Stories by Mick Lockey

A Few Ticks Short of a Gigahertz

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.

Big Values from Small Vendors

While names such as Axis Systems Inc., Micro Express, and Quantex Corp. may not register as strongly as brands like Dell Computer Corp., IBM Corp., and Gateway 2000 Inc., many of these smaller vendors sell desktop systems that would impress even the most brand-loyal fan of big-name machines. Packed with high-end features and topflight warranties, PCs from some less-familiar manufacturers offer enough value to place high in our Top 30 charts--and even dominate one of them.

Listen Up! Hear E-Mail, Web Information by Phone

The next time you need a quick bit of information from the Net, you may not need to boot up your PC. With a new type of service called voice portals, you can use a phone and your voice to retrieve up-to-date traffic and weather reports, financial news, stock quotes, restaurant reviews, and other useful morsels. The services may appeal to business travelers and people who already depend heavily on cell phones for convenience.

The Skinny on Sony's Less-Is-More LCD

All LCD monitors are slim, but the Sony Corp. SDM-N50 takes skinny to a new level: It's a scant 0.75 inches thick--half the depth of most competitors. However, this petite 15-inch LCD comes with a full-size $1499 price tag.

18-Inch LCD for a Bargain Price

It looks a bit like an Etch-a-Sketch, but Nokia's new 18-inch 800Pro+ goes far beyond child's play. Aimed at bankers, traders and deep-pocketed CEOs, the 800Pro+ costs US$2,999. Though high by most standards, that's one of the lowest prices we've seen for an LCD this size -- about $500 below comparable competitors. And this shipping unit's picture quality is terrific.