Micron PC: Good price, whiz-bang performance

For agencies looking to buy full- featured desktop PCs that deliver excellent

performance, Micron Electronics Inc. offers a tantalizing choice with its

new ClientPro Cn family.

The ClientPro Cn is a full-featured desktop targeted at middle-market

business and government organizations that operate in a networked environment.

It offers plenty of headroom for expansion and incorporates excellent manageability.

Micron also stresses reliability with this product, offering integrated

key components such as the network adapter and audio. The system also balances

cost and capabilities, providing users with excellent performance at an

attractive price.

The ClientPro Cn replaces the ClientPro Cs, which earned the FCW Test

Center's Best Buy Award in June 1999 [FCW, June 14, 1999]. The Cn incorporates

updated technology such as Intel Corp.'s 815e chipset, a 133 MHz frontside

bus and an integrated Intel Pro 10/100 network adapter while offering a

stable, scalable platform.

The system is available with either an Intel Celeron or Intel Pentium

III processor and comes in desktop, mini- and mid-tower form factors. Our

review unit came with a 733 MHz Pentium III processor, 128M of SDRAM (expandable

to 512M), a 7200 RPM 15G ATA-100 hard drive and Windows 2000.

Performance was excellent, with the system scoring 281 on Business Applications

Performance Corp.'s (BAPCO) SYSmark/98 suite of real-world benchmark tests.

This score is significantly higher than the score of 205 earned by the Client

Pro Cs with a 500 MHz processor. The new system scored 279 for office productivity

and 283 for content creation.

Micron offers users a lot of flexibility when it comes to graphics.

The 815e chipset includes Dynamic Video Memory Technology (DVMT). This technology,

which is also included in Intel's 810e chipset, dynamically allots the system

memory for video memory when needed. In other words, if a user runs an application

containing 3-D graphics, DVMT can take unused system memory and dedicate

it to video memory, increasing overall graphics performance.

Systems with DVMT don't need a separate graphics card at all, but our

system came with a VisionTek Nvidia Riva M64 Accelerated Graphics Port card

for optimum graphics performance. The decision to buy a graphics card depends

on whether the system will run graphics-intensive applications. If the system

will run standard office applications, an extra graphics card is probably

not necessary.

The Client Pro Cs had four PCI slots, two ISA slots and one AGP slot;

the Client Pro Cn features five PCI slots and one AGP slot, with no ISA

slots. Our system arrived with all five PCI slots free and a graphics card

in the AGP slot.

Our review unit was a midsize tower that featured easy, tool-free entry.

To access the chassis, you only have to slide a blue spring-loaded handle

to the side and slide the cover off. The fan cage swings open once you flip

a lever and press a tab. Access to all internal components, including memory,

is very easy. An especially nice feature we've never seen before is the

addition of little handles to the ribbon cable connectors, which makes them

much easier to unplug.

All of the expansion cards are held in place by a single metal bar.

Opening the bar only requires loosening a thumb screw on the back of the

unit. We especially liked the fact that the thumb screw does not come all

the way off, preventing loss.

The hard drive, floppy drive and CD-ROM drive are held in with screws.

A Micron representative told us that in early October the company will offer

a mini-tower that will feature tool-free peripherals except for the hard

drive. The reason the hard drive will not be tool-free is that Micron wants

to continue using IBM Corp. hard drives. According to Micron, IBM drives

are so fast, they need a screw to hold them in place or the vibration will

displace them.

The ClientPro Cn features two external and three internal 3.5-inch drive

bays and three external 5.25-inch drive bays. After factory configuration,

there were two 3.5-inch internal and one 3.5-inch external drive bays free,

as well as two external 5.25-inch bays.

While examining the chassis, we came upon a curious blue plastic device

at the bottom of the system. It is held in place by tabs that snap into

the front of the chassis. There is no illustration of this device in the

manual. Eventually, we learned that the device is there to enable those

with legacy ISA cards to continue to use those devices. If you remove the

blue plastic unit, you have room to install a fourth disk drive. This is

a nice touch, but we feel that Micron needs to do a better job of documentation

in this respect.

The system came with a host of CDs, including an operating system recovery

CD, Windows 2000 drivers, mouse drivers, Symantec Corp.'s Norton AntiVirus

2000 and Intel's LANDesk Client Manager. The system is Desktop Management

Interface-compliant and Wired for Management-compliant.

In addition, each Micron PC comes with the company's Web-based proactive

maintenance and desktop management service, Connectedsupport.com. The service,

automatically delivered to end users via the Internet, offers preventive

maintenance, self-healing and hardware diagnostics. The service can be customized

so users can choose what kinds of tests they want to run and how much information

they want to receive.

Additional management features include chassis intrusion monitoring,

a fan tachometer, voltage regulation and chassis thermal sensing.

As noted, the documentation could use improvement. The user's manual

needs more illustrations (especially a diagram of the inside of the chassis),

explanations and an index. In addition, the same manual is used for all

three chassis designs and the different instruction sets for each are interspersed.

So when users look up information, they must always take care to find the

instructions that apply to the correct chassis.

The GSA price for our configuration is $1,911 — very attractive, especially

considering that the ClientPro Cs we reviewed last year cost $1,918. In

other words, you're getting an updated system with a faster processor and

newer technology for virtually the same price.

REPORT CARD

ClientPro Cn

Score: A

Micron Electronics Inc.

(888) MICRON-2

www.micronpc.com

Price and availability: The ClientPro Cn is available on the General Services Administrationschedule. The configuration we received costs $1,911; price will vary dependingon configuration.

Remarks: You'll get a host of features, updated technology and blazing performancewith this system, in addition to excellent management and support. The priceis very reasonable as well. Our biggest beef is with the documentation.

BY Michelle Speir
September 11, 2000

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