Pros: Blu-ray drive; plenty of storage space
Cons: Fairly expensive; better value Intel-based alternatives available
Bottomline: A good, solid performing computer, but for this price you could get a faster Intel-based system
The Matrix X4 is the first computer we have seen built around AMD’s Phenom processor, in this case the Phenom 9550 X4 quad core and coming with a Blu-ray disc reader, 1TB of storage and a 22in widescreen.
The processor has a clock speed of 2.2GHz and each core has 512KB of L2 cache, making a total of 2MB. The CPU is cooled by an Akasa AK-861CU cooler which does the job efficiently and quietly.
An MSI K9A2 CF motherboard also sits inside and uses another recent AMD product, the 790X Northbridge chipset which, for the K9A2 CF, MSI have twinned with the older AMD SB600 Southbridge.
Both chipsets are passively cooled which helps keep the system quiet. A total of 4GB of 667MHz DDR2 memory will keep the installed Windows Vista Home Premium happy and help towards cutting down any video-editing time.
The memory comes in the form of two Elixir 1GB modules and, should you need more memory (which you will once you start getting involved in editing high-definition content), the motherboard has two free Dimm slots and supports a total of 8GB.
Both the memory and CPU performance hold up well in the Vista Experience Index scoring 5.9, but the overall system score is just 4.1; being dragged down by the performance of the graphics. Powering the graphics is a passively cooled Sapphire HD3450 card with 512MB of dedicated GDDR2 whose performance will ruin any plans you might have to use the Matrix X4 for serious gaming.
This is also demonstrated by the average framerate of just 8fps (frames per second) we achieved when testing system with the game Fear. However, the hardware built in to the HD3450 is, perhaps, of more importance than the gaming performance since it supports HDCP via the two dual-link DVI ports. It also has an HDMI output. The monitor is an Edge10 W223 22in model.
It has a native resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels and comes with built-in pair of 2W speakers. If you want decent gaming performance, swapping the HD3450 for something with a more grunt will suffice.
And the K9A2 CF motherboard also supports Crossfire technology, however, although it provides two x16 PCI Express slots, in Crossfire mode they will only run at x8 speed – and only then if your graphics cards adhere to the PCI Express 2.0 specification. Fitting older PCI Express 1.0 specification cards will only give you x4 performance in Crossfire mode.
The tower case isn’t the most stylish we’ve seen and the cable management could be better, but there is plenty of room inside to start upgrading. The motherboard offers two PCI slots and a single x1 PCI Express slot for extra cards. There is space for five disk drives, with two sitting empty should you wish to add more storage – two house the preinstalled hard drives while a third is used by the multi-format card reader.
The two hard drives are both 500GB Samsung HD501LJ units. The SB600 Southbridge supports Raid arrays so you could build the drives into arrays either to give you one big drive or to protect your data. Should you want to add more drives the motherboard has a single Sata port and the ATA port free.
Rounding off the hardware is a desktop set from Logitech comprising a cordless keyboard and optical mouse, while Microsoft Works 8.5 and a Cyberlink video-editing suite make up the software bundle.
This isn’t a bad system by any means, but there are better value Intel-based alternatives.