We Test Six Sensational Systems

The latest crop of desktop PCs-powered by 450 MHz Pentium II processors-are winners, according to a recent product comparison conducted by the FCW Test Center. All six systems we tested scored above a 7.0 on our scale of 1 to 10. In fact, we'd recommend any one of these machines as a smart buy for state and local agencies.

The system offering the best overall value was Compaq Computer Corp.'s EN-6450X, which received a winning score of 7.97. The Compaq model came in just a fraction ahead of the second-place system, Gateway Inc.'s E-2000, which scored a 7.60. In fact, the difference between the highest and lowest scores in this comparison was less than half a point.

Why the similarity in scores? These machines are all top-of-the line, high-end systems. Along with the fastest chipset currently available, vendors have packed these systems with excellent management features, large hard drives, fancy graphics cards and room for lots of expansion.

Louis Columbus, senior manager of workstation marketing at Gateway, said many government buyers like the increased horsepower and graphics capabilities of 450 MHz machines. These features are useful for agencies that do a lot of geographic mapping and software development, he said.

We tested systems from Compaq, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard Co., Intergraph Federal Systems, Micron Electronics Inc. and SMAC Data Systems. We used Business Applications Performance Corp.'s SYSmark/98 benchmark, which measures performance in two categories: content creation and office productivity. The benchmark scores for these systems were close to each other and ran about 30 percent faster than a similarly configured 350 MHz Pentium II system that was tested recently.

We ran all our tests under Microsoft Corp.'s Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 3 operating system.

If you're in the market for a high-end desktop PC, you're going to have a hard time deciding which system to buy. All the 450 MHz Pentium II PCs we tested were fast and featured excellent management tools. The biggest variation was in price, which ranged from $1,562 for the Micron ClientPro CP to $2,919 for Gateway's E-5200.

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