Pentium III-800s: Bit More Speedy, Lot More Pricey

SAN FRANCISCO (03/06/2000) - Intel Corp. has upped the ante in the high-stakes megahertz game with its new PIII-800. We tested two of the first PIII-800-based systems--a Dell Computer Corp. Dimension that set a new PC WorldBench 98 record and a slower, home-oriented Hewlett-Packard Co. Pavilion. These systems are only a couple of percentage points faster than their PIII-700 or PIII-733 siblings, making it difficult to justify their price premiums of several hundred dollars.

One Hot Number

Our preProduction Dell Dimension XPS/B 800r was priced at $3399. Running Windows NT 4.0 with 128MB of PC700 RDRAM, the Dell turned in a WorldBench score of 388. That's 4 percent higher than the previous speed records set by PIII-700 and Athlon-700 systems also running NT. You Probably won't notice this small margin on normal business applications, but it might matter for workstation-oriented tasks like 3D graphics, CAD, or software development.

Serious gamers may also Value the speed difference. Otherwise, you can save $410 by buying a similarly Configured PIII-733 Dimension XPS B733r.

Our unit came with a 20GB hard drive, a handy 8X CD-RW drive; NVidia's respected GeForce 256 graphics card with 32MB of RAM; an exceptionally crisp and bright 19-inch Trinitron monitor; and an Iomega Zip 100 drive. Business users will appreciate the combination G.lite DSL/V.90 modem-10/100 ethernet card and the ample software bundle: Corel WordPerfect Suite 8, Micrografx Suite, Simply3D, Webcharter, Adaptec EZ CD Creator, Direct CD, Norton Utilities, and Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. And Dell's top service and reliability are of further appeal.

Dell includes a coupon for a free Windows 2000 upgrade, but be prepared to pay dearly for extra memory: 128MB of RDRAM goes for $880.

Try This at Home

Targeted squarely at the home user, HP's sleek, slate and cobalt-blue Pavilion 9690c comes with a gargantuan 40GB hard drive, 128MB of SDRAM, CD-RW and DVD-ROM drives, and nice-sounding Polk Audio speakers. The 17-inch monitor in this $2798 package is adequate, if not outstanding. The Pavilion also comes with both DSL and V.90 modems. Software includes Microsoft Works and Money, Trellix Web authoring, and Microsoft Encarta.

HP also Provides multimedia drivers, Internet Center software, Adaptec's DirectCD Wizard, McAfee VirusScan, and a multimedia keyboard with a volume knob and one-touch buttons for launching applications or Web browsing.

But many of these extras run in the background and drag down performance. Our shipping model, running Windows 98SE, turned in a PC WorldBench score of 300.

That's 9 points lower than the Polywell Poly 800K7-800, an Athlon-800 system running Windows 98 SE; and it's only 12 points higher than the similarly Configured PIII-733-based Pavilion 8595c, which costs $300 less. Furthermore, HP's home PCs were rated only Fair in our last Reliability and Service survey.

These two systems are built for very different types of customers. But they both demonstrate that Intel's latest CPU delivers, at best, a very modest performance imProvement over its predecessors. Most users will not find the barely detectable speed gains worth an extra few hundred dollars.

--Michelle Campanale-Surkan

Dell's Dimension XPS/B 800R, running Windows NT4.0 with 128MB of PC700 RDRAM, set a new PC WorldBench 98 record.

Dell Dimension XPS/B 800r

Pro: Fastest system we've tested; top-notch 19-inch monitor; multiple Connection options.

Con: 4 percent speed hike costs over $300; pricey RDRAM upgrades.

Value: Expensive powerhouse for demanding business users.

Street price: $3399

Dell Computer


Hewlett-Packard Pavilion 9690c

Pro: Lots of multimedia software, gargantuan hard drive.

Con: Slower than some PIII-750-based systems.

Value: Worthwhile for home users who Value Convenience and storage.

Street price: $2798



Product Info No. 686

These Products have been evaluated using tests designed by the PC World Test Center.

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