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-- by Jim Forbes
Remember the Harmonic Convergence that was so big in New Age circles in the '80s? The concept wasn't lost on computer manufacturers, who designed a new class of systems that give you tools to access the Internet as well as television and radio. These so-called convergence computers recognize that computer users-especially those in small or home offices-are as interested in information gathering and entertainment as they are in the personal productivity applications they use every day.
The Platinum Pro 755 is a PCI-based mini-tower with a 200MHz Intel Pentium processor, a Fujitsu 2.5GB hard drive and 32MB of EDO memory. The system's video component uses a specialized cable-ready adapter with an integrated TV/FM tuner and 2MB of video memory, along with a 3-D controller. For audio, an Aztech 16-bit sound card supports 3-D and Surround Sound.
Before you say, "That doesn't sound like a business machine," consider such features as the NEC 8X CD-ROM drive, an integrated 100MB Iomega Zip Drive, an internal 33.6Kb-per-second modem (14.4 fax send and receive) and voice-messaging software. In addition, the 755's software bundle includes Corel WordPerfect Office, Microsoft Works, Microsoft Money, reference works, CD-ROM game titles and the usual Internet sign-on and online service offers. There's also an Internet phone application, as well as videoconferencing software (you supply the video camera)
Small Phillips screws secure the system's case. With a 2.5GB hard drive (partitioned into virtual drives C: and D:) and 32MB of system memory, you may never open it. I did, and found only one available internal bay and several open PCI and ISA slots.
The optional 15-inch monitor I tested (a Packard Bell Model 2020 with 0.28mm dot pitch) provides a 13.5-inch viewing area and supports a maximum noninterlaced resolution of 1024x768.
It was relatively easy to connect this machine to my cable system, tune in television channels and display images on the screen, although a better monitor would enhance image clarity. I did like the included MediaSelect peripheral, which lets you change channels, answer the phone, alter the volume and control other multimedia functions simply by touching corresponding buttons.
Benchmark scores for the 755 showed 351MIPS for the CPU, 3.43MB per second for the hard disk and 13.33Mpixels per second for video. Our 32-bit Excel and Word macros averaged 12.0 seconds and 15.0 seconds, respectively.
After working with the Platinum Pro 755, I asked myself if I could recommend it over our current Recommended List convergence computer, the Toshiba Infinia 7200. The answer is a qualified no. The 755 lacks the Universal Serial Bus interface used on the Infinia. It does have a better software bundle, fantastic audio and an internal Zip drive, but the Infinia's performance was slightly better.
Before you plunk down the bucks for a convergence computer like the Packard Bell 755 or the Toshiba Infinia, I suggest that you consider versions of both machines that will use Intel's MMX processor. They should be showing up in stores as you read this review.