SAN FRANCISCO (05/01/2000) - The race to 1 GHz was fast and furious, but systems packing that heat have been slow to arrive on store shelves. However, 1-GHz Athlon systems are available now, and to judge from our tests, they live up to expectations. The most recent model we've examined, the $3388 Polywell Computers Inc.'s 800K7-1000, is the fastest we've seen. It posted a sizzling PC WorldBench 2000 score of 162, which is a negligible 3 points slower than our reigning WorldBench champ--a preproduction 1-GHz Intel Pentium III-based IBM Corp. Aptiva machine.
Polywell's silver-colored case has no screws to hinder access to the interior--press two release levers on the sides and the entire cover slides off easily. There's plenty of room to add memory and PCI cards. One external 5.25-inch drive bay and one internal 3.5-inch bay are available as well.
This richly configured system offers a very generous 256MB of SDRAM as well as a Promise RAID card that controls a pair of 20GB IBM Ultra DMA 66 hard drives for mass storage. The two drives are treated as a single 40GB unit (RAID 0), effectively doubling bandwidth and increasing sustainable throughput. The setup is overkill for most users, but it costs little more than a single 40GB drive; and if you're using data analysis programs or other disk-intensive apps, you'll get an edge. The unit also has a fast ELSA AG Erazor X2 3D graphics board, a combination 8X DVD-ROM/40X CD-ROM drive, an Iomega Zip 100 drive, a sharp 19-inch ViewSonic monitor, and a V.90 modem.
Polywell provides a three-year warranty on most--but not all--parts. The system also comes with standard 24-hour tech support for the first year.
Considering its opulent features and killer performance, the 800K7-1000 is a great value at $3388--especially if you're working with intensive graphics or engineering applications. If your power needs are less extreme, consider the same 800K7 with a slower, but still muscular 700-MHz CPU--for $940 less.
PRO: Top-notch performance, loaded system.
CON: Not cheap; may be more power than most users need.
VALUE: Great if you need the bleeding edge.
Street price: $3388