Smith Corona PCs target government buyers

Tested by Joshua Dean and Ross Armstrong

Government users now can buy PCs and notebooks from the company whose name is famous for those early word processing tools: typewriters. Smith Corona Corp., which even manufactured rifles during World War II, is marketing computers specifically to the federal government on its newly awarded General Services Administration schedule. Agencies may find that Smith Corona's low-cost PCs come with enough special government-specific add-ons to make a purchase worthwhile.

We reviewed a Smith Corona Professional Workstation with an Intel Corp. 350 MHz Pentium II processor. The unit came with an 8G hard drive, Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT 4.0 and 64M of RAM. It also included several useful and interesting features, such as a PC Card reader, which is a bonus for security-minded users, and an Iomega Corp. Zip drive. We liked the Microsoft mouse with the inset scroller and the contoured Natural keyboard.

While the system was sturdy in construction, the inside was a bit messy and not modular at all. The unit lost points because components are secured with screws, making removal difficult.

The system also lost points in management and expandability. While the system was Wake-on-LAN-capable, this feature was not implemented. Also, while the video memory can be upgraded to 16M, no internal drive bays are open for the addition of a hard drive.

The system performed well on Business Applications Performance Corp.'s SYSmark/98 benchmark. With a score of 151, the unit should be able to accomplish most tasks speedily and easily. The unit scored 155 on office productivity applications and reached 146 on multimedia-based content creation.

Smith Corona offers numerous incentives to government agencies. Every system comes with a free voucher from CompUSA for training in end-user applications such as office suites or e-mail. And because buyers increasingly are asking for desktop management, the system is Desktop Management Interface 2.0-compliant and comes with Hewlett-Packard Co.'s TopTools desktop management software. However, keep in mind that this system is not a top-of-the-line manageable desktop like those from Compaq Computer Corp. or Hewlett-Packard.

With an overall score of 7.40 on our scale of 1 to 10, this system is worth considering. (Bear in mind, however, that we gave the system full points for performance and price because we had no other 350 MHz Pentium IIs to compare it against.) Government buyers will find Smith Corona's PCs on the GSA schedule and through resellers Vanstar Government Systems and Native Technologies Inc.

-- Armstrong is a technical analyst for the FCW Test Center.

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