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November 1996 Reviews TOC

11/96 Reviews SYS: Dell Dimension P200v

200MHz, Under $2,000!

By Jonathan Blackwood

I can boil down a review of the new Dimension P200v desktop computer to terms as simple as Jamie Lee Curtis' TV ad for Equal: a 200MHz Pentium, $1,999, 800-388-8542.

What's more, Dell didn't skimp on features: 16MB of SDRAM (expandable to 64MB), 256KB of pipeline-burst level 2 cache, Intel's new 430VX chipset, a 1.6GB hard drive, a 15-inch Trinitron monitor (psst-it's made by Sony), S3 Trio V+ 64-bit integrated PCI video with 2MB of DRAM and an 8X Sony CD-ROM drive. All this in Dell's mini-tower case that you can easily access by loosening a single thumbscrew. A traditional desktop case is also available.

The P200v gives you three ISA slots and two PCI slots (all are unfilled in the base configuration). The case is designed for a Pentium Pro, so it features a large fan and excellent thermal ratings. There are five external drive bays-two 5.25-inch and three 3.5-inch. One 5.25-inch external bay is occupied by the CD-ROM drive, and one 3.5-inch external bay holds the floppy disk drive. The hard drive occupies one of the two internal 3.5-inch drive bays. The new Dell/ Intel-designed motherboard reduces cabling, resulting in a spacious, uncluttered interior. The Dell/AMI BIOS is software upgradable. The back of the unit houses one serial port, one parallel port, two PS/2 ports and a monitor port (since the video is integrated on the motherboard). Power and reset switches are up front and center.

The standard Trinitron monitor is excellent, with a 13.7-inch diagonal viewing area and a 0.28-millimeter stripe pitch. Two 17-inch monitors are available, for an additional $265 and $425 for the "better" and "best" models. The keyboard is an acceptable, 104-key space-saving design with the new Win95 keys. The standard mouse is an inexpensive, Dell-branded unit; a Microsoft mouse is a $20 option. An anomaly in the preproduction BIOS of the system I examined prevents me from reporting CPU scores, but the S3 video turned in a respectable score of 14Mpixels per second, and the Western Digital Caviar 31600 EIDE disk drive boasted an uncached disk throughput rate of 3.27MB per second.

Application scores for this preproduction system were disappointing: The P200v took an average time of 14.33 seconds to execute our Word macro, while the Excel benchmark executed in an average of 12.67 seconds, more in line with the performance of a 166MHz Pentium desktop. Expect the performance to improve considerably with production tweaks and a production BIOS.

Where did Dell skimp? The only places I could find were 16MB of RAM instead of 32MB (still adequate for most applications), the lack of a sound card or speakers, and no fax modem. It also doesn't include an office suite or even an integrated program. Dell doesn't leave you in the lurch, however: You can request all these components when you order your P200v.

Dell seems to have adopted the auto industry's production model, providing a smorgasbord of options that can raise the price of the system substantially. Though the 200MHz, under-$2,000 model will surely garner the most attention, Dell also offers 133MHz and 166MHz models. A similarly configured 133MHz model is available with a 33.6Kbps fax modem at $1,849.

Dell provides a three-year limited warranty with all its desktop systems, including one year of next-business-day at-your-desk service. Tech support is toll free.

This is a value-packed machine from a top-tier manufacturer at an astonishing price. I can hear prices falling all over the land.

-- Info File --
Dell Dimension P200v
Pros: Price; performance
Cons: No speakers, sound card or office suite
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Dell Computer Corp.
800-388-8542, 512-338-4400
WinMag Box Score 4.5

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