Top 10 Home PCs

SAN FRANCISCO (05/01/2000) - Half of the PCs in our power and midrange ranks are new. Two debuting Dell Computer Corp. offerings--the Dimension XPS B733r and the Dimension XPS T600r--take the Best Buy in each category. Meanwhile, Gateway 2000 Inc.'s Select 850 broke the home-PC speed record with a PC WorldBench 2000 score of 150, thanks to an Athlon-850 CPU. For less money, consider Quantex's speedy GX800 or its workhorse M750.

1 DELL DIMENSION XPS B733R

WHAT'S HOT: This system packs plenty of processing power and extra features.

Its Pentium III-733 CPU is complemented by 128MB of the new RDRAM, which is supposed to speed memory-intensive applications (though we haven't detected any dramatic benefits from it at current CPU speeds). Together they pushed this Dimension to a PC WorldBench 2000 score of 146--the fastest we've seen for this processor class. The XPS B733r's bundled Celestica graphics board, which uses NVidia's GeForce 256 chip set and 64MB of DDR SDRAM (twice as much as on most other graphics boards), delivered excellent speed and stunning images in games.

A digital video-out connector on the graphics board accommodates flat-panel displays. The included modem supports both V.90 and broadband DSL technologies for high-speed Web access. The Harman/Kardon HK595 sound system--with a subwoofer almost the size of an end table--produces strong sound and thumping bass.

WHAT'S NOT: These days, $2999 is a lot to pay for a home PC. Even taking the big 20GB hard drive and 100MB Iomega Zip drive into account, we would have liked to see a CD-RW drive included for that price.

WHAT ELSE: Text and graphics looked crisp and clear at 1280 by 1024 resolution on the Dell M990 19-inch monitor. An excellent instruction sheet and thorough documentation make setup easy, and the PC's easy-off cover simplifies adding cards and drives. Inside the case, a spacious interior offers three open PCI slots and three open drive bays. Dell provides some basic software--Microsoft Works Suite 2000 and Norton AntiVirus 2000.

BEST USE: This DSL-ready PC is ideal for graphics work and 3D games, thanks to its fast CPU and killer graphics card.

1 DELL DIMENSION XPS T600R

WHAT'S HOT: Dell's Dimension XPS T600r earns a PC WorldBench 2000 score of 136--very high for a Pentium III-600E unit. On the multimedia front, DVD movie playback looked sharp on the Dell M990 19-inch monitor, and small fonts were crisp at 1280 by 1024 resolution. If you plan to use this PC with a high-speed DSL connection, the bundled dual V.90/DSL modem delivers. The T600r's interior provides easy access to its three available PCI slots and four available drive bays.

WHAT'S NOT: The system's ATI Rage 128 Pro graphics card produced middle-of-the road performance in our 3D-gaming tests. Some images in Expendable looked blocky.

WHAT ELSE: An illustrated setup poster and clearly marked cables make setting up this PC a cinch. We also liked the Altec Lansing ACS340 speakers and subwoofer, which produced crisp sound. The no-frills keyboard feels solid and permits adequate key travel. Bundled software includes Microsoft Works Suite 2000 and Norton AntiVirus 2000.

BEST USE: This strong, reasonably affordable PC is suitable for day-to-day computing chores and multimedia tasks.

1 DELL WEBPC

WHAT'S HOT: This affordable PC's small footprint is approximately the size of a place mat. Its slight, hourglass-shaped, black plastic case measures about 10 inches in both depth and height--ideal for anyone with limited desk space.

Setup is simple, too: Just connect the mouse and the keyboard to separate USB ports, attach a phone line to the modem port, plug in the power cord, and you're in business.

WHAT'S NOT: The WebPC did poorly in our performance tests, earning a PC WorldBench 2000 score of 86--the slowest of all systems competing for a chart position. It also produced occasionally choppy 3D-gaming performance. Since the WebPC has no expansion slots or drive bays, the only part you can upgrade internally is its memory. And because it relies on USB ports for external expansion, you'll need an adapter if you want to connect such devices as parallel-port printers. The machine forgoes a floppy drive, but our test unit came with a 120MB external LS-120 drive, along with two SuperDisks. (Without the removable-storage drive, the PC would cost $699.)WHAT ELSE: Graphics and text looked good at 800 by 600 resolution on the 15-inch monitor. The keyboard has three handy programmable buttons and two USB ports. You also get a software bundle with Microsoft Works Suite 2000 and McAfee VirusScan.

BEST USE: The WebPC is great for budget-minded, space-inhibited shoppers but not for future upgraders.

What's New

Two quantex systems parlay fast performance and great value into Top 15 rankings this month. The GX800 on our power chart is a high-powered machine with lots of extras, including a Sony 4X/2X/24X CD-RW drive, a gaming joystick and three games--Civilization Call to Power, Heretic 2, and Heavy Gear 2. These features make it an ideal choice for serious gaming, intense graphics, or formula-intensive spreadsheet work.

Although the midrange Quantex M750 doesn't perform as well as the GX800 in games, it's still a terrific buy. The M750 is a prime pick for home or office users with relatively modest computing needs.

Kirk Steers is a contributing editor for PC World.

Also New This Month

We evaluated the following systems along with the others, but they didn't score high enough to reach the Top 15 Home PCs chart. For write-ups, visit PCWorld.com (www.pcworld.com/top400/newhomepcs).

*Compaq Presario 5900Z-850

*Compaq Presario EZ2700.

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