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Pound for Pound a Powerful PC

-- by Jonathan Blackwood

Pound for pound, it's hard for me to imagine a more feature-rich desktop computer than the Gateway 2000 P5-200M Family PC. This baby's loaded with more features, expandability, software and performance-thanks to its MMX-enabled Pentium chip-than almost any desktop I've seen in ages. But if you've been awaiting the arrival of an MMX chip to boost your multimedia applications' performance, you'll have to wait a while longer. Software developers have to take the bait and write apps to take advantage of the MMX extensions.

For the present, you'll still enjoy a slight performance boost for non-MMX applications. This 200MHz MMX Pentium features performance that's about 6.4 percent faster than a standard Pentium machine. On our Wintune benchmarks, the P5-200M Family PC averaged a CPU score of 388.33MIPS, which compares to 365MIPS for the 200MHz Pentium Compaq Deskpro 2000 tested in our November issue. Other scores were more middle of the road: a respectable 19.33Mpixels-per-second video throughput and a meager 1.93MB-per-second uncached throughput for its hard disk. Average times to execute our Word and Excel application macros were 10.0 and 7.0 seconds, respectively, representing perhaps a 10 percent to 15 percent improvement over a more typical 200MHz Pentium desktop.

The system's goodies include a mini-tower case, 3.5GB Quantum Fireball hard disk, 12X Mitsumi IDE CD-ROM drive and 32MB of SDRAM mounted in DIMMs (maximum RAM is 64MB of SDRAM, or 128MB of EDO RAM). Also thrown in: an Ensoniq Soundscape VIVO Wavetable sound card, a 17-inch Gateway 2000 Crystal Scan monitor with 0.28-millimeter dot pitch and Altec Lansing ACS410 speakers with ACS251 subwoofer. The P5-200M also has InterAct's PC Propad 4 game controller, an STB Velocity 3-D graphics card with 4MB of VRAM and a TelePath 33.6Kbps internal modem.

Let's not forget software: Windows 95 with Internet Explorer 3.0, Microsoft Office Professional with Bookshelf, Encarta 96, Cinemania 96, Music Central 96 and Julia Child Home Cooking with Master Chefs. The system also includes Microsoft Works, Microsoft Money, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Entertainment Packs 1-4, The Masters, Mediamatics, Mayo Clinic Family Health, Cash Graph Home Office Plus and Microsoft Golf. If you can't find something that piques your interest from this collection, you're just not trying.

This machine's case is relatively difficult to get into, perhaps because it's intended for home use. Seven screws hold the case in place. You'll need a screwdriver to open the case and also to install additional hard drives. In fact, you'll have to remove the 5.25-inch bay housing to get to additional screws that hold hard drives in place, which is a nuisance. Once inside the case, you'll find plenty of expansion room: four externally accessible 5.25-inch drive bays (two available), three internal 3.5-inch drive bays (two available), two DIMM slots (one available), three PCI slots (two available), two ISA slots (both occupied) and one shared ISA/PCI slot (available). The Intel motherboard uses Intel's Triton VX chipset. One serial, one parallel and two PS/2 ports are on the back of the case.

The Crystal Scan Invar shadow mask monitor has a reasonably good image and simple-to-use on-screen controls. It lacks a control for moire distortion, but provides all the other expected controls.

This is one complete package of top-drawer components available at a reasonable price. The performance boost made possible by the MMX Pentium makes the P5-200M the fastest Pentium available. A system with this sort of performance, feature set and price point is worth your consideration.

W Info File

Gateway 2000 P5-200M Family PC
Price: $2,918
Pros: Performance; features; software package
Cons: Accessibility to interior and drive bays
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Gateway 2000
800-846-2000, 605-232-2000
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

Copyright 1997 CMP Media Inc.

(From Windows Magazine, January 1997, page 233.)