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 Review, Bargain Basement PC
The Conclusion
By: Steffen Scheibler, April 9, 2002  Print this article


First off, this is no powerhouse. This machine is unspectacular in every way, but it's very reliable.
- The performance is acceptable.
- The system’s expandability is moderate to good.
- The system’s flexibility is more than adequate.
- Not a single crash or blue screen anywhere.

It is perhaps a shame that this system doesn’t have a DVD-drive, or a CD-RW. But a 256MB P3-866 system with some good components in it for €529 (463 USD) is also a very good deal – and its not like you cannot upgrade this basic system into something significantly more powerful, by getting a better CPU, e.g. 1.2GHz PIII-s, more RAM or by adding a DVD or CD-RW.

Don't forget to factor in the extra cost of keyboard, mouse, speakers and a monitor. If you dont have cable then a modem will also have to be bought.

- Very low price for a collection of decent, reliable and proven components
- Good degree of flexibility, games, office, workstation apps
- Unproblematic upgrades supported across the board: CPU, RAM, HDD, CD-ROM, VGA…Easy and cheap to get second-hand add-ons as technology is > 18 months old

- Intel i815 chipset does have a relatively poor RAM/PCI performance
- IBM DTLA HDDs are known to have high rates of failure
- CPU upgrades not likely to bring a noticeable performance increase
- Low perceived HDD performance somewhat disconcerting at times
- Limited BIOS options

Things to watch out for

- Slipshod Cooling subsystem
Not many retailers know anything about cooling; bolt on a heatsink and Bob's your uncle. If you feel confident then open up the case, remove the heat sink from the CPU and replace the thermal compound with a thin layer of good stuff, and re-attach the heat sink. All it takes is 10 minutes.
Buying an extra 80x80mm chassis-fan is not something to shy away from. An ultra-quiet, lower power one will do if noise is an issue and will help with ventilation.

- Haphazard adding of peripherals
Most AGP cards produce a fair amount of heat these days. Its best to make sure there is as little as possible obstructing the heat sink on the AGP card.

- Incorrect jumpering / cabling
The CD-audio cable was incorrectly plugged in. I suspect this is a one-off mistake, so anyone who knows anything about PCs should always open up such a machine and make sure everything is in order by following all the cables, checking jumpers and the like. You never know. In reality, whether you want to do this or not depends on how capable you think the assembler is and how problematic it would be take the PC back for examination if a problem occurs.

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

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