiring job
Six cores and strong speeds
Lacks an overclock as shipped
Performance lags behind less expensive competitors
Bottom Line: For a stock-clock, six-core system, Polywell's Poly X5800A3-990X delivers a lot, but a few tweaks would have made it even better (and more competitive).
Polywell's Poly X5800A3-990X ($3499 as of March 1, 2011) illustrates how close the competition is atop the performance desktop PC chart. The X5800A3's strong showing on our tests puts it right with most of its rivals. The problem? Others do better.
Under its hood, the Poly X5800A3-990X packs Intel's six-core Core i7-990X processor, which is just a clock upgrade beyond the familiar Core i7-980X that numerous PCs already use. Given the X5800A3-990X's combination of a self-contained liquid cooling system and a stock-clock, 3.47GHz chip, the system's 12GB of DDR3-1333 memory feels like overkill. Polywell should have invested more in juice for its CPU, the heart of the PC.
The $3999 iBuyPower Paladin XLC--which beefs up its Core i7-980X CPU from 3.33GHz to 4.2GHz--outperformed the X5800A3-990X on our WorldBench 6 suite of tests by 11 points (198 versus 187). The Paladin also offers a 128GB RAID-0 array of solid-state drives (the Polywell has a single 60GB SSD boot drive), and a 2TB storage drive (the Polywell has a 1TB model). And boutique vendor V3 Gaming PC's Convoy desktop scored even higher (a WorldBench 6 mark of 204) for a substantially lower price ($2499).
The X5800A3-990X parlays its Crossfire configuration of two ATI Radeon HD6970 cards into an impressive frame rate of 175.8 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark test (run at a resolution of 2560 by 1600, high quality), versus 147.1 fps for the Paladin XLC and 204 fps.
This Poly uses an Antec Six Hundred case bred for air cooling and highlighted by a huge, 200mm, adjustable-speed fan. Unfortunately, you'l have to use a screwdriver to install or modify any device within the X5800A3's frame.
Four USB ports, a Blu-ray combo drive, and a multiformat card reader adorn the front of the X5800A3-990X. The design of the front panels feels a little askew, however.
Polywell does an excellent job with the neat cabling inside the chassis. The system provides three 5.25-inch bays (one open), plus five 3.5-inch bays for future hard-drive purchases.With enough effort, you might be able to plug a device into the system's free PCI Express x4 and PCI Express x16 slots, too, but working around the two beastly graphics boards is a challenge.
The system's rear connection options include two USB 3.0 ports, an SPDIF optical and coaxial port, four USB 2.0 ports, one gigabit ethernet port, one FireWire 400 port, and integrated 7.1 surround sound--but not eSATA. The system's two videocards deliver a total of four DVI ports, two HDMI ports, and four mini-DisplayPort connections.
Our review model of the X5800A3-990X shipped without any mice or keyboards, but you can customize your machine with a wide array of input devices at Polywell's Website, if you decide to pull the trigger.
Polywell's Poly X5800A3-990X is a fine performance desktop, but it's just not as good as some of its rivals.