Top 15 Home PCs

SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - Two sections of the Top 15 accept new entrants this month, while price drops shake things up even more. Dell Computer Corp.

Dimension systems continue to dominate the power and midrange divisions, but the budget chart has a new leader. The Quantex Corp. M650 earns a spot at number one with a $250 price cut from last month that shifts it from the midrange to the budget level.

1 DELL DIMENSION XPS B733R

WHAT'S HOT: The Dell Dimension XPS B733r retains its top spot on the power chart with a price drop of $410. This impressive system packs plenty of processing power and lots of extra features. Its Pentium III-733 CPU is complemented by 128MB of RDRAM, which is supposed to speed memory-intensive applications (though we haven't detected any dramatic benefits at current CPU speeds). Together they pushed this Dimension to a PC WorldBench 2000 score of 146. Its bundled graphics board, using NVidia's GeForce 256 chip set and 64MB of DDR SDRAM (twice as much as most other graphics boards), delivered excellent speed and stunning images in games. A digital video-out connector on the graphics board accommodates digital displays, most commonly flat panel. The included modem supports both V.90 and DSL technologies for high-speed digital Web access. The Harman/Kardon HK595 sound system--with a subwoofer almost the size of an end table--produces strong sound and thumping bass. Dell also receives great service and reliability scores.

WHAT'S NOT: Even at its reduced price, $2589 is still a lot to pay for a home PC. Though you get a big 20GB hard drive and a 100MB Iomega Zip drive, we would have liked to see a CD-RW drive included for that kind of money.

WHAT ELSE: Text and graphics looked crisp and clear at a resolution of 1280 by 1024 on the 19-inch Dell M990 monitor. An excellent instruction sheet and thorough documentation make setup simple, and the easy-off cover helps with adding cards and drives. The spacious interior holds 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 19-inch Dell M990 monitor, and small fonts appeared crisp at 1280 by 1024 resolution. If you plan to use this PC with a high-speed DSL connection, the bundled V.90/DSL modem delivers. The T600r's interior allows easy access to its three available PCI slots and four open drive bays.

WHAT'S NOT: The system's ATI Rage 128 Pro graphics card produced middling scores on 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 solid, no-frills keyboard permits adequate key travel. Bundled software includes Microsoft Works Suite 2000 and Norton AntiVirus 2000.

BEST USE: This strong, if slightly pricey, PC is suitable for day-to-day computing chores as well as multimedia tasks.

1 QUANTEX M650

WHAT'S HOT: The M650's $1099 price is $250 lower than it was a month ago, making this computer far less expensive than a typical Pentium III-650 system.

Its two open PCI slots and four open drive bays allow you to add components easily.

WHAT'S NOT: The Quantex M650's PC WorldBench 2000 score of 132 is a tad below average for its CPU class (though it's quite good for a budget system). In addition, the PC turned in slow performance on our 3D-gaming tests and displayed exaggerated contrast in Quake 3 Arena scenes. DVD movie playback remained a bit dark even after we chose the highest possible brightness settings in the DVD player software.

WHAT ELSE: Cables and connectors are clearly marked and color-coded, but a poorly illustrated setup poster offers little guidance. The generic user manual accompanying the M650 covers the basics but contains little information specific to this PC. The attractive software bundle includes Corel WordPerfect Office 2000, Grolier Encyclopedia, and McAfee VirusScan.

BEST USE: Home-office users who know their way around a PC and have little need for fast graphics processing will find this system an outstanding bargain.

What's New

Of the six new systems we tested this month, two did well enough to earn spots on the chart--one each in the power and midrange price classes. Number two on the power side is the Micron Millennia Max 733, one of the fastest PIII-733 home PCs ever. It comes with a 19-inch 900LX monitor, which displayed rich color and readable text. The system's DVD movie playback was a bit dark, but adjusting the monitor brightness helped.

On the midrange chart, the CyberMax ValueMax 700 debuts at number four. Its 140 score on PC WorldBench 2000 is tops for a 700-MHz Athlon machine--and at just $1249, this ValueMax justifies its name. Its biggest drawback is a blurry CyberMax CX700DP monitor.

Contributing Editor Kirk Steers also writes Hardware Tips 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).

*Quantex M500c

*Kaypro 6100

*IDot Explora A450

*IBM Aptiva E Series 805.

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