ExecTech is a fortnightly coverage of the best buys from PC World's test centre. In this issue, Elias Plastiras looks at Business PCsGateway E-4400Power-hungry business users have no need to look past the Gateway E-4400, for it provides the latest advancements in PC technology, such as Rambus, ATA66, AGP 4x and a 133MHz front side bus, as well as essential networking and security features and a tool-less housing.

The $3299 price tag brings you a Pentium III 600MHz processor, 64MB of RDRAM, 20GB of storage space, a 40x CD-ROM drive, integrated audio and an ATI Rage 128VR graphics adapter. Network connectivity is handled by a 3Com Etherlink 10/100 PCI network adapter.

Our performance results show that the E-4400 is powerful in both 2D and 3D environments, and even more power can be obtained with the 733MHz model. We found the 733MHz model to be about 16 per cent faster than the 600MHz version, but could not include it in this month's Best Buys as we could not get a recommended retail price by the time of writing.

Although we tested the machine with Windows 98, it can ship with Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000, depending on your needs. The system components come housed in a tool-less NLX form-factor case, which can be positioned as either a desktop or a mini-tower, and provides easy access to the system's interior.

Sliding drive bays are implemented to increase maintenance efficiency, and the hard drive can be easily removed by lifting a ring lever.

Network management tools include Wired For Management, DMI 2.0 and Wake-On-LAN, while hardware security features include an anti-tamper switch, which is located on the system's chassis.

The machine is upgradable via five PCI slots and an AGP slot, and the two RIMM slots give this system a potential maximum memory capacity of 1GB when 512MB modules are introduced. A 17in Gateway monitor is included in the configuration and bundled software includes LANDesk Client Manager 6.0 although productivity software is lacking.

A three-year warranty, which includes one-year on-site service, is part of the standard issue.

PROs: Excellent performance, tool-less caseCONs: Lacks a productivity software bundleBeginner rating **Enthusiast rating **Acer AcerPower 8404One of the few fully featured business machines we have seen, the AcerPower 8404 is built upon the NS-VIA Apollo Pro 133A chip set, which provides the system with a fast 133MHz front-side bus speed. A 733MHz Pentium III processor is at the core of the system, while 128MB of PC133 SDRAM, an ATI Xpert 2000 graphics adapter with 32MB of memory, a 20.4GB hard drive, integrated sound and a 10/100 network adapter are part of the plentiful configuration.

An external Acer 56Kbps modem is included for Internet connectivity and/or faxing capabilities, and a set of Altec Lansing speakers is provided.

Our performance tests garnered great results in the 2D realm, but 3D tests showed the graphics subsystem to be a little sluggish, with the overall Norton Multimedia score reaching a paltry 33.2 (we also ran 3DMark 99 Max out of curiosity, and received 2792 3D Marks).

Beginner rating ****

Enthusiast rating *****

Dell Dimension L-500cx

Dell ensures that system installation is as painless as possible, with the inclusion of fold-out placemats, colour-coded plugs and quickly accessible registration numbers. In the performance department, the L-500cx registered a score of 37.7 in Norton's Multimedia, thanks largely to the SoundBlaster Live! sound card and fast CD-ROM drive. The $2570 price tag includes a three-year warranty with one year on-site.

Beginner rating ***

Enthusiast rating *

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