Features and Price

Prices on the Sabre Extreme start at around $800 and go up to over $3000. As with most vendors, you can configure your system differently, focusing on increasing storage capacity, faster or slower graphics, more memory, and various other options. Here are the specifications of the Sabre Extreme we received:

PC Club Enpower Sabre Extrene EN-SE6
Case: Apex customized Mid-Tower with 350W PSU
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3
Processor: Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.40 GHz 4MB shared L2 cache)
Heatsink/Cooling: Stock Intel CPU HSF
80mm front fan
80mm rear fan
RAM: 2x512MB Transcend PC2-5300 JM367Q643A-6 5-5-5-13 Timings
Graphics: MSI GeForce 7900 GT
Hard Drives: 250GB Western Digital 16MB 7200 RPM
Optical Drives: LiteOn 16X DVD+/-RW
Expansion Slots: 1 x PCIe X16
3 x PCIe X1
3 x PCI
Expansion Bays: 4 x 3.5" internal bays
2 x 3.5" external
4 x 5.25" external
Audio: Realtek ALC883 7.1 HD Audio onboard
Power Suply: Allied AL-C350-ATX
1 x 24-pin ATX; 1 x ATX12V
4 x 4-pin Molex
1 x 4-pin mini Molex
1 x SATA
Operating System: Windows XP Home SP2
Front Ports: 2 X USB2.0
2 X 3.5mm Audio (Headphone and Microphone)
Rear Ports: 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
1 x PS/2 Mouse
1 x Parallel
1 x Serial
1 x Audio I/O Panel (six jacks)
1 x Optical S/PDIF Out Port
1 x Coaxial S/PDIF Out Port
1 x RJ45
4 x USB2.0
Monitor: ViewSonic 19" Widescreen LCD Monitor - 5ms 500:1 VA1912WB

There are often drawbacks to purchasing a prebuilt system -- more limited BIOS options, potentially proprietary designs, slightly reduced performance in the name of stability, generic designs, etc. PC Club manages to separate their offerings from those of larger OEMs by going with off-the-shelf components. Rather than using a proprietary motherboard design, or even a standard motherboard but with a special BIOS that removes many of the extras, PC Club includes your garden-variety Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 motherboard. This may not be the absolute best motherboard for Core 2 Duo processors, but with the latest BIOS it runs very stable, and you even get access to the standard overclocking options.

Overclocking? On a midrange OEM system? Blasphemy! Naturally, all of the standard disclaimers with overclocking apply. PC Club does not condone overclocking, and assuming they can determine you overclocked your system and caused a component to fail, they will certainly void your warranty. Still, if you'd rather just get a system that's all ready to roll out of the box and perhaps do some mild overclocking on your own, we will take a look at what we can achieve. We won't be trying to set any performance records, but given the 68% (and higher) overclocks of Core 2 Duo processors floating around the Internet, it seemed a shame to let the E6600 continue to run a stock speeds.

As we like to do with our system reviews, we priced out a similar home built system for reference to see how much you're paying PC Club to assemble and test everything for you.

Component Price List
Case: Apex customized Mid-Tower with 350W PSU 63
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 151
Processor: Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.40 GHz 4MB shared L2 cache) 370
Cooling: Stock Intel CPU HSF
80mm front fan
80mm rear fan
RAM: 2x512MB Transcend PC2-5300 JM367Q643A-6 5-5-5-13 Timings 90
Graphics: MSI GeForce 7900 GT 275
Hard Drives: 250GB Western Digital 16MB 7200 RPM 84
Optical Drive: LiteOn 16X DVD+/-RW 32
Audio: Realtek ALC883 7.1 HD Audio onboard 0
Monitor: ViewSonic VA1912WB 222
Keyboard: Logitech Internet Pro 11
Mouse: Logitech RX1000 28
Operating System: Windows XP Home SP2 95
Sub Total: 1421

There are currently some added costs with some of the components, chiefly the E6600 processor. Taking that into account you're basically paying PC Club about $200 in order to build the system for you. That is definitely a reasonable offer. About the only drawback is that configuration choices are limited in some areas, so you can't for example select a different motherboard or memory type in the online configurator. That may matter for some people, but for the target market the features and options should be more than adequate. If you'd like to change any of the options, you can call PC Club and custom build a system to your needs, or you can go to a local store and do the same thing.

Speaking of changes, the components used in the Sabre Extreme we're reviewing are subject to change, and at present PC Club has decided to move to an MSI P965 motherboard instead of the Gigabyte DS3. Again, you can custom order a system using the DS3 if you'd like, and the overall features are still going to be similar. As long as the part you want is carried by PC Club, you can order whatever you'd like. Another change in parts is that instead of an MSI 7900GT GPU, the latest configuration uses an EVGA 7900GT card or an MSI 7900GT with HDCP support. The HDCP card costs an extra $20, but once Vista launches you might be glad to have the feature depending on how much you plan to use the system for watching movies.

Obviously, some concessions are made in order to keep costs low. Integrated audio is available on every motherboard these days for free, and while it is sufficient for most uses there is a qualitative difference between onboard and discrete solutions. The case and power supply are also on the lower end of the power and quality spectrum, but they should get the job done. If you are looking for something to compete with the supercharged computers of the world, you'll need to look elsewhere (or spend more money), but if you're just looking for a computer that offers reasonable performance and reliability, the Sabre Extreme is a good place to start. Now let's move on to some the finer details.

Index Externals and Appearance
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  • unclebud - Friday, September 1, 2006 - link

    having to push the optical drives closed instead of being able to press the eject button to do it? terrible design
    hopefully it won't require a couple hundred customers rmaing their drives to change it someday
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 2, 2006 - link

    I've never had a problem pushing the tray to close a CD-ROM. The trick is that you push it gently rather than trying to slam it shut. I could see children having a bit of an issue doing this, but I would wager heavily that most children pushed the tray in regardless of whether or not you can access the eject button.
  • Iceboie - Thursday, August 31, 2006 - link

    Will we see an article in the future for us who wants a Conroe system but on a low budget scale?
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, September 2, 2006 - link

    Just drop from the E6600 (tested) to an E6300, dropped the graphics card down to a lower-cost version, maybe get a smaller hard drive, and you can quickly get the cost down to under $1000 (not including monitor). The system as a whole is fine, so basically just get whatever CPU and other settings you can afford.
  • giantpandaman2 - Tuesday, August 29, 2006 - link

    Nice Review. Only things that'd be nice to add is how long it takes to get a system shipped to you and how difficult is it to RMA something. Can you take it to the store? Do they give you a run around? Is it painless? I figure you guys could use a girlfriend/buddy to bring in the computer so you can remain anonymous. :) Sounds like getting things fixed should be pretty easy since they have stores, but it'd be nice to know for sure.
  • giantpandaman2 - Tuesday, August 29, 2006 - link

    oops, I know you can take it to the store.
  • Capt Jook - Tuesday, August 29, 2006 - link

    Hi all,

    James here, manager of the Tigard, Oregon PC Club. Just wanted to say thanks for a great review and maybe answer a few questions.

    RMA through the web can be a bit of a pain...at the moment we do not offer a cross-shipping option for defective parts, so it can take a week or two to get back a good part after you send in the faulty one. In store, if we(PC Club) build the system and it is in warranty, we swap a new part right off of the shelf, 1 year warranty or 3. On 3 year warranty systems, we also cover End of Life(EOL), so if a CPU is 2 years old and EOL...we give you the logical replacement or an upgrade. We usually hire enthusiasts at our stores, so many people feel welcome when they want to discuss multipliers or voltages, etc.

    We do use all standard, off the shelf components...nothing proprietary. Our "restore" CD is actually just an XP CD. We are sure to give the customer physical copies of all of the software installed on the system, in case of a catastrophic drive failure. We have a http://pcclub.com/forum/index.cfm">Customer support Forum that has help available 24/7. Mostly other PCC customers, but I know of at least 10 store level employees that frequent the forum on a daily basis(myself included).

    The Allied 350W PSU has seen at least 10,000 hours of(combined) testing in the configuration listed. All of our system configurations must pass at least 5,000 hours of testing by our Engineering Department before they are released for sale to the stores and the web.

    Each store is required to have a tech on duty 7 days a week, 362 days a year(we are closed xmas, Thanksgiving and 4th of July), so service is available if you are local to a store.

    Thanks for your time!
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 30, 2006 - link

    Thanks for the additional information, James. (I'm up north of you in Olympia Washington, so the closest store to me is in Tacoma.) I actually do know a couple enthusiasts that work at PC Club stores, so I agree that the local support should be good. I wish I had some place like PC Club close by my house, as other than ordering online my only options are an overpriced brick-and-mortar store down the street, or I can try my luck at Best Buy. Needless to say, nearly all of my purchases come from web sites.
  • giantpandaman2 - Wednesday, August 30, 2006 - link

    Thankfully I'm in Bellevue. I can go anywhere. :P
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, August 29, 2006 - link

    I own a Vewsonic VA1912wb 19" widscreen monitor, and its a great monitor, however, its also rated @ 8ms, not 5ms listed in your review (I know what Viewsonics webpage says, but according to my box, manual, and newegg, this is incorrect) - http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82.... Perhaps Viewsonic has since reworked this part, but In my opinion, that would call for a new part # ?

    As for the Pre-built system, interresting choice of motherboards, they frown on OC'n, yet they offer the best OCable motherboard for the C2D ? You would think, they would have picked something a bit more stable like the ABIT AB9 Pro or something . . .

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