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 Review, Bargain Basement PC
Using the system
By: Steffen Scheibler, April 9, 2002  Print this article

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Now having a system that looks good and is cleanly assembled and having a system that is versatile, responsive and working in harmony with itself are two entirely different things. Its hard to be sure that a system, no matter how good the specs and the components appear to be, is in fact a really decent, solid and stable system. In line with this reasoning I decided to see how reliable this system was.

The BIOS

The POST screen looks very flashy, but the BIOS that lies behind it is very simple. It offers the ability to set the peripheral devices, PCI IRQ, APM settings and all other basic BIOS functions. This BIOS doesnt really contain much in the way of advanced features that would allow tweaking of various subsystem. The only real tweaks are setting the memory CAS from 2 to 3 and the FSB, which supports 5 different speeds at each major setting (a major setting being 66MHz for Celerons, 100MHz and 133MHz for Pentium 3). You can also choose to have an FSB of 133MHz while having a RAM speed of 100MHz, which is standard for an i815 motherboard.

Note: This BIOS will NOT automatically switch to PC100 for the RAM when more than one DIMM is installed which makes the system unstable. A normal user could well have a seriously bad experience with this PC because of this.

The Operating system

The preloaded OS was WindowsME. I am not a WindowsME fan and I don't know my way around it very well, so I opted to install Windows2000 on it. Installation went without a hitch, all devices were automatically recognised by Windows2000 on the initial boot-up (I installed from a "blank" Win2000 image) and I encountered no problems what so ever. The installation took about the same time as on a Pentium IV 1.6GHz I set up earlier.

Using the system: Home User

My typical Windows2000 installation is quite loaded with programs and also has a good number of tasks, programs and services that auto-start on boot.

Despite the somewhat lengthy boot-up time of approx. 3 minutes and login-time as compared to my dual XP1800 system, most programs load relatively quickly once the system is up and running. With the desktop set at a resolution of 1280x1024 on the 21" monitor I noticed only a very slight amount of lagging when dragging large or complex windows around. Everything felt crisp, clear and responsive.

After normally using (Surfing with IE6 and NS6, MS Word or Excel, ICQ, Outlook Express) the system for a week I noticed some slow-down, which is normal, however my gut feeling is telling me that this system's HDD subsystem is a little sluggish at times.

Using the system: Developers and Power Users

This PC can also cater for those of us who demand a lot more from their PCs, although I would highly recommend upgrading the RAM. When developing I typically have some 20+ windows open, plus any number of tasks running in the background.
When doing this the system responds very sluggishly at times, sometimes you can almost see how the system refreshes the entire desktop area behind a closed or minimized windows one line at a time. The system was swapping a lot and it seemed to have a hard time doing this, which tends to confirm that either the HDD subsystem is slow for some reason or the entire PCI subsystem is slow.
In any case a RAM upgrade is highly recommnded for this type of use.

For some €90 (79 USD) you can get yourself a decent stick of 256MB of PC-133 and double this system's RAM. This is exactly what I did and this massively improved the responsiveness.

Using the system: Gaming

I must say I was pleasantly surprised by this systems gaming power. The GeForceII makes almost all 3D games I have kying around the office playable to a greater or lesser degree. At 1024x768x32bit UnrealTournament was quite playable, although some levels cause the frame-rate to drop below 25fps for sustained periods. Typically the frame-rate was around 40 - 50fps.

All older games played flawlessly at good frame-rates and with no jerk-o-vision or lockups.

Diablo II also playes smoothly, although there is some slight lagging on some levels.

When playing Age of Empires II the system struggles when allowing larger populations (~500 in total) and this manifests itself frequent slow-downs.

The only drawback of this system is that the sluggish behaviour of the HDD and slow memory speed in certai situation causes some games to take a long time to load or to lag when attempting to dynamically load areas of the game during play.

The Bottom Line:

This system is a fair all-rounder. It can handle anything you care to throw at it for general Home/Office use but while it's capable of giving a great deal of pleasure to an amateur gamer, I would not recommend this system to someone who is looking for a PC to play games on as this system exhibited performance-problems with almost all of the newer games.

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  Introduction
  Visual Inspection
  Using the system
  Overclocking
  The Performance
  Performance - Benchmark Screenshots
  The Conclusion


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