Apus Universe 3200 A64-939 R3

As price points for decently configured PCs drop to sub-$1000 levels, it's only natural to start wanting more from machines closer to $1500. This new offering from APUS delivers mid-range performance using mid-range components and it's convenient to use, too.

Its black mid-tower case may not possess the most attractive exterior we've seen, but on the inside it houses a fast AMD Athlon 64 3200+ CPU, plenty of RAM (1GB), a capable graphics adapter (256MB Radeon X700LE), a DVD burner and a 160GB hard drive.

An ASUS A8N-E motherboard forms the base of the system and this board has a PCI Express x16 graphics slot as well as a PCI Express x4 slot, for a future expansion card, in addition to three PCI slots for current expansion cards (such as TV tuners). The board offers plenty of peripheral connectivity via nine USB 2.0 ports and it also has built in digital audio, and 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports.

Four Serial ATA (SATA) ports pave the way for storage devices and APUS has installed one 160GB Seagate drive, which features NCQ. NCQ is a technology that is used to re-order data requests to make the hard drive more efficient. This hard drive is attached to rails (as is the machine's DVD burner) and is stored in a roomy, removable, drive bay within the mid-tower. This drive bay faces towards the side of the case (rather than facing the rear, towards the motherboard), which makes the addition and removal of drives very easy. There are rails for an extra four hard drives and one optical drive, so drive expansion is no problem.

As for the machine's build quality, the APUS cabling is not the neatest we have seen, but an effort has been made to tie up unused power cables. A standard CPU cooler and a heat sink reside on the CPU and a shrouded vent on the side-panel of the case directs cool external air onto the CPU fan.

APUS has installed a card reader in one of the floppy drive bays on the front of the case, which makes it easy to transfer images from a digital camera, and this reader can be hidden when it isn't being used.

For its sub-$1500 price tag, this machine also comes with a 17in LCD monitor and pair of speakers. It performed comparatively well in PC WorldBench 5, scoring 86 in this benchmark, and in 3DMark2005 a score of 2625 was attained, which is par for a machine with an X700-based graphics chip.

VERDICT All up, this is a great system for anyone who wants to use office productivity applications, or even do a little bit of multimedia work and play games. It's inexpensive and has provision for expansion.

Apus Universe 3200 A64-939 R3
Price: $1499
Phone: (02) 9663 0349
URL: www.apus.com.au
Warranty: 1 year parts, 3 years labour RTB
Specifications: AMD Athlon 64 3200+; NVIDIA nForce4 Ultra chipset; 256MB ATI Radeon X700LE PCIe graphics card; 17in BenQ FP71G LCD monitor; 2 x 512MB DDR400 SDRAM; 160GB Seagate hard drive with NCQ; DVD burner; Ports: 9 x USB 2.0, floppy drive, media card reader; 10/100/1000 Ethernet; integrated sound; Logitech Rio speakers; Windows XP Home.

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