Owning a home computer in the 80s usually meant owning a Commodore. The company was known for producing some of the most popular gaming machines during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras: the VIC-20, C64 and Amiga.
Despite this success, it didn't do well as a business. After a few failed product launches like the CD32, and losing market share to the PC, Commodore went bankrupt.
Since then, the Commodore name has been bought and sold many times over. Gateway, Tulip Computers and Escom have all owned the brand, but each time only temporarily and never with a product that lives up to the company's legacy.
Now, the brand has been reborn as Commodore Gaming. They hope to resurrect the past by once again associating the name with a quality gaming experience, but the world's moved on since the AmigaOS.
Commodore are now going down the route of selling gaming PCs, competing with the likes of Alienware and VoodooPC, possibly the only remaining route into the gaming hardware market. The problem is that they have to be constructed from off-the-shelf components and that makes it harder for one manufacturer to stand out.
Commodore has decided to differentiate with a skinnable chassis (called C-Kins), a way of decorating the case with any art you choose from their website. If you wish to change the design you simply order a new set of chassis panels.
The C-Kin shipped with our demo unit was a Supreme Commander branded design. The amount of red used made us feel nauseous within 10 minutes of putting the PC on the desk. There are plenty of less garish designs online (the retro C64 artwork is nice), but our personal favourite, perhaps tellingly, was the blank case with no art.
It seems manufacturers are seeing gamers as a stereotype of adrenaline junkies who spend their lives at LAN parties and are obsessed with their PC's exterior looking better than anyone else's. Hence a trend in making PCs look like toys. Granted, a few youthful individuals may appreciate this, but a gimmicky case is less of a priority for serious gamers than the components it holds.
The main distinguishing feature that these machines offer are the C-Kins and, now the market for gaming PCs is so crowded, it's not enough. Commodore is not selling their hardware pre-overclocked, which would have been a great addition for a high-end rig.
The cooling system is certainly capable of supporting a few extra megahertz, and this would have raised the value of this product line beyond what can be assembled just from off-the-shelf components.
We were left feeling slightly underwhelmed by Commodore's comeback. Aside from the logo, custom cooler and the love-it-or-hate-it C-Kin artwork, you could buy machines with an identical spec from a legion of other PC manufacturers, and also save a few pounds.