Exectech: BUSINESS PCs

ExecTech is a fortnightly review of the best buys from PC World's test centre. In this issue, Elias Plastiras looks at business PCs.

1 Gateway E-4400

Power-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 will ship with either 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 antitamper 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 **2 Acer AcerPower Sn14Utilising a 650MHz Pentium III processor, the AcerPower Sn14 is a potent little system when it comes to business application performance. We ran PC WorldBench 98, PC WorldBench 2000 and SYSMark 2000 and received results of 257, 130 and 128, respectively. The configuration includes 128MB of SDRAM, a 15GB hard drive, a 40x CD-ROM drive and a 16MB graphics adapter powered by a TNT2 chip set.

The system is built upon a motherboard that is based on the Ali Aladdin Pro chip set and features an on-board sound controller. The other components, such as graphics and networking, are not integrated, and this makes the system expandable for the future. It contains an AGP slot, three PCI slots and two DIMM slots for memory, while the CPU connection is of the Slot 1 variety.

Housed in a lockable microtower ATX case, the machine has an average footprint size and can be easily placed underneath a desk for convenience if desk space is at a premium. Maintenance is facilitated by the implementation of a swing-out drive bay that lets you easily replace the floppy and hard drives. On the floor of the machine is a handy sticker that identifies the layout of the motherboard and all its connections.

An integral part of a business computer system is its monitor. Acer ships its AcerPower Sn14 with a good-looking 17in AcerView monitor, and this offers a comfortable 15.9in of viewing area at a flicker-free resolution of 1024x768 at 89Hz. Network management is aided by the Ethernet adapter's Wake-On-LAN support. Business productivity software includes Lotus SmartSuite Millennium, Quicken and BizSmart, Acer's own Internet portal that simplifies online information gathering.

Offered for a price of $2499, the machine comes with excellent support, including a three-year (one-year on-site) warranty.

Pros: Good 2D performance

Cons: None

Beginner rating ****

Enthusiast rating ***

3 Dell Dimension L-500cx

Dell has gone to great lengths to ensure 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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