A Few Ticks Short of a Gigahertz

SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - For months, the news has been all about breaking the gigahertz barrier. But now several new processors from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. ratchet clock speed back a notch--and chop the price by a bunch. Usually, processor clock speeds (and prices) march in only one direction: forward. The Kingdom Royale PIII-933 and the CyberMax Enthusiast K7-950 did perform slightly slower than the 1-GHz systems we've tested, but the difference is unnoticeable for most everyday business applications--and these systems cost far less than those with gigahertz processors. The gigahertz systems competing for chart positions cost an average of US$3425, while the CyberMax and the Kingdom cost more than $1000 less.

Stepping down to either an 850-MHz or 900-MHz system won't cost you much in performance but will gain you a lot of pocket change. And vendors frequently include extras, such as a larger monitor or 256MB of RAM instead of 128MB, to adorn these not-quite-cutting-edge PCs and make them more attractive.

Meanwhile Intel's Pentium IIIs still outperform AMD's Athlons--but that situation may change over the coming months. AMD recently introduced a new version of Athlon processors--previously referred to as Thunderbird--that use on-chip Level 2 cache to generate faster performance (Pentium III chips already have this capability). Previous Athlons used off-chip Level 2 cache. We'll keep you informed about how these chips perform.

Monitoring The View

On the Top 10 Monitors chart, the new ViewSonic EF70 bolts past the competition to take the number one position thanks to a low price, crisp image quality, and easy-to-use on-screen controls. Meanwhile Sony's MultiScan CPD-E200 holds steady in the number two spot, where it debuted on our February chart. This month, the prices on half of the Top 10 17-inch monitors hover in the vicinity of $300.

Three new Best Buys grace the notebook Top 15, with Gateway claiming the top spot on both the power and midrange charts. The Gateway Solo 9300XL offers such compelling features as two multipurpose drive bays for docking an extra hard drive, a DVD-ROM drive, or an extra battery. The Solo 9300XL is gussied up with a big screen and a useful IEEE 1394 port, good for speedy downloads of content-rich multimedia files. If the head of your accounting office is threatening to close your expense account, you might instead want to take a look at the Solo 9300XL's inexpensive cousin on the midrange chart, the Gateway Solo 2550LS, which offers very good battery life in addition to an LS-120 drive.

Number Nine Deep-Sixed

Finally, number nine Visual Technology, which made integrated and stand-alone graphics hardware for consumer and business PCs, has ceased operation. Though the company shut down telephone technical support for its products, online technical support and updated drivers will continue to be available at its Web site, www.nine.com.

Freelance writer Joel Strauch and PC World editors Lisa Cekan, Katharine Dvorak, Mick Lockey, Kalai Murugesan, Kalpana Narayanamurthi, Karen Silver, and Alan Stafford contributed to the articles in this month's Top 100. Testing was performed by Curt Buehler, Ulrike Diehlmann, Robert James, Elliot Kirschling, Jeff Kuta, Thomas Luong, Sean Tieu, and John Tjon of the PC World Test Center.

See page 18 for contact information.

Your Guide to the Top 100

Questions about our charts? The following information should answer them.

How do the charts work? Each month we test a large number of PCs, printers, scanners, monitors, graphics boards, and modems, and compare them with previously reviewed products. Only the best products land on the Top 10 and Top 15 charts, which are refreshed monthly. System configurations are shown as tested. Vendors may have since changed components.

What does the overall rating mean? This 100-point scale reflects results from our hands-on evaluations and performance tests. A score in the 90s is exceptional, while one in the 70s is above average.

What does the PC WorldBench 2000 score mean? It's a measure of how fast a PC can run a mix of common business applications as compared with our baseline machine, an HP Pavilion 8380 with a PII-400 CPU, 96MB of RAM, and an 8GB hard drive. For example, a PC that scores 200 is twice as fast as the baseline system.

Where do the scores for reliability, support quality, and support policies come from? Reliability and support quality scores are based on surveys of PC World readers and on anonymous support calls made by PC World staff. The policies score is based on vendor support policies.

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