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WinLab Reviews
Gateway 2000 P5-200 Family PC with MMX
Hot MMX Power for a Cool Price

-- by James Alan Miller

Gateway 2000's innovatively designed new computer, the P5-200 Family PC with MMX, defines what we should all expect from a well-rounded PC in the new MMX world. The P5-200 is a budget-conscious computer that incorporates Intel's latest Pentium CPU without sacrificing features and performance.

The P5-200 Family PC compares very favorably to the systems reviewed in our MMX roundup last month, especially the Micron P200 Millennia MXE and the Dell OptiPlex GXi MMX, which we recommended. The Gateway costs $200 to $700 less than those systems, and you won't sacrifice much in the way of performance.

Your $2,469 buys a PC built around a powerful 200MHz MMX Pentium processor in a completely redesigned mini-tower case. This new box, combined with the Intel ATX form factor, leaves plenty of room inside for service and expansion (RAM, however, is limited to 64MB due to the chipset's design)

Stylistically speaking, the system looks sleek and rounded. But the top of the Gateway's case is slightly swollen, and with the rounded front becomes more of a drawback than a design plus, since it's almost impossible to rest anything on top of the case.

Like the Micron and Dell MMX machines, this unit employs a toolless chassis, a first for Gateway. Simply remove a couple of screws and slide off the side panel to expose the inside of the system. As with the Micron, navigating around the Gateway 2000 is a breeze. All the cables are neatly tied together and out of the way. The Dell system's unique chassis is a different animal altogether. Although it appears messy and cramped, it uses tricks like a movable power supply to loosen things up.

The P5-200's design puts a door over the three free external 5.25-inch bays, emphasizing-at least until you upgrade-the system's contours. In addition to the free external bays, you get two free 3.5-inch expansion bays. That's a total of five free bays, two more than the Millennia and three up on the Dell.

The CPU rests unobstructed beneath a heat sink in the upper left corner of the motherboard with a fan soldered to the 145-watt power supply for cooling and ventilation: You can access the other motherboard-dwelling features as easily as you can the CPU. The 512KB of pipeline-burst cache is just below the processor, while the two DIMM slots (with 32MB of speedy SDRAM in one) are farther down.

As mentioned earlier, you can expand to only 64MB due to limitations placed by the 430VX chipset. The Dell and Micron machines excel here. Both bundle 32MB of RAM-EDO DIMM for the Dell (expandable to 512MB) and EDO SIMM for the Micron (expandable to 128MB). You get 256KB of cache for the Dell and 512KB for the Micron. The Dell and the Micron also use more robust power supplies of 230W and 250W, respectively.

The proof is in the pudding, and in the case of an MMX machine, the quality depends on how well the system runs MMX applications. But MMX apps are still scarce, so the next-best indicator is how well it runs standard programs. The Gateway is a pretty good performer under our standard Wintune tests and real-world Excel and Word application macros. But it really shines running Intel's Multimedia and Applications MMX Benchmark suites.

The P5-200 beat the Wintune scores for the Dell (387MIPS) and the Micron (384.67MIPS) by posting an average score of 389.33MIPS. The Gateway's video score of 20Mpixels per second wasn't quite as good as the Dell's 22Mpixels. But it outscored the Micron's 17.33Mpixels per second.

Disk scores aren't great for the Gateway. The Dell won handily by moving 4.63MB per second to and from its uncached hard disk, as opposed to the Gateway's 2.03MBps and the Micron's 1.8MBps. The results of our Word and Excel macro benchmarks placed the unit squarely between the top-scoring Micron and the Dell systems.

Under the MMX benchmarks-proprietary Intel-designed tests of multimedia, video, MPEG, 3-D and applications-the Gateway 2000 gave the Micron a run for its money. The Dell's scores were far behind these two MMX powerhouses. While the Gateway ran slightly behind the Micron in the multimedia portion of the tests, it earned the best score of all the MMX systems we've tested for 3-D.

Moving to the application benchmarks, the Gateway 2000 beat every system in last month's roundup, with the best scores for Adobe PhotoDeluxe, Intel Indeo, Direct 3D and Adobe Photoshop. However, it finished pretty far back for the Mediamatics' MPEG benchmark.

The P5-200 offers good, solid multimedia, including a 12X Mitsumi CD-ROM drive that beats the Dell's 8X drive, but doesn't quite match the Micron's 12X unit. Its video subsystem includes an excellent 17-inch monitor, Gateway 2000's own CrystalScan 700. This monitor always wins kudos at WINDOWS Magazine as one of the best displays in PC bundles. It delivers a superb picture and the best on-screen controls I've seen.

The monitor also earns high marks under Sonera Technologies' monitor test suite. You access and manipulate the display's controls with a single thumbwheel. There are controls for horizontal and vertical position and size, contrast, brightness, pincushion, trapezoid, rotation, recall, degauss, user mode and exit. The display has a 15.9-inch viewable area and a 0.28mm dot pitch; it supports resolutions up to 1280x1024. Scanning frequency ranges are 30kHz to 64kHz horizontal and 50Hz to 120Hz vertical.

The rest of the video subsystem runs under the Matrox Mystique 3D graphics board with 2MB of SGRAM. You can easily manipulate the video drivers, which seamlessly integrate with Windows 95's Display Properties. The card supports 24- or 32-bit true-color modes up to 800x600, 16-bit high-color mode up to 1152x864 and 8-bit 256-color mode up to 1280x1024.

The sound system consists of a set of Altec Lansing speakers and an Ensoniq Vivo 90 Wavetable sound card that is Sound Blaster compatible. The sound card has good sound quality and realistic MIDI reproduction.

The Gateway beats both the Dell and Micron for display and sound. However, the graphics boards on the Dell and Micron have 4MB of memory, versus the Gateway's 2MB.

As an added bonus, the Gateway 2000 includes a full-featured 33.6Kbps data/fax/voice Telepath modem. It lacks the USB port you'll find on the Dell OptiPlex, but since no USB peripherals are yet available, this is something of a moot point. It uses the ergonomic Microsoft Mouse 2.0 and a good keyboard with lots of feedback. It also features a 2.5GB Quantum hard disk and Gateway's comprehensive software package, which should include Microsoft Office 97 Small Business Edition by the time you read this.

The Gateway 2000's excellent performance and quality components, at a very reasonable price, earn it a spot on our Recommended List alongside the Dell unit, replacing the Micron. This is a solid system that will meet many different needs.

W Info File

Gateway 2000 P5-200 Family PC with MMX
Price: $2,469
Pros: MMX performance; high-quality monitor
Cons: Hard disk performance; RAM expansion limited to 64MB
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Gateway 2000
800-846-2000, 605-232-2000
Circle #623 or visit Winfo Online
WinMag Box Score: 4.0

Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media

Windows Magazine, March 1997, page 124.

[ Go to March 1997 Table of Contents ]