Serial ATA disk drives were slated to trickle out a while ago, but we still haven’t seen a retailer stocking the fledgling technology (even though Serial ATA controllers have been shipping with motherboards for months now). So, the X Theory system comes with an 80GB Western Digital Special Edition drive with 8MB of cache, though it can be configured with drives from IBM, Maxtor, or Seagate up to 200GB as well. Several competitors have helped alleviate the I/O bottlenecks by utilizing an IDE RAID array. But if you aren’t into intensive content creation applications, you probably won’t see much benefit from IDE RAID on a gaming system. Thus, the exclusion of IDE RAID on the X Theory isn’t overly bothersome.
Optical storage is taken care of by a Lite-On 16x DVD drive with a black front bezel and a matching Lite-On 52x CD-RW drive. Surely, these drives will suffice for even the most discerning power user. However, it is also interesting to note that PC Progress offers several DVD+RW drives for those who would like to venture into DVD burning.
Beyond the system itself, PC Progress includes a few unique accents. Many popular OEMs include Windows XP Home Edition as a cost cutting measure. Not so with the X Theory system – it includes Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 already installed. Further, the system also includes a set of Creative Labs Inspire 5200 speakers, a moderate, 75 watt, 5.1 channel system. Logitech’s Cordless Elite Duo Mouse and Keyboard combination round out the peripherals, though corded devices are available, and a 16MB USB drive essentially negates the need for a floppy drive.
The system as we’ve described it, priced on PC Progress’ own web page, comes in at $2,204, not including a monitor. By adding a display, the price will naturally go up. Now, what sets PC Progress apart from some of the other manufacturers we’ve looked at is the level of flexibility offered in building a custom rig. If the asking price is a tad high, you can pick any component and swap out a more affordable option. So long as the system is viable (you can’t run an Athlon XP 3000+ on an i845PE board, no matter how much you want to), your warranty and money-back guarantee is intact. You are also entitled to technical support, should you need it. Unfortunately, this only runs from 8AM-6PM Central Standard Time, whereas many other manufacturers with more dedicated resources are able to offer 24 hour support.
As far as the overall package is concerned, it looks like PC Progress has focused on users with some experience rather than the novice. The system does come with a binder containing manuals and relevant software, which keeps everything organized. But it doesn’t have a setup guide, a useful tool for the first-time buyer who may not know that they need to use a DVI-to-VGA adapter in order to plug an analog CRT into the All in Wonder’s DVI port. It’s also missing one of those “little things that mean a lot” - thumb screws on the back of the case.
We did attempt to “build” the X Theory box on our own, using the online tools available to you, and came up with the following prices:
AMD Athlon XP 3000+ - $595
ASUS A7N8X Deluxe - $135
ATI All in Wonder 9700 Pro - $377
Western Digital 80GB Special Edition - $103
Corsair TWINX 512MB PC3200 - $209
Lite-On 52x25x52 CD-RW - $40
Lite-On 16X DVD - $35
Antec Plusview 1000AMG - $75
Antec Smartblue 350W Power Supply - $53
Easy Disk 16MB USB Drive - $15
Creative Labs Inspire 5200 5.1 - $67
Logitech Cordless Elite Duo Keyboard & Mouse - $ 70
Microsoft Windows XP Pro - $150
Mitsumi Floppy - $8
Total - $1932, including shipping
It seems that you could put the system together for slightly less, if you wanted to take the time to shop at several different online retails and then build the system. PC Progress does an excellent job at competing with the DIY (Do It Yourself) price, so value is a strong point for the X Theory.