Advent – 3618 review

Athlon 64 desktop PC system
Photo of Advent – 3618
£1,080.99 , monitor not included

Never shy when it comes to adopting the latest technology for the desktop arena, Advent has taken AMD’s 64-bit processor, the Athlon 64 3200+, and introduced it in this 3618 bare-bones PC. As there is very little (for that read ‘no’) 64-bit software available at present, perhaps investing in the 3618 is the ultimate act of buying a future-proof system.

Housed in Advent’s now familiar compact, metallic blue and silver, midi-tower case, the 3618 comes with a good list of hardware, let down by the choice of graphics card.

Opening the case shows why the 3618 is so quiet; dominating the inside is a large plastic shroud over the CPU and heatsink fan. Using this means that a much smaller and therefore quieter fan can be used for cooling.

Despite the compact nature of the case, the internals are very tidily put together with most cables tied up out of the way. This may seem a small point, but even this aids cooling, as the tidier the cables are, the less they restrict airflow. Backing up the Athlon processor is 512MB of PC3200 (DDR400) memory in the form of a single module in one of the two DIMM slots provided.

Although there are three PCI slots free, in practice there are really only two, as the one next to the AGP slot should be left free to allow air to circulate around the graphics card. The fourth PCI slot holds a 56Kbps, V.92 modem card. Apart from the modem it’s hard to think what else to use a slot for, as the MSI motherboard has integrated 10/100Mbps Ethernet and FireWire support. Perhaps a Bluetooth or WiFi adapter might be upgrade options.

Four USB 2.0 ports and a 6-pin FireWire port sit on the motherboard back-plate, while two more USB ports and a 4-pin FireWire port are housed in the front of the case, along with two audio ports.

When it comes to storage, Advent has left nothing to chance. Only if you have a huge collection of MP3s or videos might you come close to filling up the 320GB of space provided. Two Samsung SP1604N, 160GB, 7,200rpm drives are used, set up in a RAID array to achieve the huge capacity.

Also provided are two optical drives; a 16x DVD-ROM and an LG 4040B multi-format DVD burner. Although the dust has settled for the time being on which format is best, this drive offers the best of all worlds; 4x DVD+R, 4x DVD-R, 2.4x DVD+RW, 2x DVD-RW plus 3x DVD-RAM.

If this isn’t enough for you, then a drop-down panel in the front bezel reveals a 7-in-1 flash memory card reader that supports CompactFlash I/II, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro, SD, MultiMedia Card and SmartMedia flash storage devices.

So far so good; fast processor, half a gigabyte of memory, fast and big hard drive. A gamer’s dream system, you’d think. But now the disappointment; the graphics sub-system. This is a PC that deserves a fast, powerful graphics card, but Advent supplies an Nvidia FX5200. True, this is no slouch, and it does have 256MB of memory, but it’s by no means one of the most powerful graphics card; both Nvidia and ATI have quicker graphics chips available.

The system comes without a monitor. The reviewed sample was supplied with an Advent HD772 17-inch TFT monitor (costing an extra £349 inc. VAT), a decent screen that offers a native resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 pixels.

Advent’s 3618 has Windows XP Home pre-installed and a copy of Microsoft Works 7.0 comes bundled with it. You also get a matching Advent keyboard and mouse and a set of Advent Sp-120N speakers.

Company: Advent

Contact: 08705 464 464

Without any 64-bit software it is hard to truly see how the 3618 ticks. It's certainly a fast-performing 32-bit system. This is a well specified system (although you'll have to budget extra for a monitor if you don't have one), but we would have liked to see a faster graphics card to make it a truly stunning PC.