Everex Impact GC3500 PC Package Review

I should really have written this review about two years ago (summer 2007), back when I first purchased two of these computers. And now, here it is August of 2009...every cloud has a silver lining, though, as now that I have a lot of experience under my belt with these systems, I can truly say what is good and not so good about them. And I also know a lot more about their relative reliability.

The complete and proper name for this package is "Everex Impact GC3500". I'm going to keep it simple and just refer to it as the Everex GC3500 from now on.

For those not familiar with them, these systems are actually packages. You can't just buy the computer by itself. You get a whole computer package consisting of keyboard, mouse, speakers and 17" CRT monitor to go with your computer. All of this costs you $299 US, excluding tax. (Or rather, it did, back when you could buy one of these. Now you should be able to pay a lot less on the secondhand market if you want a GC3500.)

For the price, it's not as cheap and nasty as you'd think. In fact, these things are a downright decent bargain once you get past one little stumbling block.

Windows Vista

Yes, you really do get a preloaded copy of Microsoft Windows with this system, and it's even genuine. Even with Microsoft's aggressive pricing strategy (the one that shows up when they want it to, like when the competition is bothering them with a better product), a person can't hope for more than Windows Vista Home Basic.

So that's what you get with the Everex GC3500 package. And it's not entirely bad, at least Vista Home Basic is capable (for suitably small values of capable, given Vista's performance and stability track record) in every way except for the fact that it doesn't come with media center, Aero effects or secret trapdoors.

So it should do just fine for lightweight computer use, such as web browsing and word processing. Which, despite what people might say, is what many far more capable systems end up doing over the course of their lives.

The problem is that Vista just isn't stable on this system. In fact, it's safe to say that Vista is unusually unstable on this computer. The first sign of instability came up when I opened a command prompt window and tried--as I habitually do--to take it full screen.

Vista responded with a brusquely worded error stating that the video driver failed to initialize the fullscreen mode.

Now I'm all for progress in terms of user interaction with the computer, but seriously? A person can't get into fullscreen text mode video when they want to? After having had the option for the entirety of Windows' lifespan and release history? Even when the hardware is still quite capable?

Come on.

(It is worth noting that this is not a limitation of Vista Home Basic edition. I have seen this happen on computers running Vista Home Premium and Vista Business.)

Video is more deeply broken in other, more significantly entertaining ways. As part of my regular tests, I installed both iTunes 7 and Google Earth on the system. iTunes worked fine right up to the point where I engaged the visualizer.

And then, to use a technical term, the system went bonkers. iTunes was gone from the screen, and an error message from the Microsoft Visual C runtime library claimed that the program had requested the runtime to terminate it in an unusual way. After which, subsequent use of the system caused it to go down, not across.

After that, the system just stopped responding. I had to do a hard power cycle to regain control.

Attempting to use Google Earth resulted in even more spectacular disasters. The system just died with corrupted video that showed a very messed up STOP error.

The latest VIA Chrome9 video drivers did nothing to fix this problem, by the way. The system still screwed up, and what's more, it screwed up in exactly the same way.

Vista signed its death warrant not by messing up the video, but by spectacularly messing up a file copy operation consisting of about 60GB worth of music files.

Yes, you read that right. Vista couldn't do something which computers have--generally speaking--done flawlessly since the invention of storage media with a filesystem. Vista only managed to copy about 6GB worth of the files before its logic simply became confused and appeared to wrap around itself. The result, though not quite as impressive as the video related failures described above, was still impressive.

So, Vista had to go.

Out With The New, In With The Old

I had a spare copy of Windows XP Professional to play with, so after wiping Vista off the system, I installed that. After supplying all of the needed drivers (available from the VIA website, for the most part)
, Windows XP ran exceptionally well on this system.

And those bizzarre crashes that happened under Windows Vista with graphics intensive programs?

They vanished. I also got my fullscreen command prompt. (Stop that snickering.)

I still don't really know why this was the case. I'd have a hard time believing that the hardware in two separate systems purchased at two separate times (both a month or so apart) would be broken in exactly the same way. The software (including the BIOS) might be, but that seems a bit thin to me.


The Everex GC3500 goes a little bit off of the beaten path by basing itself around a VIA platform. VIA chipsets and products using them aren't all that uncommon, but VIA CPUs don't show up nearly as often. This system is built around the VIA C7D "Esther" microprocessor, clocked at 1.5GHz.

VIA's claim to processor fame in a world dominated by Intel and AMD is ultra-low-power processing. VIA's CPUs are designed to consume as little power as possible in a given role, while still providing enough computing power to do the things that the average computer user wants to do.

This is a market where VIA stood almost entirely alone, especially in the x86 compatible processor world. ARM processors are practically the choice for applications that demand a processor capable of supplying the performance to do things such as playing video and music on a shoestring allocation of battery power. (Intel, doubtlessly watching VIA and noticing how they have the low power x86 market nearly to themselves, has also recently entered this market, with their Atom processor family. I talk more about the Atom processor here, in my review of the Intel D945GCLF motherboard.)

The VIA processors do have a few other interesting features, one of them being the so-called "Padlock" security engine. This is supposed to be a hardware-based random number generator, amongst other things. Its value is debatable. I don't know of any software that uses it for anything, outside of some limited offerings that VIA had on their web site as proof of concept "toys".

Surprisingly, the components that make up the system aren't as cheap and nasty as you'd truly expect them to be. For starters, the case itself is very solidly built, and while you do need tools to get it open, undue swearing and use of an oxy-acetylene cutting torch should not be required. It could be pressed into duty as a chair. Furthermore, the case won't try to sink its metal teeth into your waiting skin, nor will it pull the old "every time I opened it, I got it to close but it never looked the same again" trick that some cheap systems and cases are known for. The case itself appears to have been made (or at least sold) by motherboard maker FIC. (FIC, or First International Computer,  is closely related to VIA as both are divisions of the Formosa Plastics Group. FPG makes about one of everything, and they're very proud of their naptha cracker.

The motherboard's origins are perhaps a bit less clear. It's a VIA PC3500 motherboard, no doubt. VIA doesn't actually make anything of their own, though, so someone else built the board for them. The strongest hint of who that is would appear to come from the integrated Ethernet adapter's MAC address, which is registered to Gigabyte, a large and reasonably well respected motherboard maker. However, various other companies also appear to retail the board, and the system BIOS points to a motherboard supplier whose name I have forgotten at this point. (And for now, at least, I can't be bothered to look it up again.)

It is worth noting that the motherboard has working fan speed control and hookups for several fans beyond the one provided with the CPU. You aren't likely to need that many fans, but you can plug them in if nothing else will do.

The power supply is an entirely respectable and probably honestly rated 300 watt unit from HiPro. A Hitachi-LG optical drive (capable of burning CDs, DVDs and even reading/writing DVD-RAM discs) and Western Digital 80GB SATA hard drive round out the system unit. And there's a no-name Conexant-based modem in there too, if you need it. All of these things are fine for a system like this.

The monitor is, as already mentioned, a 17 inch cheapie. These days, 17 inch monitors would probably come in cereal boxes as free giveaways if it wouldn't make the boxes bigger and cause anyone who happened to pick one up to be caught off guard by its weight. You can't expect that it will be good for color-sensitive work, but home users should be able to get along with it just fine. Actually, there seems to be a 50% chance of this outcome--one of the monitors I got is very good, where the other one is completely out of focus. I thought about tweaking it and made preparations to take the back cover off so I could see the focus control, only to discover that the monitor did not want to come apart AND that there was a doubtlessly-entertaining-to-replace-and-probably-fairly-sharp finely perforated metal cage around the electronics and picture tube.

The helpful man who answered the phone at Everex said I should just return the whole computer with the defective monitor to the store. When pressed a little (by my saying that it had been too long to do that) he said I should just ship the whole thing to Everex. I asked if they'd just send me a monitor, he said no. I wasn't terribly surprised by this, and you shouldn't be either. Don't buy this computer if you want hand-holding, because I don't think you are going to get it.

So I let that one monitor sit as a future project for some rainy day, and replaced it with a 19 inch Samsung Syncmaster flat panel display.

That leaves the keyboard, mouse and speakers.

Things start to go a little bit downhill here. The speakers are probably the best of the three items. They're not much, but they would be entirely tolerable to use with the occasional bits of sound and music that go along with some--well, the charitable phrase is "interestingly designed"--webpages. And they plug into the wall to get power, so you won't be abusing a USB port if you really crank the speakers up.

If you listen to music even semi-seriously, I suggest you invest in a better set of speakers. The motherboard's onboard sound system is quite capable and could drive even multi-speaker systems easily.

I'm afraid that I'm biased against the keyboard from the start. I have very high expectations of my keyboards, as I'm a big fan of the good old IBM Model M 'board. There's very little that can come close to the classic Model M if you like them, so this isn't even a fair fight. To be as honest as I can, the Everex GC3500's keyboard isn't terrible. It doesn't put important keys in funky places, isn't festooned with an array of useless buttons that bring up useless applications and doesn't try to make you type at a funny angle. It's just a cheap, quiet rubber dome type keyboard. You could do far worse.

I used the IBM Model M with mine, and it worked just fine right out of the box.

The mouse--well, you'd better just go ahead and buy one while you're in the store. Neither of the systems I purchased came with a working mouse. Sure, it would move the arrow on the screen when you pushed or pulled it, and the buttons seemed to work fine, but the ball inside it just didn't have enough traction to drive the little rollers or something. You should just bite the bullet and buy a better rodent (almost anything will do) to use with this system. Even a grab-bag of suspicious looking mice from eBay will do--they'll clean up fine in the dishwasher, and you will have plenty of spares for less than $15.

At least Everex didn't cut corners on the system build quality itself.


Remember what I said about VIA's processors above? Low power consumption is the name of the game. Looking inside the system will prove this as both the North Bridge and CPU share one elongated heatsink with a tiny little fan attached to the side where the processor is located.

You can't expect that this system will set the world on fire. It simply wasn't made or priced to do so. And it doesn't. My own informal testing shows that this system is good at the kind of basic tasks you'd expect. Word processing? Spreadsheeting? Most web browsing? Office work and light multitasking? (Very) Lightweight multimedia authoring? Absolutely.

Gaming? Blu-Ray disc playback? Overclocking? Video editing? No, not with this thing. (And the BIOS setup utility doesn't give you any basic or exciting overclocking tools to play with anyway.)

You can (and should) consider using SpeedFan to wind down the speed of the little fan on the CPU. Let it spin at its wide open speed of 6,000 RPM and it won't live very long. In a cool room, you could shut it off with no harm done to the VIA CPU or chipset. (When's the last time you saw a modern CPU that could do that without downclocking, stalling or burning up?) Set the fan to 50% for warmer rooms and it will keep things plenty cool enough, while being very quiet. Its lifespan will also be greatly improved.


The Everex GC3500 is blessedly--and surprisingly--free of Crapware. The software that comes with it outside of the operating system is minimal. The only appreciable piece of bundled software is the CyberLink multimedia suite, and it actually isn't bad for multiple optical-disc-related programs all rolled into one. It's quite possible that it would be all you need to burn most types of optical media AND it plays DVD movies just fine.

Unlike some other cheap systems, you do get a "real" restore disc to put the computer back to its factory state as oppposed to a hidden partition on the hard drive that won't do you any good when the drive fails and may just smile at you before failing to do its job in some creative way even if the drive is good. This could be immeasurably useful if you ever had to do so, as you might if the hard drive were to fail and require replacement.

Proving that you can't have everything at the price, the restoration disc is just that--an automated process that reinstalls everything from an image file without asking you too many questions. You don't get separate installation media for the bundled applications or operating system. Therefore, if you opt for a different version of Windows, you will either have to try and transfer the applications (a practical impossibility in most cases) or do without them, unless you feel inclined to buy them separately. Fortunately, a lot of good and free alternatives exist if you need them.


Everex has a decent basic system here, and it's not so made so cheaply as to be total junk. The build quality of the system unit is astoundingly good. That's the good news. The VIA processor is interesting--and so far as I know, this is one of the few ways you can actually get ahold of one (in the US--people in other countries may have better luck). It could be useful for the construction of a low powered network attached device (such as a FreeNAS box or low power web server) or even as a basic home entertainment PC.

The bad news is that you have to buy everything. You can't just buy the system unit by itself, even if that is the only part you want or need. And the monitor, keyboard and mouse are all very obviously cheap--though in the case of the two systems I bought, the keyboard and speakers weren't so bad. Neither was the monitor if you can excuse the fact that I got one good one and one bad one. I can readily excuse that, it's not that likely to happen to anyone else.

The real showstopper, though, is the lack of a workable OS bundled with the system. Windows Vista already doesn't have the best reputation, and it's got some serious stability issues with this hardware. A legally acquired copy of Windows XP (or earlier--Windows 2000 should also run on this thing) is going to add at least $90 to the price of the system. If you have no problem with using a free operating system, you can always choose one and it should run fine on this hardware, as nothing here is particularly exotic or filled with unexpected "features" that will surprise you down the road.

But if you have to spend that $90 for an operating system, and you opt to spring for a better mouse and/or speakers, you're getting closer to systems that have much more capability, Intel or AMD processors with vastly more computing power, from better known companies that should have better technical support. (Everex has been around  for a good while, however.)

Therefore, as much as I'd like to recommend this thing on the points that it does have going for it, I just can't do it. If, however, you found one of these on the secondhand market, without the lackluster monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers, and if you know its limitations won't be a problem, I'd certainly recommend purchasing it--if the price is right.

Go Back >

Copyright © 2009 William R. Walsh. All Rights Reserved. Written 08/24/2009, updated 10/10/2009. Permission is granted to mirror this page in its unedited entirety as long as a link back to this site and credit for the material is provided. You may not charge a fee or exchange items of value to provide access to this page or its content, other than an amount reasonably necessary to cover the cost of connection time, data transfer or printing supplies. Content from this page may not be displayed alongside advertising content of any type. You may use portions of this page in other products only if you provide credit and a link back to this page and only if the finished product is freely accessible to anyone interested in having a copy. If you use this material in work of your own, you may not charge or exchange items of value to provide access (other than as reasonably necessary to cover connection time, data transfer fees, or to cover printing supply costs) nor may you display advertising materials alongside any content you use from this page. Images may not be edited other than to resize them or to provide for faster downloading.