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October 1996 Reviews TOC

10/96 Reviews Systems: Micro Express MicroFlex 686/200+

Warp-Speed Performance for a Pittance

By James E. Powell

Micro Express and Cyrix: the Dream Team. The Micro Express MicroFLEX 686/200+ is a Cyrix 6x86/200+-based system that knocks the socks off its competition. Like other systems with Cyrix chips, the P200+ chip's name signifies it is designed to compete with Intel Pentium 200MHz systems, though it actually runs at 150MHz. That's splitting hairs, because this system is the fastest I've seen, and at $2,499, it's relatively inexpensive.

My MicroFLEX 686/200+ test system included 16MB of RAM (expandable to 256MB) and 256KB of pipeline-burst cache. The motherboard uses a VLSI Lynx system controller hipset, and is equipped with a 321-pin ZIF socket for Cyrix 6x86 and Intel Pentium upgrades.

This MicroFLEX system has a 2GB Quantum SCSI hard disk and a Samsung 8X EIDE CD-ROM drive, which occupies one of three external 5.25-inch bays. The floppy disk drive takes one of two external 3.5-inch bays (the hard disk sits atop all bays in its own internal half-height spot). Two of the three PCI slots are free. Of the three ISA slots, one is taken by the Creative Labs Sound Blaster sound card, and only two of the three can accommodate a full-length card. An Adaptec 2940 SCSI controller card resides in the shared PCI/ISA slot. Internally, it's connected to the Quantum hard disk, and there is an external SCSI Wide connector.

On the back of the unit are two serial ports, one parallel port and a keyboard plug. The sound card, game port and monitor plugs are clearly labeled, as are the ports. The sound card deserves better than the no-name speakers provided.

The package includes a 104-key keyboard with a pleasing touch and a Microsoft mouse. A beta user's manual for the system board, appropriately named the Screamer Pro, provided all the necessary technical details needed.

I attribute the speedy video performance in our Wintune 95 tests to the Matrox Millennium card with 2MB of RAM, which turned in an average 20Mpixels per second. The Quantum SCSI hard disk racked up a 4.26-MB-per-second uncached disk score.

Equally impressive were the macro tests: Word completed in an average of nine seconds, Excel in an average of 11.6 seconds.

The monitor in the bundle is a very good MAG InnoVision 17-inch monitor, with a 16.1-inch viewable image, an Invar shadow mask, on-screen controls and a 0.26mm dot pitch.

The sole piece of software is Windows 95. The system also lacks a modem. Aside from the low-quality speakers, my only complaint is that the 200-watt power supply's fan is noisy.

The MicroFLEX 686/200+ proves that you can have it all: fantastic performance at a low, low price.

--Info File--
Micro Express MicroFLEX 686/200+
Pros: Speed; price
Cons: Noisy power supply fan; no modem; poor speakers
Micro Express
800-989-9900, 714-852-1400
WinMag Box Score 4.5

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