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PC World

Top 10 budget PCs for the holiday season

November 22, 1999
Web posted at: 10:42 a.m. EST (1542 GMT)

by Alan Stafford graphic

(IDG) -- Prices on the Top 10 Budget PCs chart continue to creep down, with almost half the systems on this month's list now costing less than a grand. Two new machines -- from Sys Technology and Premio -- slide in under that limbo stick and still manage respectable showings on PC WorldBench 98 tests: The Sys TaskMaster 500's and the Premio Apollo II CS1's scores of 209 and 211, respectively, are right at average for top-10 budget systems.

Top 10 budget PCs

  1. Micro Express MicroFlex-50C: The $1199 MicroFlex-50C makes an excellent presentation system for small-office users on a budget.

  2. Dell OptiPlex GX100: With its compact size, integrated network interface, and management features, the speedy OptiPlex GX100 seems destined to fill a stall in a corporate cubicle farm.

  3. Micro Express MicroFlex-40B: This Micro Express system offers small offices lots of power. Consider it if you're looking to replace an older, slower machine and you already have all the software you need.

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  4. Quantex M466-2c: A small office with budget constraints could do much worse than this quick, multipurpose system.

  5. Axis Systems Orion LX/CVE Celeron 400: The Orion LX/CVE is a little rough around the edges, but it would make a competent small-office system.

  6. Xi Computer 400A MTower: Small-office denizens with a penchant for speed will like this system's power-to-price ratio.

  7. NEC PowerMate VT 300: With its sharp display, the PowerMate is good for offices where someone will stare at the screen all day long but not need much speed.

  8. Sys TaskMaster 500: A budget-conscious home office would do well to employ the TaskMaster 500.

  9. Premio Apollo II CSI: With decent power and Office 2000, the Apollo could make a solid landing on a small-office desk.

  10. Polywell Poly 810CW-433: If space and money are constraints, this system fits nicely into a budget office environment.

Integrated graphics versus expansion cards

Intel's 810 chip set has accelerated a trend toward component integration -- the combination of separate motherboard components into one. While PC manufacturers have integrated graphics processors onto their motherboards for years to save space and minimize costs, Intel's integration of a graphics processor inside the 810 chip set gives computer makers another way to save money. But what does an integrated graphics processor mean for your system?

The use of integrated graphics essentially amounts to a lack of flexibility, insists Peter Wicher, product marketing director at 3dfx, a graphics card manufacturer that obviously has a big stake in the market. "With all things being equal in the CPU department, the graphics card is the component that can give [systems] the performance edge," Wicher says. He adds, "It is a lot easier to add a graphics card in a slot than to redesign a motherboard."

Daniel Francisco, a spokesperson for Intel, concedes the upgradability point, but says that Intel feels its customers don't need this flexibility. "Integrated graphics provide excellent 2D and 3D performance for value PCs," he says -- referring to computer systems priced at less than $1200.

In the end, whether integrated graphics will adversely affect your productivity depends on the kind of work you'll be doing on your machine. For instance, if your daily computing tasks consist primarily of basic word processing, giving presentations, and browsing the Web, integrated graphics should work well enough. As Mike Feibus, a principal analyst at Mercury Research, explains, "Unless you've got a rabid interest in games or you have work interests that demand the highest level of performance, you're fine with integrated graphics."

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