Technology ExecTech: Business PCs

ExecTech is a regular feature covering the best buys from PC World's test lab. In this issue, Elias Plastiras looks at business PCs1 Acer AcerPower Sn14Using a 650MHz Pentium III processor, the AcerPower Sn14 is a potent little system when it comes to business application performance. We ran PC WorldBench 98, PC WorldBench 2000 and SYSMark 2000 and received results of 257, 130 and 128, respectively. The configuration includes 128MB of SDRAM, a 15GB hard drive, a 40x CD-ROM drive and a 16MB graphics adapter powered by a TNT2 chip set.

The system is built on a motherboard that is based on the Ali Aladdin Pro chip set and features an on-board sound controller. The other components, such as graphics and networking, are not integrated, and this makes the system expandable for the future. It contains an AGP slot, three PCI slots and two DIMM slots for memory, while the CPU connection is of the Slot 1 variety.

Maintenance is facilitated by the implementation of a swing-out drive bay that lets you easily replace the floppy and hard drives. On the floor of the machine is a handy sticker that identifies the layout of the motherboard and all its connections. There is a case tamper switch, but it was not connected.

An integral part of a business computer system is its monitor. Acer ships its AcerPower Sn14 with a good-looking 17in AcerView monitor, and this offers a comfortable 15.9in of viewing area at a flicker-free resolution of 1024x768 at 89Hz. A set of AOpen speakers adds to the multimedia capabilities of the machine.

Network management is aided by the Ethernet adapter's Wake-On-LAN support. Business productivity software includes Lotus SmartSuite Millennium, Quicken and BizSmart, Acer's own Internet portal that simplifies online information gathering.

Offered for a price of $2429, the machine comes with excellent support, including a three-year (one-year on-site) warranty.

Pros: Good 2D performance

Cons: Case tamper switch not connected

Beginner rating: ****

Enthusiast rating: ***

2 Dell Dimension L-500cx

Dell has gone to great lengths to ensure that system installation is as painless as possible, with the inclusion of fold-out placemats, colour-coded plugs and quickly accessible registration numbers. In the performance department, the L-500cx registered a score of 37.7 in Norton's Multimedia, thanks largely to the SoundBlaster Live! sound card and fast CD-ROM drive. The $2570 price tag includes a three-year warranty with one year on-site.

Beginner rating: HHHH

Enthusiast rating: H

3 Gateway E-1400 533A

This managed desktop by Gateway is a space-saving unit that takes set-up and maintenance duties into consideration by offering tool-less case access and Wired for Management compliant hardware. The latter lets network administrators manage this PC from a remote location over a LAN, and Intel LANDesk Client Manager software is included.

Our review model was based on a Celeron processor running at 533MHz and was equipped with 64MB of SDRAM. A 10GB hard drive was installed for data storage, and a 4MB display adapter built into the motherboard handled the graphics. In addition to the graphics, the Intel 810 chip set-based motherboard contained on-board sound and 10/100 Ethernet connectivity.

It is not ideal to have all components integrated, in case one of them fails, but this design is the main reason for the machine's very small footprint.

The tool-less case has a one-piece cover, which slides off the front, leaving exposed the internal workings of the system. Clips and levers are substantially used throughout, and the power supply, drive bay and drives can all be removed by manipulating these.

Two free PCI slots and one free DIMM slot are available for upgrading the system, while the CPU can be upgraded via the motherboard's 370-pin PPGA socket. Connectivity includes the usual serial, parallel, PS/2 and USB ports found on the rear of the system. Security devices include a hardware tamper switch that detects unauthorised access, as well as a Kensington lock.

This Gateway offering is ideally suited to business applications, and the low entry price point of $1999 and easy manageability make it an attractive system for the busy office environment.

Pros: Small footprint, low price point

Cons: Limited expandability

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