We’d all like to own the “ultimate” PC, and ABS is offering it with its Ultimate X8 gaming rig. But it takes more than burly specs to please today’s consumer. Can ABS and the X8 deliver the goods?
As many of you might know by now, [H] Consumer doesn’t "review" systems, we evaluate the experiences they facilitate. We order the system the same as you would and evaluate every aspect of the end-user experience. Not only does this give us a better idea of what hardware an end user actually receives, it also allows us to obtain a more accurate picture of just how each company functions and treats its customers. As fast as PC hardware has become over the years, we think giving a personal computer "5 stars" based on how fast it ran a synthetic benchmark is simply irresponsible. We think service, support, and reliability are much more important factors in today's climate than speed. Fast is easily bought, but purchasing and ownership satisfaction can be elusive.
We’ve evaluated four ABS machines in the [H] Consumer offices. We’ve tested three ABS desktops, and one notebook. ABS has also sent us a couple of “firsts.” In 2005, the Mayhem G4 was the first laptop we evaluated, and back in November 2006, the Ultimate X9 gave us a preview of what a quad-core machine with dual ATI videocards can do.
The quad-core QX6700’s benchmark performance was very impressive and has only been matched by the viciously overclocked Overdrive PC Core2.X-fire. However, our X9 was plagued with problems, even though ABS knew ahead of time that it was a review machine.
That said, both of the desktops that we have evaluated have performed very well. The M5 Vortex we saw nearly a year ago was supported well enough in spite of ABS outsourcing its support. We were very happy to see ABS bring its support back in-house when we looked at the M6 Sniper in June 2006. It earned a 9.5 Bottom Line score and achieved the coveted Editor’s Choice Gold Award. The experience was not without areas for improvement, however, as we wanted ABS to begin over-nighting crucial RMA components and be more available for support.
Our Ultimate X8 came equipped for gaming with an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 and an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS video card. We had it in the office at the same time as the Vigor Force Recon QXN, which was similarly equipped (and priced). The QXN performed well on GPU-intensive games, but something seemed to be holding back the CPU. We’re hoping the Ultimate X8 is able to use its hardware to its full potential so that we can get another look at the performance of the 8800 series GPUs. Because they are so similarly equipped, the QXN will make a good comparison system for our ABS.
We’ll especially be looking to see if ABS has improved on its tech support, especially in providing faster RMAs . Since this is a high-end machine, we expect the company’s support to be just as “premium” as the PC itself.
Also, now that Monarch Computers has shut down, the only companies left in the landscape that can provide the component options and competitive prices that Monarch was able to are ABS and AVADirect. We’re keenly interested to see if ABS is still capable of providing a solid enough experience to entice those customers looking for an integrator that also operates a large-scale retail operation.