Web workhorses – review of seven desktop computer systems – Build Your Own Web Site – Hardware Review – Evaluation

Bonny Georgia

Gallop Through Cyberspace With One of These Seven Multimedia Systems

Product List:

Acer Aspire 2761

Dell Dimension XPSM200s

Gateway 2000 P5-200 MMX

Micron Millennia MXE P200

Packard Bell Platinum 2240

Power Computing PowerBase 200

Quantex QP5/200 SM-3

Though this system is a top performer, there is room for improvement. Unlike the Dell Dimension, the Millennia has no USB ports, and the center placement of its drive bays makes them difficult to reach when the tower is on the floor. Also annoying was the system’s On/Off switch, which required precise manipulation. Still, if what you need is a powerhouse PC with all the trimmings, look no further.

Packard Bell Platinum 2240

RATING: ** 1/2

Getting a feature-packed system for $2,699 (estimated street) sounds like a bargain hunter’s dream, but the Packard Bell Platinum 2240 fell short of our expectations for a Web-worthy office PC.

In our application tests the Packard Bell was a decent performer, but it crunched Web pages and booted applications noticeably slower than all but the Acer, most likely due to having only 256K of secondary cache. The Platinum 2240’s hard disk arrived stuffed with family-oriented software in addition to such useful titles as Microsoft Works 4.0, Microsoft Money, PrintMaster Gold, and Quicken SE, but these programs don’t compare with the office suites found on other systems in this roundup.

Packard Bell scrimps on some of the system’s more important components. Its 33.6Kbps telephony modem is a comfortable speed for Web cruising, but like the Acer, it’s built into the sound card, leaving you with a configuration nightmare on your hands if you decide to upgrade one or the other. The 3D Virge video adapter lacks the extra 2MB of VRAM necessary to display true 32-bit color on the 0.28ram dot-pitch 17-inch monitor. Would-be buyers should plan on shelling out for a replacement mouse and keyboard since the uncomfortable design and flimsy construction of the ones bundled with the system will do your hands and wrists no favors.

Overall, the Platinum 2240 is fast enough to handle most office tasks easily, and the price is right, if you already have all the software you need. But if you’re looking for a well-built Web workhorse, consider one of our top-rated models, such as the Dell or Micron instead.

Power Computing

PowerBase 200



If what you need is a rugged Mac system at a bargain-basement price, check out the Power Computing PowerBase 200. Although its 2GB hard disk doesn’t quite meet our preferred 3GB criteria, this system’s performance rivals that of Gateway 2000’s, and it will let you handle tough Adobe Photoshop files and build slick-looking Web pages easily. In addition, its 16-bit stereo sound system featuring Labtec Spatializer speakers put DeWs to shame. To save you money and add flexibility, the PowerBase features both Mac ADB and PC PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard connections as well as a VGA port for connecting any PC monitor without an adapter.

The 0.26ram dot-pitch 17-inch Power Computing monitor will be kind to your eyes with its rock-solid resolution at 1,024 by 768 with a 75HZ refresh rate–a picture as good as Quantex Princeton Graphics’s monitor display. However, we discovered its odd combination of analog dials and onscreen controls made it easy to overcorrect settings; we were also disappointed with only 2MB of VRAM. Like the Acer and the Packard Bell, Power Computing bundles an integrated works package (Claris Works) instead of a full office suite, but you also get Now Up-to-Date calendar software and Now Contact for managing your clients, plus Global Village Fax Center for use with the external Teleport 33.6Kbps fax-modem.

For its low $2,489 price, you do have to make some small sacrifices. You’ll only get a 2GB hard disk, 256K of secondary cache, an 8x CD-ROM, and an external modem with no telephony features. Plus, as a desktop system, you’ll also give up some of the expansion space found on minitower machines. But overall, we were pleased with the PowerBase 200’s business4evel performance,

Quantex QP5/200 SM-3


The 200MHz Quantex QP5/200 SM-3 with MMX keeps its price low while including a terrific Princeton Graphics 17-inch monitor.

Ranked third overall in performance testing, the Quantex effortlessly published complicated Web pages and didn’t show signs of slowing when using resource-hogging applications. Graphics gurus will appreciate the 4GB hard drive and Panasonic PD optical storage drive, which can archive up to 650MB of files on one cartridge and doubles as a second CD-ROM drive. Like the Dell, this system features a high-end Matrox Millennium video card with 4MB of VRAM and a 32-voice wavetable Ensoniq VIVO sound card. Multimedia and MMX titles benefit from a tiny but effective pair of Altec Lansing speakers with subwoofer, which lack separate On/Off switches and are not quite as powerful as those found on the Dell.

Nearly all the hardware in this PC is top-notch, but we were disappointed to see Quantex using an old-style, fat keyboard port, which means you’ll need an adapter to use newer keyboards. We also encountered a loose parallel port connection, the result of a broken screw inside the machine. Despite these minor glitches, Quantex delivers a lot for less to your office desktop. Massachusetts-based writer BONNY GEORGIA reviews hardware and software for this magazine. She cowrote “Save 10 Hours A Week,” which appeared in the September 1996 issue.


Multimedia Computers

Acer Aspire 2761

*** $2,698

Dell Dimension XPSM200s

*** 1/2 $2,699

Gateway 2000 P5-200 MMX

*** $2,6O8

Micron Millennia MXE P200 BEST BUY

*** 1/2 $2,708

Packard Bell Platinum 2240

** 1/2 $2,699

PowerComputing PowerBase 200

*** $2,489

Quantex QP5/200 SM-3

*** $2,698

In Brief: The Micron Millennia MXE P200 and the Dell Dimension XPSM200s feature fast MMX processors, roomy hard drives, full office suites, and infinite configurability. The Micron earns our Best Buy because it’s the fastest of the group. The Quantex QP5/200 SM-3 offers great performance and features such as a built-in 650MB Panasonic PD optical storage drive. Gateway 2000’s P5-200 packs 48MB of RAM but was a mediocre performer. The Acer Aspire 2761 was one of the slowest. Without a monitor, the Packard Bell Platinum 2240 has a budget price, but like the Acer its features will appeal more to home users than home offices.

Questions for Your Salesperson

1. How easy is it to remove the case for upgrades?

2. What is your return policy?

3. Can I swap the software bundle?

About Our Ratings: The one-to-four-star ratings are based on performance, features, setup, ease of use, availability, warranty, support, documentation, and price. When a product tests well and is exceptionally priced, we award it a Best Buy designation.

* Poor

** Fair BEST BUY

*** Good

**** Excellent


Glossary of Terms

CACHE. Keeps recently stored instructions and data readily accessible, which dramatically speeds up software. Most systems ship with at least 256K of secondary cache.

EIDE. An interface for connected hard drives, tape drives, or CD-ROM drives, enhanced integrated drive electronics doubles the data transfer speed of older IDE interfaces and brings the number of drives a PC can house up to four.

EDO RAM. Extended data out RAM is an advanced type of readable/writable memory that can increase overall system performance up to 10 percent over regular standard DRAM.

MMX. A chip with a set of 57 extra instructions built into new versions of Intel’s Pentium microprocessors to enhance multimedia and graphics performance.

SDRAM. Synchronous DRAM is faster than standard EDO RAM. SDRAM comes in long, thin modules (DIMMS) that can be added one at a time rather than in pairs (as with SIMMS). Unfortunately, you pay for this convenience-SDRAM DIMMS are more expensive than their EDO SIMM counterparts.

USB. Universal serial bus is a new connection standard for external peripherals promoted by Intel that may eventually supplant the use of VGA, serial, parallel, and SCSI ports. It includes built-in power distribution for such low-power devices as digital cameras, and it supports daisy-chaining. Currently, almost no products are available that support it.

VRAM. Video RAM is designed for storing the image to be displayed on a computer’s monitor. The more your system has, the more colors and higher the resolution your monitor can display. Most computers come with 2MB of VRAM or DRAM, but 4MB is best for true 32-bit color and the highest possible resolution.

Your Personal Shopper

Because most of the systems in this review are available through mail order (Acer and Packard Bell are the exceptions), remember that you can tweak your order to get what you need (like a Zip drive or another 16MB of RAM) and eliminate what you don’t (such as extraneous software). The beauty of mail order is that it allows you to buy a system that suits you and your budget exactly. Take advantage of it.

–Catherine Greenman, Hardware Editor [TABULAR DATA OMITTED]

COPYRIGHT 1997 Freedom Technology Media Group

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

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