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6/96 Reviews System: AST Bravo LC 5166

Complete listing of June 1996 reviews

High-Performance Low Rider

By Jonathan Blackwood

In the 1950s, teenagers would take sedate sedans, strip them down, soup them up and call them hot rods. Built for speed, these rods had little in the way of creature comforts. AST's new Bravo LC 5166 reminds me of one of those machines-it can blow you away on the straightaway, but a cross-country ride might leave you feeling a bit cramped.

The Bravo LC 5166's attractive, slimline case holds some high-quality components. The motherboard features a flash-upgradable AST BIOS and Intel's new 430HX chipset. The system has 15MB-that's right, 15-of EDO RAM, 256KB of pipeline burst cache, a 1.6GB Western Digital Caviar 31600 hard disk, a 6X Sanyo CD-ROM drive and an innovative video subsystem powered by an SIS graphics accelerator and 1MB of the new SGRAM (Synchronous graphics RAM). There's also a Microsoft Mouse and a keyboard with Windows 95-specific keys. You can choose either Win95 or Windows for Workgroups 3.11.

Arrayed against these assets is a substandard 15-inch monitor. It has the requisite specs-0.28mm dot pitch, on-screen controls, etc.-but the picture quality was dreadful, and the image was slightly blurry across the entire screen.

Then there's the matter of size and configuration. The slimline case saves space where it doesn't count: vertically. The footprint is just as large as that of a base AT case. And in shaving inches from the system's height, the designers left little room for expansion. The one internal 3.5-inch drive bay holds the hard disk. Of the three externally accessible bays-one 3.5-inch and two 5.25-inch-only one 5.25-inch bay is available. So, adding a tape backup will max out the drive bays.

Slotwise, the situation is only marginally better. The vertical riser card has four slots: two ISA (one of which won't accommodate a full-length ISA card), one PCI and one shared ISA/PCI slot. Four available slots wouldn't be so bad, but this system doesn't include sound, a modem or a network interface, so adding these could quickly gobble up slots. And if you want to add a card, get ready for some work. You have to remove a cross member and the riser card to install an additional card.

The Bravo LC 5166's performance was generally good. On our Wintune benchmarks, its CPU clocked 294MIPS and its hard disk scored an uncached throughput rate of 3.2MB per second. The system did better on our application tests, completing the Word macro in an average of 22 seconds and the Excel macro in 17.33-despite a lackluster 12Mpixel-per-second showing for video.

If an inexpensive hot rod is your kind of machine, the Bravo LC 5166 is for you. But if your priorities tend toward creature comforts and room to grow, keep looking.

Info File
AST Bravo LC 5166
$2,010; monitor, $407
Pros: Performance
Cons: Monitor
AST Research
800-876-4278, 714-727-4141
WinMag Box Score: 3.0
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