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7/96 Reviews Systems: MidWest Micro Interactive MPEG P5-166

Listing of July 1996 Reviews

Cinematic System: Sublime and Serious

By John Gartner

If the medium is the message, the buzz among multimedia enthusiasts has been that if you want full-motion video, you're going to have to wait. But the proliferation of high-performance PCs and affordable, hardware-based MPEG compression offers new hope. MidWest Micro's Interactive MPEG P5-166 is one of the early denizens of this brave new world of realistic video playback.

This 166MHz Pentium-based system stands at the top of MidWest Micro's line of MPEG systems offering full-motion, TV-quality video. The systems use the Sigma Designs RealMagic Maxima MPEG decoder, which provides a 30-frames-per-second video window that can be stretched to fill the screen. The sound side of this multimedia system consists of a Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16 sound card and Altec

Lansing speakers equipped with a subwoofer. The company tosses in five games that make frequent use of MPEG video to clearly demonstrate the superiority of hardware-accelerated playback.

The Interactive MPEG P5-166 isn't a one-trick pony. It's a more than capable movie machine and fares well with Windows business apps, too. Tested with our Wintune benchmarks, the system registered solid scores of 300MIPS on the CPU test, 13Mpixels per second for video and 3.0MB per second for uncached disk throughput. The system performed well on our application tests, completing the Word and Excel macros in 15.67 and 13 seconds, respectively-a little better than average based on our tests of other 166MHz Pentium systems.

The excellent performance isn't surprising, as the system's components-16MB of EDO RAM, a 1.6-gigabyte Western Digital Caviar 31600 hard disk, 512KB of pipeline burst cache, a 6X Acer CD-ROM drive and a Number Nine 9FX Motion 771 graphics accelerator-are excellent throughout.

Expansion is well provided for, with five available drive bays, three of which are externally accessible. In this system, you'd be hard pressed to find enough peripherals to fill the available space. The system's three ISA slots are all filled with the MPEG, sound and 14.4Kbps Infotel fax modem cards, but three of the four PCI slots are still available.

The 17-inch MidWest Micro monitor provides not only a very bright picture that stretches to the display's edges, but also a pleasing control panel design. The monitor's software offers icon-driven on-screen programming, so the front control panel has only a few easy-to-use navigation buttons.

For business or pleasure, this MPEG movie system deserves the thumbs-up. The only thing MidWest Micro forgot was the popcorn.

Info File
MidWest Micro Interactive MPEGP5-166
Pros: Performance; multimedia
Cons: No free ISA slots; no business software
MidWest Micro
800-203-3012, 513-368-2309
WinMag Box Score: 3.5
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