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Compaq GX5000Z Review

Highs

  • Excellent performance
  • uses name brand parts
  • easy to upgrade

Rating

Our Score 8
User Score 5

Lows

  • Buggy CD/DVD combo drive
  • mouse feels somewhat cheap
Compaq has developed a formidable contender with their X series gaming systems.

Summary

Compaq has developed a formidable contender with their X series gaming systems. The GX5000Z system we reviewed proved to be both fast and reliable. We love the fact that Compaq is using OEM parts from major manufacturers like MSI, Samsung and Creative Labs. This separates the Compaq X series apart from others such as Gateway and Dell because it allows their system to be upgraded with extreme ease. In essence, Compaq has built you a system using the same off-the-shelf parts that you can purchase yourself. They build the system for you, test it and then sell it for a few hundred dollars less than you would pay building the system yourself. Top it off with a one-year warranty through Compaq, and you are good to go.

The only issue we had with our review system was the HP DVD/CD-ROM drive which had trouble reading from multiple media types. We have never been impressed with HP’s DVD drives so a switch to a drive manufactured by Plextor or Sony would make this system even better. Compaq has something special on their hands with their X series of gaming PC’s. We would love to see them promote these systems through gaming events and by advertising on gaming sites and publications. Until then the X series will have to be a well kept secret until the word spread. Once Compaq does some minor tweaking, they should have a powerful gaming machine that rivals the best from Falcon Northwest, VoodooPC and other hardcore system builders.

Introduction

Until now hardcore gamers had only a few options when it came to buying an upper-end gaming machine. You either had to build the system yourself or you had to fork over a lot of dough to get a system from makers like Alienware and VoodooPC. Large system manufacturers like HP, Dell and Gateway have tried selling upper-end gaming machines, but frankly they just where not up to snuff. They used proprietary parts and appeared to be built as cheaply as possible to keep their margins high and bottom line purchase price down, until now.

The Compaq X Series is the first line of computers from a major PC manufacturer to use the same off-the-shelf parts that you can buy yourself. This means the motherboard, soundcard, video card, and other components are basically retail parts minus the retail packaging (since they come assembled in a system). The advantage is that the Compaq X series systems are completely upgradeable should you decide you want to buy an upgrade to a component and throw it into the system. Nothing is proprietary including the case, power supply, and most importantly the motherboard.  This approach works in the car market where we can buy supped up versions of our favorite car using off-the-shelf parts. The question is whether the consumer will bite on this idea or not in the computer market.

Features and Design

When we opened the package to our Compaq GX5000Z review system, we instantly found smiles on our faces. The staff here at Designtechnica is full of hardcore gamers. You can usually find us playing Doom 3 or Call of Duty late into the night on the weekends – and we all use systems we have built ourselves. So when we opened the Compaq box up, we immediately knew that Compaq was thinking along the right lines.

Compaq chose to use the infamous Cooler Master Wave case for their X series of systems. The Cooler Master Wave case is constructed 100% out of aluminum and features a very hip looking front face plate that forms a “wave” giving the system a very unique look. Once the door is opened, you are greeted by a DVD/CD-ROM drive, a DVD/CD writer and a 9-in-1 + USB media card reader, all dressed in black to match the system’s silver and black color scheme. Both the keyboard and mouse share this scheme as well. The Compaq mouse uses optical technology while the keyboard comes with several programmable multi-media and short-cut buttons; both use the system’s PS2 ports.

The guts of the system appear to be made up of retail parts currently available to consumers. This includes a MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum motherboard featuring Gigabit Ethernet, 7 USB 2.0 ports, 2 FireWire ports, 5 PCI slots (3 available), 8X AGP and RAID SATA hard drive support. Our system came with AMD’s Athlon 64 FX-53 processor running at 2.41GHz, an Enermax 470-watt power supply, Nvidia’s Geforce 6800 Ultra video card, and a Creative Labs SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS sound card. Putting the system over-the-top is the pair of Western Digital 74GB 10,000 RPM Raptor hard drives running in a RAID Stripe configuration. Let’s see Dell and Gateway try something like that. This is just the configuration Compaq provided us on our test machine. When you go to Compaq’s website, you can completely customize your own system depending on your needs and budget.

Software-wise our system came with Microsoft Windows XP Professional and Norton Antivirus installed. Again, you have the option to choose from various software packages on Compaq’s website. We like the fact that Compaq does not preload the system with useless trial software, keeping it running fresh and clean; just what the typical gamer wants.

Performance

In our UT 2004 benchmarks the GX5000Z squeezed out over 120 frames-per second running at 1600×1200 resolution and maximum detail. But when it came to Doom 3, our test system bested the GX5000Z by 11 frames in both 1024×768 and 1600×1200 resolutions. In our office productivity tests, the GX5000Z is no slouch either, scoring a SysMark 2004 score of 186 compared to our test system’s score of 174. For complete benchmarking results please click on the performance tab and link above and below this review.

In our Call of Duty tests, the Nvidia 6800 Ultra refused to go above 60 frames per second regardless of which settings we tested with. Since this is the only game in our tests that is OpenGL based, we suspect the culprit to be the Nvidia drivers, and not the fault of the Compaq system.

System Configurations:

Compaq GX5000Z

Windows XP Professional; AMD Athlon 64 FX-53 @ 2.41GHz; 1GB PC3200 RAM; Nividia Geforce FX 6800 Ultra, (2) 140GB Western Digital Raptor 10,000 RPMSATA hard drives in RAID stripe array, Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS

Designtechnica Test System

Windows XP Professional; Intel LGA 775 3GHz CPU; 1GB Crucial Ballisitx DDR2 533MHz RAM; MSI ATI X800 XT video card; Western Digital 7200RPM SATA 80GB hard drive


Setup and Use

Before powering up the system, we decided to open it up to see how Compaq handles the cable management. The IDE cables are wrapped in tight sleeves to help minimize air interference. All of the other cables including the SATA and power supply cables are neatly zip tied and put out of view to give the inside of the system a very clean look to it. The Enermax “Noise Taker” 470watt power supply comes with an anodized blue aluminum shell that looks fantastic in the system. The only thing that seemed a little odd is the way the heat sink on the processor blows air. The vent on the CPU heat sink blows air towards the side of the case instead of towards the back of the system where the rear fans are. But because there are no vents on the sides of the Cooler Master case, the air hits a dead-end and must disperse in multiple directions. It would have been smart to put a vent in the side of the case to help maximize the air flow. Other than that, Compaq has done a fantastic job with the cable management and cooling inside of the system; it looks like they paid a lot of attention to the craftsmanship.

Compaq GX5000Z
The inside of the system has plenty of room for expansion

When the system is powered on, a glowing red light emanates from behind part of the front face plate and highlighting the Compaq logo on the front of the system. It’s great to see Compaq use colored lights like this because people often add neon lights to their own custom built systems; it’s like a badge of coolness so to speak. The hard drives are very quiet when the system is running, but you sure can hear the processor’s fan churning, reminding you this system is mega-powered. The keyboard and mouse work pretty well, but the mouse feels kind of cheap and not as heavy duty or thick as Microsoft’s Intellimouse or Logitech’s MX series of mice. There are no side buttons on the mouse either, which gamers often prefer.

In our tests, the GX5000Z performed admirably, compared to our 925X based system and that is no easy feat. Our test system comes with an MSI 925X NEO Platinum motherboard, an Intel 3GHz CPU, 1GB of Crucial Ballistix DDR2 533MHz memory and an MSI ATI X800 XT 256MB video card. Although the GX5000Z only uses 1GB PC3200 memory, the system’s dual Western Digital Raptor hard drives and the NVIDIA Geforce 6800 Ultra video card helped propel the system to high scores in our gaming benchmarks.

In our UT 2004 benchmarks the GX5000Z squeezed out over 120 frames-per second running at 1600×1200 resolution and maximum detail. But when it came to Doom 3, our test system bested the GX5000Z by 11 frames in both 1024×768 and 1600×1200 resolutions. In our office productivity tests, the GX5000Z is no slouch either, scoring a SysMark 2004 score of 186 compared to our test system’s score of 174. For complete benchmarking results please click on the performance tab and link above and below this review.

The GX5000Z system proved a joy to use in everyday use. The loud fans are kind of annoying if you are used to a quiet system, but this should be something every gamer is used to. We had no problems with the system overheating or locking up on us with exception to the DVD/CD combo drive which had trouble reading some of our discs. Every USB and FireWire port on the system worked without issue. We liked that Compaq clearly labeled everything on the back of the system letting you know what each input is meant for.

Conclusion

Compaq has developed a formidable contender with their X series gaming systems. The GX5000Z system we reviewed proved to be both fast and reliable. We love the fact that Compaq is using OEM parts from major manufacturers like MSI, Samsung and Creative Labs. This separates the Compaq X series apart from others such as Gateway and Dell because it allows their system to be upgraded with extreme ease. In essence, Compaq has built you a system using the same off-the-shelf parts that you can purchase yourself. They build the system for you, test it and then sell it for a few hundred dollars less than you would pay building the system yourself. Top it off with a one-year warranty through Compaq, and you are good to go.

The only issue we had with our review system was the HP DVD/CD-ROM drive which had trouble reading from multiple media types. We have never been impressed with HP’s DVD drives so a switch to a drive manufactured by Plextor or Sony would make this system even better. Compaq has something special on their hands with their X series of gaming PC’s. We would love to see them promote these systems through gaming events and by advertising on gaming sites and publications. Until then the X series will have to be a well kept secret until the word spread. Once Compaq does some minor tweaking, they should have a powerful gaming machine that rivals the best from Falcon Northwest, VoodooPC and other hardcore system builders.

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