The Leap to 1 Gigahertz

SAN FRANCISCO (05/26/2000) - Bigger, better, faster. We all want the best available, whether it be houses, cars, or our desktop PC. This month for the first time, the Top 100 looked at 1-gigahertz PCs, and found out that more isn't always better. At least, not yet.

We looked at two systems, Gateway 2000 Inc.'s Select 1000 and Polywell's Poly 800K7-1000, both with Athlon-1000 chips. We haven't yet seen a 1-GHz Pentium III system in the Top 100. As reported in May's Top of the News (www.pcworld.com/may00/1gig), Intel Corp. is shipping its 1-GHz chips in limited quantities until the third quarter, which limits the units available for evaluation.

The Gateway Select 1000 earned a score of 155 on our PC WorldBench 2000 tests --impressive, but just a few points higher than similarly equipped Athlon-800 systems we've seen. The Select 1000 is also expensive at $2899. Still, it squeaked onto the power chart at number ten. The Poly 800K7-1000 showed one of the highest scores we've seen yet for a Windows 98 system--162. But this Poly didn't make the Top 10 Power PCs chart due to its bank-breaking price of $3388.

For superlative speed from a system running Windows NT, check out the Terra AXD. Its PC WorldBench 2000 score of 194, coupled with a moderate price for a power system, helped this new entry from Axis Systems grab second place on the power chart. But this score is still four points behind the Sys Performance 850A, which, despite a $100 increase in price from last month, holds its number nine spot on the chart.

Two new Pentium III-866 systems posted impressive scores on PC WorldBench 2000--the Dell Dimension XPS B866r, number seven on the Power chart, and the AcerPower 8600 (which missed the chart due to its high price). This Acer, running Windows 98, scored a 157 on our performace test suite, in line with comparably powerful Windows 98-based Pentium and Athlon systems.

On The Home PCs Front

Significant price drops and three relatively inexpensive new systems shake up the Top 15 Home PCs chart this month. Dell, with a whopping $410 drop in the price of the Dimension XPS B733r, keeps a firm hold on the number one spot on the power list. CyberMax adds the ValueMax 700 to the midrange section (it debuts at number four), with an Athlon-700 CPU and an impressive PC WorldBench 2000 score of 140. The price is nice, too, at only $1249.

New R&S Ratings

New Reliability and Service reader survey results are incorporated into this month's Top 100 charts. Unfortunately, we saw no improvement over our last report in January. Only Dell was able to score high enough to rate as Outstanding for the reliability of both its business and its home systems; work PCs from Gateway, IBM, and Micron maintained a Good reliability rating.

Dell home PC users usually said they are "very satisfied" with the company's service and support; owners of Micron PCs told a different story, as Micron dropped a notch in every service measure. And while readers told us that their notebooks tend to break down less often than in the past, they didn't rate any company as Outstanding for either reliability or service.

Freelance writer Joel Strauch and PC World editors Sean Captain, Lisa Cekan, Eric Dahl, Katharine Dvorak, Mick Lockey, Kalai Murugesan, Kalpana Narayanamurthi, Karen Silver, and Alan Stafford contributed to the Top 100 this month. Testing 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 16 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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