This PC system from Mesh represents a breakthrough specification at the price.
Priced at £749, the Mesh Elite Ice 7 is the first system we've seen at this price to include the Intel Core i7 processor, now reduced in price by Intel. Until now, to get one of Intel's quad-core i7 CPUs, system prices would be closer to £1,000.
The Mesh Elite Ice 7 is built around a Mesh-branded case, relatively solid and a step-up from some of the flimsier boxes we see in the Test Centre. On the silver-painted plastic front panel is a dual-layer DVD writer, and four different slots for various memory cards. Also here you'll find two USB plus a full-size FireWire 400 port.
An Asus P6T SE motherboard includes the usual raft of pre-configured ports, accessible from the rear panel, with interesting extras such as Toslink digital optical audio, another FireWire port, and even eSATA. Six RAM slots are populated by three 1GB cards, making future upgrades straightforward.
Other expansion possibilities include space for two more hard disks and three optical drives.
Aside from the two cooling fans built into the HEC 550W power supply, three more fans can be found: on the case rear panel, over the CPU and on the HIS-branded ATI HD 4850 graphics card. Overall, system noise was moderate.
Included in the package price is a 22in widescreen LCD monitor, the PCA Gold Award-winning Iiyama E2208HDS. Based on a 1920-1080 full-HD TN panel, it gives not the most colourful of images, but instead errs toward the neutral side. Combine that with its matt anti-glare finish, and you should find it to be more relaxing for long-term use than any shiny screen or one that over-saturates colour.
With no speakers included in the package, you could turn to those built into the Iiyama screen, but don't expect too much fidelity from these tiny 1W-powered upward-firing drivers
In our WorldBench 6 speed test, the Mesh Elite Ice 7 showed a performance commensurate with its Core i7 920 processor, recording 123 points. Other systems at the price point tend to use an Intel Core 2 Duo running at 3.33GHz, but with this 2.66GHz quad-core processor, the system will juggle many tasks with ease.
The inclusion of an ATI HD 4850 gives the system respectable gaming performance, if short of the state-of-the-art gaming framerates we see in the highest price categories.
Running our older game of FEAR, the system pulled in a comfortable 174 frames per second average at Maximum settings, almost three times that needed to meet the 60Hz screen refresh rate. And in Crysis, the system gave 20fps in our ‘High' test (1680x1050, DirectX 10, high quality), rising to 59fps in ‘Low' (1024x768, DirectX 9, high quality).
Graphics performance is a few fps behind that of current £501-£750 PC systems we've tested recently, which typically take the superior ATI HD 4890; but for most gaming applications, a 4850 should prove more than good enough. We also ran the test using all the screen's native 1920x1080 resolution, and measured a very useful 56fps at Medium quality.
Aside from the 64-bit version of Windows Vista Home Premium, Mesh has included several programs from CyberLink to help play and burn DVDs.
As with any high-performance PC, power consumption figures are nothing to boast about: sitting idle, the system consumed almost 100W of power. Under load, playing a game for example, expect your electric meter to show an overhead of around 200 watts.
The Mesh Elite Ice 7 may miss out on additions such as outboard speakers and a wireless keyboard and mouse, but the core specification and build make up for the loss, establishing a firm foundation for a solid PC system. Overall we have a well-balanced assembly of fast processor, good graphics card, dependable motherboard and useful amounts of storage and memory. It’s built around a simple but robust chassis with room for later upgrades. And the HD screen is a budget favourite from a dependable brand too.