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-- by Joel T. Patz
Canon's new Innova Media MT 9800 is a good shot that just misses the mark.
Its components are a near dream: a 200MHz Pentium processor, 32MB of EDO RAM (expandable to 128MB), 512KB of pipeline-burst cache, a Western Digital Caviar 3.1GB hard drive, a Mitsumi 12X CD-ROM drive and even an Iomega Zip Drive. You'll find a 33.6Kbps DSVD fax/voice modem, built-in 16-bit sound (using an ESS sound chip with wavetable synthesis and 3-D Spatializer technology) and an infrared (IrDA) interface for wireless file transfer and printing. A monitor is not included.
Inside the case are two ISA slots. One slot holds the modem; the other is empty and full-length. The system also has three PCI slots, one of which holds the video card. The single PCI/ISA shared slot is open. Also available are one external 5.25-inch bay and one internal 3.5-inch bay. You won't find any free power connections on the 230-watt power supply, which is cooled by a quiet fan. On the back of the mini-tower are two serial ports, a parallel port, and PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse.
The MT 9800's performance is hampered by the STB Powergraph 64 3-D video card with 2MB of video RAM. Powered by an S3 ViRGE chip that provides hardware-assisted MPEG, the system completed our benchmark tests with less than optimal results. In our Wintune tests, the system averaged 359.67MIPS, with a mediocre video throughput of 14.33Mpixels per second and an uncached disk throughput of 3.10MB per second.
The time to complete our application benchmarks averaged 13.33 seconds for Word and 11 seconds flat for Excel. The Dell OptiPlex Gs+ system on our Recommended List showed better scores for all the tests except the Excel macro, where the Innova equaled its performance.
Bundled software includes Microsoft Works, Quicken SE, Quicken Financial Planner, Global Village Communications FocalPoint (speakerphone and fax duties) and Compton's Encyclopedia 96. For Internet access, the standard online sign-up packets from AOL, CompuServe, NetCom and AT&T are preloaded. The home user will find a Microsoft games sampler, Greg Norman Ultimate Challenge Golf, Maxis Pinball, the Mayo Clinic Family Health 96 edition and Rand McNally's TripMaker. The system also includes Full Armor, a utility to protect against inadvertent system modifications.
The speakers are disappointing, as is the spongy 104-key keyboard. The system provides a two-button mouse, microphone and a six-button, eight-direction game pad.
The MT 9800's printed documentation is skimpy, and when you power up the first time, Windows 95 has to check the installed hardware. The attractively styled case belies the shortcomings of this well-equipped but pricey system.