Cougar Extreme - mostly good, but...

  Rabbiteer 17:47 15 Dec 2007

I chose to go with Cougar in the end, rather than someone like Novatech, because the ability to specify certain components (eg the PSU) was important to me, and Novatech couldn't provide that. I was also reassured by a couple of useful answers given to me by Mario, whose name I've seen quoted approvingly here before. I'm mostly pleased, but there were a couple of niggles, all but one of them minor.

I should say straight away that I have no problems whatever with the build quality - I've had a look inside, and as has been said by others it's very clear that Cougar's builders take a pride in their work. Well done on that score. The "Impress" case (a whole £6 upgrade!) is rather flimsy at the front - I dislodged a drive blanking plate by accident with little force - and the DVD drive tray and button are not the strongest, but the case is much sturdier elsewhere. For the price, the case is acceptable.

My main complaint is with the graphics card: I specified a 7300GT and received an 8400GS. It's passive, and runs what to me seems very hot (65C idle) but I'm not well up in these thing. Obviously I'm not a hardcore gamer having ordered such a low-spec card, and if I'd been asked: "Is it okay if we swap to an 8400GS?" I'd have said yes. But it's not a straight upgrade (the 8400GS is slower in some cases) and so I'm not happy about it being done without any notification. In fact, even the packing slip that arrived with the computer said it was a 7300GT! Mind you, that packing slip also said I had two DVDRW drives when I'd only ordered (and received) one...

I was impressed by *all* the extras being included - not just the Windows and hardware driver discs, but little things like the drawstring bag that comes with the PSU (a Corsair VX450), the original box for the motherboard, etc. That fits in with the attention to detail on the build quality that I mentioned. It was also nice not to see the infestation of pointless trialware and demos some builders inflict. One thing did raise a smile: the attractive default Windows wallpaper has "AMD" in big letters, when my CPU is, um, an Intel!

Graphics card issues aside, everything works as it should, and a couple of quick benchmarks have revealed numbers that fit in where they ought to. As to the ultimate question - would I use Cougar again? - I would say "maybe". They've done enough to be on my shortlist, but they couldn't be an automatic choice because of that graphics card issue: there's no point in allowing high levels of customisation unless you deliver exactly what is ordered - or at least contact the buyer first, rather than just assuming that a swap (unless it's a straight upgrade, which 7300GT -> 8400GS is not) will be okay.

  Rabbiteer 17:51 15 Dec 2007

Oh, I should add that I said pretty much what I've just written in an email to Cougar's feedback email address. I didn't get a reply, which is a minor disappointment but not that big a deal I suppose.

  Cougar Extreme 00:31 16 Dec 2007

Dear Rabbiteer,
Firstly let me apologise for the situation regarding your graphics card. We are currently considering removing all the series 7 Nvidia graphics cards from our configuration page as these cards are becoming increasingly harder to get hold of since the successful release of all the latest series 8 Nvidia graphics cards. It was our judgement that the card supplied was on par with the one requested, and in some ways superior as it contains the latest DX10 technology that a lot of software should soon be able to take advantage off. I do believe that when you contacted our office you were offered an opportunity to have us resource you a 7300GT graphics card and have it shipped to you for a swap out with your existing one. All of this aside we fully see your point of view regarding being informed, and on that note we are happy to publicly apologies to you on this forum. It is our intention when a product is unavailable to upgrade the customer to the next available equivalent and in most cases to do this at our expense. The festive season however can sometimes mean that stock and availability is not at the levels we would like and therefore situations like this can arise. Again we would like to offer you our apology and hope this matter has not irreparably damaged your relationship with us.

Yours truly,

Cougar Extreme.

  Rabbiteer 02:21 16 Dec 2007

Thank you for answering, and for your apology: I'd like to say here and now that your active participation in this forum - after midnight on a Saturday night, too! - does you considerable credit, and is a major point in your favour. I wish more companies followed your example there.

You said:

"I do believe that when you contacted our office you were offered an opportunity to have us resource you a 7300GT graphics card and have it shipped to you for a swap out with your existing one."

That is not accurate, I'm afraid. I contacted you twice after delivery: once very briefly to say thanks on the day the computer arrived, and once to your feedback address regarding the graphics card. I did not receive any sort of a reply to the latter; I've double-checked my email inbox and there's nothing of the sort there.

I agree that the 8400GS is in general a reasonable choice as a replacement for the 7300GT, which is why I would have accepted had you informed me - though if you can't easily get hold of 7-series cards any more, surely they should *already* have been removed from the configuration page? The older card is indeed faster in certain cases, though - for example in some of these benchmarks: click here

The 8400GS card you fitted is fine for my purposes. DX10 is not really relevant to me as my PC was ordered with Windows XP, and I now have a dual-boot setup with XP and Linux, but I certainly don't mind enough to want to exchange the card.

Finally, you said:

"[We] hope this matter has not irreparably damaged your relationship with us."

No, I don't think so. It hasn't been ideal, but your informative and polite reply has gone quite a way towards reassuring me; thank you again for that.

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