From hardcore gaming to everyday use, there’s a new MSI laptop for everybody
Centre Com Sphere i5 Basic desktop PC
An Intel Core i5 750-based system for $1499
- Intel Core i5 750 CPU, lots of room for expansion
- Lacks a memory card reader, no eSATA, only 500GB of hard drive space
As its name suggests, Centre Com's Sphere i5 Basic is nothing special -- save for the fact that it features Intel's latest mainstream CPU, the Core i5 750. It ran well in our tests and it has plenty of room for expansion. It's also not too pricey.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Centre Com's Sphere i5 Basic is a desktop PC that's fairly nondescript on the outside. It's built using a run-of-the-mill Cooler Master mid-tower ATX case, which has plenty of room for expansion but definitely won't stand out in a crowd. The most impressive part of this system lies inside: Intel's latest CPU for mainstream users, the Core i5 750.
This CPU runs at 2.66GHz and uses dynamic overclocking to go up to 3.2GHz when the system is under a full processing load. Along with 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, an NVIDIA GeForce 9600GT graphics adapter and a 500GB hard drive, the Sphere i5 Basic is able to run almost any office application. This was shown by our WorldBench 6 benchmark, in which the machine scored 119. This isn't the fastest score we've seen from a Core i5 750–based machine, but it's still quick and means that you can use this PC for tasks ranging from Web surfing to 3D rendering.
When testing the PC's raw CPU power using Blender 3D, the machine recorded a time of 36sec, which is exactly the same as the time we've been getting with other Core i5 750-based machines. It's MP3 encoding performance in iTunes is the fastest we've seen from a PC with this CPU — but only by one second (the Dell Studio XPS 8000 did it in 52sec).
As the Sphere i5 Basic is system designed for mainstream users, it doesn't have a powerful graphics card. The GeForce 9600GT is a mid-range model that will perform only modestly when running the latest games. It recorded 7883 in 3DMark06, which isn't a bad score at all. However, to comfortably run a taxing game like Crysis: Warhead a PC needs to score upwards of 11,000 in this benchmark. The Sphere i5 Basic will run older games quite well (Half Life 2, for example), but newer titles will have to be played using low resolution and quality settings.
The Sphere i5 Basic has no fancy cable management, no extravagant cooling, and no lights. It's as nondescript on the inside as it is on the outside. It runs a standard Intel CPU cooler, the cables are all over the shop and there are no added features such as WiFi or a memory card reader. However, there is plenty of space to add these components via USB 2.0 (it has 10 USB 2.0 ports) or PCI Express slots. It runs Intel's Desktop Board DP55KG, which has one PCI Express x16 slot, one x8, one x4 and two x1, and a single PCI slot. The motherboard runs Intel's P55 Express chipset, which features support for SLI and CrossFire graphics card configurations, 10-channel audio, a Gigabit Ethernet port, two FireWire ports, and four DDR3 memory slots (which support a total of 16GB of RAM).
Up to five internal hard drives can be installed in the case, as well as up to five optical drives. The drive bays face backward, so it can be difficult to get drives in and out once the motherboard and add-in cards are installed. The machine lacks eSATA, so if you plan in adding external storage, you'll have to use either USB 2.0 or FireWire.
For $1499, the Centre Com Sphere i5 Basic is a reasonable buy. It's a reliable system with plenty of CPU power and a lot of room for expansion. It doesn't come with any features above and beyond what the motherboard supports, but you can easily add components to it down the track.
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