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9/96 Reviews Systems: Nexar 9000

Listing of September 1996 Reviews

New System Design Upgrades in a Trice

By Deborah K. Wong

If you hate the idea of buying a whole new system to keep up with the latest technology, get a load of this new Nexar Technologies design. The company's 9000 mid-tower with inverted socket process architecture (ISPA) lets you configure your system to easily accept multiple combinations of processors, hard drives, memory and cache so upgrading these components is a breeze.

The first thing you notice about the system is the pair of plastic panels on the case's sides. These panels snap off; remove the one on the right, and you get access to the processor, cache and memory, so you can change any of them without a hassle.

The next thing that strikes the eye is the removable hard drive, in the second external bay from the system's top. Give a little tug and out slides a cartridge encasing the Quantum Fireball 1.2 gigabyte hard disk. Snap open the cartridge, and you can change quickly to any other 3.5-inch half-height drive. Push the drive/cartridge combo back in and the drive plugs into a fixed connector. A security lock on the bay's right side protects the unit during shipping and prevents theft.

The 9000 packs an Intel 166MHz Pentium with 512KB of pipeline-burst level 2 cache, along with 16MB of EDO RAM expandable to 128MB-but you'll have to discard the SIMMs you get at the 16MB level to achieve 128MB.

If you need to do anything more than swapping processor, memory or drive, then you're back to where you were with computers sans ISPA. You get to the expansion slots-four PCI and three ISA-from the case's left side. Although there is a plastic snap-off panel on the cover's left side, removing it reveals only a smooth piece of metal and no access inside. To get to the expansion slots, you have to remove the cover, which means you have to remove four Phillips head screws. Then remove the protruding, uncovered cache on the right-hand side of the chassis. This was a bit awkward for me since I'd been spoiled by the simplicity of the hard drive's removal. Once you get past the screws and cache, the system components are easily accessible and laid out quite nicely. But I have to wonder why Nexar halted its easy-expansion design before it achieved true simplicity.

Once inside, I found an HCL Hewlett-Packard motherboard with an Intel 430FX PCI chipset and a total of four external bays-three 5.25-inch drive bays and one 3.5-inch drive bay, of which one 5.25-inch bay is available. Internally, the system is limited to only one available 3.5-inch bay. A Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 video card with 2MB of DRAM occupies one PCI slot, while a TeleVideo TeleSound EX 16 audio card and Explorer 28.8 Plug-and-Play fax/voice modem rested in two ISA slots.

In the rear of the tower, the 9000 has two serial ports and one parallel port, and the sound card has jacks for input/output, microphone and auxiliary, and a game port. The power supply provides 150 watts maximum.

On the Wintune test, the 9000 racked up adequate scores of 303MIPS on the CPU test and 3.23MB per second for the uncached disk throughput. Similarly, the system's video score fared well with 16Mpixels per second. On our application tests, Nexar completed the Word and Excel macros in 14.67 and 11 seconds, respectively, which is comparable to other systems in this category.

Rounding out the peripherals is a neat Funai E2850 8X CD-ROM drive, a Logitech serial mouse, a Mitsumi 104-key Windows 95 keyboard and a headset.

Sleek Altec Lansing SP03 speakers hang on each side of a swivel-based PiXie multiscan color monitor. The 15-inch monitor has a 0.28mm dot pitch and offers a maximum resolution of 1280x1024 at a 60Hz refresh rate. However, you can obtain a resolution of 1024x768 at a 75Hz refresh rate.

On-screen controls cover all basic monitor adjustments. There are pushbuttons for horizontal and vertical control, and thumbwheels for brightness and contrast. Other controls include pincushion, trapezoid and degauss. The monitor meets the VESA and EPA power-management standards. The manual states that the strict MPRII Swedish standard for electromagnetic radiation is an option; this monitor had an MPR sticker attached.

In addition to Windows 95, the system comes with SoftKey's Soho Bundle software, which includes Window Works, Calendar Creator, PC Paintbrush, ClipArt Library, Multimedia MBA, Internet Wizard, Brochures and Mailers, and the American Heritage Talking Dictionary. If that isn't enough to keep you busy, you get two multimedia reference libraries: InfoPedia 2.0 and MultiPedia. And for your gaming pleasures, HeadOn, the deluxe CD-ROM filled with shareware games, is thrown in.

For $2,299, this system is an excellent buy. If you want to choose your own monitor, knock off $400, and the Nexar 9000 P5-166 is still a hard-to-beat, competitively priced system.

--Info File--
Nexar 9000
$2,299, with monitor; $1,899, without monitor
Pros: Easy-access components
Cons: Low wattage, limited internal bays
Nexar Technologies
888-NEXAR-PC, 508-836-8700
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

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