Top 10 Power PCs

SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - Most of the action on this month's power chart occurs in the lower echelons. The Kingdom Royale PIII-933 claims seventh spot.

Fueled by Intel Corp.'s newest processor, the Royale performs a tad slower than PIII-1000-enabled systems but at a much lower cost. It's a good choice if you need power but don't want to pay top dollar. CyberMax Inc.'s Enthusiast K7-950 slips onto the chart in tenth place, thanks to a robust feature set. Dell Computer Corp. discontinued its Dimension XPS B800r, allowing last month's number five PC, the Micron Electronics Inc. Millennia Max 800, to ride a US$150 price drop into the top spot.


WHAT'S HOT: A well-designed interior offers access to four open slots and five open drive bays, and the power supply swings out to clear even more maneuvering room. Text on the 19-inch Micron Trinitron CPD-4401 monitor stayed sharp up to the unbelievably high resolution of 2048 by 1536. Colors of test images appeared rich (albeit a tad dark).

WHAT'S NOT: At this price, the Millennia Max 800 provides neither a removable storage option nor a CD-RW drive. And this Pentium III-800 unit scored just 149 on our PC WorldBench 2000 tests--making it a scant 6 points faster than its PIII-677 sibling, the Millennia Max 667.

WHAT ELSE: This PC earns points for documentation, thanks to its setup poster and thorough system manual, but it lacked some component manuals. The midsize tower case features twin fans, a case lock, and a side that pops off smoothly (getting it back on requires some fiddling, however). The motherboard provides both Slot 1 and Socket 370 processor slots, so you can upgrade with either type of CPU.

BEST USE: With its excellent monitor, this PC makes a fine presentation system.


WHAT'S HOT: Running Windows 2000 Professional, this OptiPlex posted a PC WorldBench 2000 score of 165, trailing the two Windows NT machines and the two other Windows 2000 Pro PCs on the chart but outpacing the five Windows 98 PCs.

A tidy interior offers chassis intrusion detection, a case lock, a swing-out power supply, five open PCI slots, and three open (and toolless) drive bays.

Dell's 19-inch UltraScan P991 monitor delivers vibrant colors and crisp text at resolutions up to 1600 by 1200.

WHAT'S NOT: This $2813 OptiPlex is hardly cheap. Dell posts most documentation online; the hard copy of the main system manual contains the bare minimum, and you won't find paper documentation for individual components (though you can order it for free).

WHAT ELSE: Despite the easy-service chassis, the memory slots are buried, and the interior feels cramped until you swing the power supply out of the way.

Thanks to the 8X/4X/32X CD-Rewritable drive, making backups is convenient, fast, and easy.

BEST USE: For businesses that want fast, managed Windows 2000 systems, this OptiPlex workhorse offers substantial bang, albeit for beaucoup bucks.

New This Month


WHAT'S HOT: The keys to this Kingdom are extras you rarely find at this price ($2277): an LS-120 drive, Microsoft Office 2000 Professional, and a 15-inch ADI LD-521 flat-panel monitor, which delivers rich colors and sharp text, making it a good choice for space-constrained offices. Running Windows 2000 Professional, this new Pentium III-933 sped to an outstanding score of 171 on our PC WorldBench 2000 benchmark tests. A thick system manual offers thorough upgrade information, along with a detailed glossary of useful terms.

WHAT'S NOT: You have to remove four screws and wrestle with the case a bit to access the interior. The flat-panel display doesn't swivel sideways or pivot up and down into landscape mode--desirable features of other LCD panels.

WHAT ELSE: Expansion room abounds, with four open PCI slots and three open bays in the neat interior, but a support panel obstructs access to the bays.

BEST USE: A feature-rich machine for well-heeled and growing businesses ready to make the leap to Windows 2000.


WHAT'S HOT: With a 12X DVD-ROM drive, a Creative Labs FPS2000 Digital five-speaker set, and an excellent 19-inch CyberMax CX900DF flat-screen monitor--which delivered beautiful colors and crisp text at all normal resolutions--this CyberMax can produce top-notch multimedia presentations. It also offers both a V.90 modem and a network interface card for multiple connectivity options.

WHAT'S NOT: Documentation includes a quick-setup guide and adequate component manuals, but the overall system manual is limited to generic information not specific to this model. In our most recent reader survey, CyberMax earned only a Fair rating for system reliability.

WHAT ELSE: An 8X/4X/32X CD-RW drive means the system offers four different storage options--it also boasts a 20GB hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, and a floppy drive. The software bundle includes Corel's WordPerfect Office 2000.

With an Athlon-950 processor inside, the Enthusiast K7-950 earned a score of 153 on our PC WorldBench 2000 tests, ranking in the middle of the three similarly configured systems that we've tested. The midsize tower case looks cool, and opening it is a simple matter of loosening two thumbscrews and removing a side panel that comes off and goes back on smoothly. A tidy interior offers two open PCI slots and three open bays for expansion, but wiring blocked access to the RAM slots.

BEST USE: This Enthusiast machine would make a good choice for a cash-strapped, multimedia-inclined office.

Also of Note

Two contenders couldn't crack the chart this month. The specs alone of the $2799 Axis Terra AXK would seem to warrant a spot on the chart: This powerhouse features an Athlon-950 processor with 256MB of PC133 SDRAM, a 21-inch KDS VS-21E monitor, a 16X DVD-ROM drive, a hardware decoder card, a 10X/4X/32X CD-RW drive, and flat-panel Monsoon MH-500 speakers. But the Terra AXK scored lower than many Athlon-900s and -850s on our PC WorldBench 2000 tests. Colors on the monitor appeared washed out in our image tests, and text blurred at average resolutions. Worse, reader reports of poor tech support have dogged the company lately, leading to a downgrading of the company's tech support rating.

Axis says the problem is due to recent staff turnover and expects the problem to be temporary. We'll continue to monitor the company's technical support.

Meanwhile, despite a PIII-850 tugging at the reins, the new $2475 Tangent Medallion ProDV lands at the slow end of the performance scale (earning a 162 on PC WorldBench 2000 tests, behind similarly configured PIII-800 and -733 PCs we've tested). But it has some notable extras. The IntelliMouse with IntelliEye allows optical input--no mouse pad needed--and an IEEE 1394 expansion card lets you connect high-speed peripherals. Also, side-mounted pass-through ports for USB, headphones, and a microphone make connecting these devices easy. The 19-inch Optiquest Z90 monitor enhances the package with deep, rich colors and crisp text, but Tangent doesn't supply a modem or a network card, and a panel blocks some interior components.

Tech Trend

AGP Gets Faster With New Chip Set

Many of the PC chip sets that vendors use to build systems--including those on our budget chart--integrate graphics systems onto the motherboard for cost savings. But users who want faster graphics performance must add a PCI graphics card, and these cards are fast becoming relics. Intel's new chip sets--the 815 and the 815e--include support for AGP 4X graphics cards as well as for their standard integrated graphics.

"You can use this new integrated graphics functionality--[suitable for] mainstream graphics--or you can go with a separate AGP graphics card," says Intel spokesperson Dan Francisco. "It gives you a lot of flexibility."

The new chip sets also offer improved system memory support. While the higher-end 820 chip set--aimed at power users--supports only the more expensive Rambus memory, the 815 and 815e support PC133 SDRAM memory. "It's the first Intel chip set validated to run PC133 memory," Francisco explains. The chip sets also support Pentium III and Celeron processors, plus an integrated LAN connection and the new ATA100 standard for hard drives. Bottom line: The two chip sets will increase a system's overall expandability.

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