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-- by Jim Forbes
These days, the biggest difference between a top-of-the-line home computer and a corporate power user's machine is that the home machine probably has more capabilities. NEC's new 200MHz MMX Pentium-powered Ready 9716 mini-tower boasts good performance, very good expandability and a super-fast 16X CD-ROM drive.
Open the case and you'll find 32MB of RAM, an ATI Rage II video accelerator/controller with 2MB of video memory and enough breathing room on the motherboard to easily add more. The Ready 9716 comes standard with two USB (Universal Serial Bus) ports, although none of the peripherals NEC supplies takes advantage of them.
Compared to the software bundles on other home systems, the NEC's package is a little on the thin side. In addition to Windows 95, there's Microsoft Encarta 96, Microsoft Works, Microsoft Publisher and a smattering of other entertainment and educational titles. NEC also includes a connection to its technical support department through a dial-up Internet service provider-fine as long as your computer is operational.
The Ready 9716's performance is impressive, boosted by its ATI-based graphics chipset and Quantum 3.2GB hard drive. Its processor clocked in at 386.33MIPs (normal for a 200MHz MMX Pentium); the hard disk cranked out an average score of 2MB per second of uncached throughput, and the video consistently pumped out a respectable 13.33Mpixels per second of video throughput.
A pleasant surprise was the 9716's performance on our applications benchmarks, which averaged 16.67 seconds for Word and 14 seconds for Excel. This is at the top end of the spectrum for home PCs like the Ready. Its overall score of 153.01 for the Intel Multimedia benchmarks is right in line with other MMX-equipped desktop systems we've tested recently. The 16X CD-ROM drive clocked a scorching 2.25MBps transfer rate in our tests.
Although it isn't quite ready to bump Toshiba's Infinia 7220 from our WinList, NEC's Ready 9716 is good enough to replace Hewlett-Packard's now-discontinued Pavilion 7285. The Pavilion had respectable benchmark scores but lacked the configuration and MMX performance of the Ready. We wouldn't mind having the Ready 9716 as our corporate PC, either.