[ Go to August 1997 Table of Contents ]|
-- by Jonathan Blackwood
The promise of the new AMD-K6 processor is higher performance at a lower cost. The Polywell Poly K6200Mx MMX-enabled 200MHz tower system delivers on that promise, in spades. We've never reviewed a system for less than $2,500 that pumps out 397MIPS or that can execute our Excel macro in an average of just 5.33 seconds under NT. Our test model was a dual-boot system that demonstrated the K6's ability to deliver superb performance under Windows 95 as well, delivering 396MIPS and an average time of 5.67 seconds on the Excel macro.
In addition to a decent Sampo KM-711-L 17-inch monitor (with a 15.8-inch viewable screen), you get 32MB of RAM, 512KB of level 2 cache, a 5.1GB (nominal) Maxtor EIDE hard drive and a 12X Panasonic CD-ROM drive. Also included are a GVC 33.6Kb-per-second modem (with 14.4Kbps fax capability), a Crystal 16-bit sound card and Quickshot Sound Force Speakers, a Logitech mouse and an excellent Key Tronic keyboard. The Diamond Stealth 3000 3D video card with 4MB of EDO RAM was plenty fast, but its drivers were a bit flaky, at times leaving artifacts of closed windows strewn across the screen. We would expect these drivers to have been updated by the time you read this.
You'll need an old-fashioned screwdriver to get the case open. Once inside you'll find a spacious interior with an ATX-form factor motherboard, a 230-watt power supply, and two DIMM slots and four SIMM slots, which can hold a maximum of 128MB using DIMMs or 256MB if you opt for SIMMs. There are two internal 3.5-inch bays, one occupied by the hard drive. It also has three external 5.25-inch drive bays (two available) and one external 3.5-inch bay that holds the floppy disk drive. One shared ISA/PCI slot plus three ISA and three PCI slots provide plenty of expansion room, with two ISA and two PCI slots available.
The back of the case has plenty of connectors: two serial, one parallel, two USB, two PS/2, a joystick, a speaker, a line out, a microphone and game ports. The Sampo monitor has a 0.28mm dot pitch, and the keyboard has a feel reminiscent of IBM Selectric typewriters. The one real oddity is that the case is a pleasant greenish-charcoal color, while all the peripherals (mouse, monitor, keyboard) are in the more common putty color. If you tuck the tower out of sight on the floor, you won't notice the difference, and to some people, it won't matter anyway.
Performance was quite good. On our Wintune benchmarks, under Windows NT 4.0 and running at 800x600dpi at a color depth of 16 bits, the K6200Mx scored 397MIPS, 79MB per second cached disk throughput and 42Mpixels per second video throughput. It ran our application macros in average times of 10.33 seconds for Word, 5.33 seconds for Excel and 18.23 minutes for our Debabelizer Pro/Photoshop MMX script. Switching to Windows 95, performance was in some cases unchanged or better with 40MBps cached disk throughput and 38Mpixels per second video throughput. Application times were 10 seconds for Word, 5.67 seconds for Excel and 18.03 minutes for our MMX script.
Compare these scores to the DirectWave MVP K6-200 on our WinList. Running Windows 95, the DirectWave scored 396MIPS, cached disk throughput of 43MBps and video throughput of 39Mpixels per second. The MVP K6-200 executed our application macros in 9.67 seconds for Word, 5.67 seconds for Excel and 17.7 minutes for the MMX script. That system, however, sells for $2,599.
The Polywell Poly K6200Mx represents a breakthrough in the price/performance ratio that can only be good news for consumers and small businesses. The company has been in business for 10 years and provides a superb warranty-three years limited on parts and five years labor in its facilities. Polywell offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and one year of on-site service with 24-hour toll-free tech support. Only the flaky video drivers keep this system off our WinList. Nevertheless, it's worth a long look.