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Micro Express Microflex 20B review: This PC targets power users at work, but it games well, too

Jon L. Jacobi | May 19, 2015
According to Micro Express, the majority of the customers for its Microflex 20B are power users that do a lot of work with Photoshop, video and other intensive applications rather than game. Personally, I'm taking that with a grain of salt; most "work" power-user systems don't feature red and blue interior lighting, or a clear panel to show off the inner workings. But regardless of how you classify it, the 20B is a capable performer that won't break the bank. The only fly in the ointment with our $1,699 test configuration was that Micro Express's CPU choice limited the graphics upgrade options.

In Tomb Raider with image quality settings at ultimate and playing at 2560x1600 (the equivalent of two 1080p panels resolution-wise), it's very close to the GeForce GTX 980 in our baseline system. Let's not even mention how much the AVA Direct i7 X99 and Falcon Northwest Mach V cost.

Moving to tests constrained by the CPU, such as our Handbrake encoding test, the six-core CPU falls right between the four cores in PCWorld's zero-point system and the eight cores in the pair of high-end PCs.

As a system the 20B scored 3,957 in PC Mark's Work (conventional) test and 5,632 in the Creative (conventional) test. None of those are high-water marks, but you'd have to be picky, or a hard-core gamer,to have a problem with the 20B's performance.

Fit and finish

The 20B's mid-tower case has a mildly aggressive, stealthy (as in the technology) countenance, and an integrated top handle that's more common in gaming PCs brought to LAN parties, than power desktops. OK, I'm giving Micro Express a hard time: Gaming PCs are simply power PCs with better graphics cards. That's not to be confused with a workstation, which is a power PC with a graphics card optimized for OpenGL and CAD.

The 20B also has plenty of room for expansion, including seven side-facing 3.5-inch bays and three front-facing, externally accessible 5.25-inch bays. One of those is filled with an LG 14X BD-RE optical burner (the WH14NS40). We don't talk a lot about optical these days, but the WH14NS40 has two nice recent-vintage features: support for M-DISC archival media and Jamless, an I-won't-hang-up-your-computer-while-I try-to-read-this-undecipherable-disc technology.

The interior is nicely done: It's easy to access all the components, and the cables are neatly tied off. Micro Express even tied down additional SATA cables so you don't have to hassle with that when you add another drive. There's also a 2.5-inch adapter in one of the 3.5-inch bays, should your first add be an SSD. On the front top are the power, reset, and sleep buttons, plus two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports. CPU cooling is courtesy of a standard Intel liquid system.

Recommendation

The configuration of the Microflex 20B we tested offers an affordable balance of everyday performance and gaming agility. If it fits your budget and your plans, happy days. Just consider the Core i7-5930K option for $299, which would save your having to replace the CPU should you decide you want SLI and must have both cards run at 16X.

 

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