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-- by James Alan Miller
A computer that costs between $2,000 and $3,000 isn't always a practical choice. On the other hand, a used computer or a box with outdated technology probably isn't the way to go either. Kingdom's 6x86 P166+ Super Value provides a good solution. The 6x86 P166+ is a multimedia computer powered by a Cyrix 6x86 P166+ processor, offering good performance at a budget price.
The CD-ROM drive rests in the top 5.25-inch external bay in Kingdom's very expandable mini-tower case. The floppy drive and power button are above the CD-ROM drive, while the reset button and LEDs are much further below (underneath the three free 5.25-inch external drive bays). This design ensures that you won't confuse the power or reset button with the floppy disk eject button-a problem with many other desktops.
This mini-tower is an excellent example of tool-free access. (Our only complaint: You need to snap off faceplates to get to the free external bays.) To open the case, remove the front bezel and pull off the rest. Once inside, there are three free 3.5-inch drive bays. The system's 2.1GB (nominal) Fujitsu hard disk is very accessible at the top of the unit. Most of the internal wiring snakes neatly from the top of the system past the 250-watt power supply and down to the Intel motherboard.
At the top of the motherboard are the four SIMM slots, two filled with a total of 16MB of EDO RAM-maximum configuration is 128MB.
At first glance it appears one of the internal bays blocks access to the memory, but you can remove the bay by pressing a tab and sliding it out-a nice touch. Although the internal wiring is nicely folded, it could be a nuisance when placing cards in the ISA/PCI expansion slots.
There's a good supply of four PCI and three ISA slots. In the top PCI slot sits a no-frills 64-bit Cirrus Logic graphics board with 2MB of EDO RAM. It's not a 3-D card, and the system employs software MPEG rather than the preferred hardware MPEG. The only free ISA slot holds a Sound Blaster-compatible Schubert 16-bit SRS 3-D sound board. An MLI 170 Hi-Fi 15-watt speaker set and a microphone round out the adequate-but not exceptional-sound system.
One feature that stands out is the Goldstar 16 MAX CD-ROM drive. To test the drive, we ran Quarterdeck's CD Certify Pro and transferred a 30MB file from a CD-ROM to the desktop. The drive's performance results were in the 13X to 14X range with 94 percent CPU usage and an average access time of 150 milliseconds. In the real world, CD performance would suffer a bit when the CPU's attention is elsewhere. The 30MB file transferred in a three-pass average time of 19 seconds, which is about 1617Kb per second. That score places its performance between a 10X and 12X CD-ROM drive.
Other features of note are 256KB of pipeline-burst cache and a software bundle that includes Microsoft's Office 95, Works, Money and Scenes. You also get a Princeton Ultra 50 15-inch monitor. It offers a bright picture with good color reproduction. Princeton provides basic controls-horizontal and vertical size and position, pincushion/barrel adjustment, power, brightness and contrast. The monitor supports a maximum resolution of 1024x768 and has a viewable area of 13.8 inches. It is EPA Energy Star and VESA DPMS-compliant. The keyboard and mouse are functional but unexceptional, and the bundled documentation is a little sparse-which could be a problem for new users.
Traditionally, systems incorporating this CPU have scored between a 133MHz and 166MHz Pentium under our raw Wintune benchmarks, and a bit faster under our real-world Word and Excel application macros. The 6x86 P166+ was no exception. Under Wintune, it earned a score of 260MIPS for the CPU, placing it in the 133MHz Pentium range. Its marks for the macros, 17.33 seconds for Word and 11.67 seconds for Excel, were between the average 166MHz and 200MHz Pentium systems.
The system also scored a reasonably respectable 12.67Mpixels per second under Wintune's video test and a poor 1.53MBps for the uncached hard disk benchmark. Unfortunately, even though the system performed very well in some areas, it fell short of the WinList's Quantex QP5/150 SM-2 and the formerly recommended Micro Express 686/P166+ systems.
However, both those machines cost several hundred dollars more than this model. The 6x86 P166+ offers adequate, well-rounded components and a super software bundle at a rock-bottom price. The system fits the bill for households or small businesses on a tight budget. Its combination of features and affordability land this Kingdom squarely on our WinList, replacing the Micro Express 686/P166+