PC Club is back, but our experience with them our third time around is drastically different. We take a look at a mid-range laptop from them and try to figure out what happened to PC Club.
As many of you might know by now, HardOCP 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 rather than speed. Fast is easily bought, but purchasing and ownership satisfaction can be elusive.
This process allows us to not only evaluate the system, but the OEM that builds it. Our goal is to give you the wide-angle lens view of the computer and the company so that you can make informed and educated decisions as to what you purchase or recommend to clients, friends, and family.
This evaluation is for one of our program’s veterans, PC Club. We’ve done two articles on PC Club thus far; the Enpower Fuzion 4 and the Enpower Nitro Extreme. Generally, our impressions and feelings about PC Club were very positive when we left those evaluations. PC Club is the only OEM that we’ve evaluated that actually has brick-and-mortar establishments where you can buy your systems, in addition to the option of ordering online. They impressed us by building solid machines with good support. We’ve looked at two desktops with PC Club so far, both of them being machines for the budget-minded.
The first system was the Fuzion 4, which ticketed for $300 with a rebate. It came with an integrated video card and with only 256MB of RAM, so we popped in a Gigabyte Radeon 9600 Pro and added another 512MB of DDR-400, which we also purchased from PC Club. We were able to make these upgrades for less than $200, and it delivered very nice performance for a $500 system. We thought that the packaging and presentation lacked a personal touch, but we were happy with the integration and the overall stability of the system. A big mark against the system was an issue with the restore option. They mislabeled a disk which could have greatly inconvenienced an inexperienced user. Although it performed better than we thought it would, it was understandable due to some limitations of the hardware. We found that if the consumer knew what they were buying, they wouldn’t be disappointed.
The second system was the Nitro Extreme. Although also a “budget” system at $1000, this was a very different system than the Fuzion 4. This system contained a socket 939 SLI-capable Gigabyte motherboard and an AMD Athlon 64 CPU compared to the AMD Sempron in the Fuzion 4. It also came with 1GB of dual channel RAM and two NVIDIA 6600 video cards in SLI, which allowed for a performance increase in 3D games. From a hardware standpoint, this was a very different system than the Fuzion 4. It was also quite different from the other performance machines that we’ve had in the [H] Consumer Offices. PC Club utilized inexpensive parts, not cheap parts, in building the system and we were impressed to find that they had made improvements to the integration and build quality without causing a dramatic increase to the price. PC Club took a few steps forward in addressing the restore disk situation we had with the Fuzion 4, although they still didn’t get it completely right. They also added an anti-virus solution that is ready at boot-up, instead of the user having to install it themselves. We were impressed with the gaming ability, as the system hit a performance level above its price point.
Overall, the build quality, stability, and support offered by PC Club was impressive, especially for the price points we paid. These systems are not for the enthusiast because of the inexpensive components, but they can serve as a stable family or casual gaming solution with little issue.
This will also be the fourth laptop that we have evaluated. Our first was from ABS, then we had a Gateway CX200X Tablet PC, and then the Hypersonic Aviator CX7. All of the solutions above are quite distinct from one another, ranging from a Tablet to a bona fide desktop replacement. More and more people are beginning to turn to laptops as gaming solutions, and as solutions to replace their desktops.
For this evaluation, we selected a notebook with very similar specifications to the ABS Mayhem G4 laptop that we had in our offices about 4 months ago. Here’s what we got: