EXECTECH: Business PCs

ExecTech is a regular review of the best buys from PC World's test lab.

This issue, Elias Plastiras looks at business PCs.

1 Dell Dimension L-500cx

The Dell Dimension L-500cx is based on the popular 810 chipset from Intel, utilising a Celeron processor running at 500MHz.

The configuration features 128MB of SDRAM, a 15GB ATA66 hard drive, a SoundBlaster Live! Value sound card, 10/100 PCI Ethernet adapter and integrated graphics equipped with 4MB of display cache.

All these components are housed in a tool-less microtower casing, which can be dismantled at the push of a button. In addition, the external drives are mounted on railings, which makes replacing a drive a quick and easy task.

For security, a Kensington lock is located at the rear of the case. Expansion is limited, there being only one CD-ROM-sized drive bay and only one free floppy-sized bay.

Service and support is a feature of this machine, as is ease of set-up. In the performance department, the L-500cx registered a high Norton's Multimedia score, mainly due to the SoundBlaster Live! sound card and fast CD-ROM drive.

The machine averaged 205 over its three runs in PC WorldBench 99.

Pros: Good performance, ease of use, small footprintCons: Limited expansionBeginner rating: ****Enthusiast rating: *2 Compaq iPaq Legacy FreePerhaps the most elegant computer system ever to pass through the Test Centre, the Compaq iPaq's attractiveness as a business machine shines through in its low price point and its ease of deployment and use.

Being a legacy-free device, there is no support for old devices such as PCI slots, ISA slots, serial ports or parallel ports. All connectivity is handled by USB technology - it has five ports altogether, with two being front loading, which makes peripheral installation quick and easy.

A built-in Intel Pro/100+ management adapter handles network connectivity, while the operating environment is Windows 2000 Professional Edition. The configuration of our machine included a 500MHz Celeron CPU, 64MB of SDRAM and a tiny, 4GB ATA66 hard drive. Based on an Intel 810e chipset, the graphics and sound capabilities of the machine are embedded on the motherboard.

Physically, the unit is very small, about 26cm deep, 36cm high and 15cm wide.

On the inside, the hard drive and the memory are the only components that are user serviceable; these are accessed by removing the right side panel of the unit.

There is only space for one hard drive, but replacing it with one of larger capacity is quite easy. Two DIMM slots give the machine a total memory capacity of 512MB. On the left side of the unit resides the multi-bay, home to the CD drive.

Both the keyboard and the mouse are USB devices. The mouse contains a scroll-wheel, which is one of the most user-friendly additions ever made to a peripheral, and the keyboard features Internet shortcut keys for common tasks such as sending e-mail.

The iPaq ships with Windows 2000. A recovery CD is included, which can be used to restore the machine to its factory state if something suddenly goes wrong.

For just $1530 including 15in monitor, this machine is good looking, space saving, easy to use and an adequate performer. A one-year on-site warranty is included.

Pros: Elegant design, small footprint

Cons: Very limited expandability, tiny hard driveBeginner rating: *****Enthusiast rating: *3 Dell Precision 220Although the Precision 220 looks clunky in design, it is definitely not clunky in performance. At its core is a dual-processor motherboard based on Intel's i820 chipset, housing two 866MHz Intel Pentium III microprocessors. The graphics adapter will also make you think you're seeing double, as it comes configured with a Matrox Millennium G400 Max Dual Head card that can display output on two screens concurrently via its two VGA connectors.

The graphics system is supportive of 4x AGP operation. The memory system is of the Rambus variety and there are two RIMM slots available for memory modules.

Our review machine came equipped with 256MB of memory. Elsewhere, ATA66-enabled transmission is afforded to the 20.4GB Western Digital hard drive, and the power supply of the system is 230W. Motherboard features include on-board sound and 3Com 10/100 switchable network connectivity.

As previously mentioned, the machine's desktop design is bulky and will take up a square of about 43cm on the desk. The case cover is removable without the aid of screwdrivers - pressing the buttons on either side of the top will release it and enable you to pull it off from the front, although it's a little tricky putting it back on.

Performance comes at a price, and this machine's wealthy configuration will set you back $7487. A three-year (one-year on-site) warranty is provided and includes three-year, next business day on-site service.

Pros: Excellent performance

Cons: Large footprint, price

Beginner rating: *

Enthusiast rating: **

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