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-- by Cynthia Morgan
Compaq's Deskpro 6000 line hits our WinList of recommended products frequently, and this model is no exception. Built with one of Intel's new P55C Pentium MMX processors, it offers good performance and so many fail-safe options for reliable operation that it ought to have training wheels.
While not exactly compact, the Deskpro 6000 Model 5200X/4200/PD is at least a tower unit that won't take up precious desktop real estate. It also offers a roomy interior with plenty of space for servicing. The unit comes with three PCI slots, three ISA slots and one shared PCI/ISA expansion slot; an ISA sound card and a 2MB Matrox Millennium PCI graphics adapter take up two of those slots.
UltraSCSI and Ethernet are integrated on the motherboard, leaving you several options for future expansion.
Setup is rapid and automatic using Compaq's color-coded cabling; the Deskpro came up smoothly in its Windows NT 4.0 Workstation configuration and connected to our test network without a hitch. About the only difficulty we had in configuring this machine for network use came from having to lift the monitor to place it on the desk. Our test system came with Compaq's excellent, if bulky, P70 17-inch monitor. Its high quality undoubtedly boosted the final price of the machine-and at nearly $4,000 we're talking serious money, even for a sophisticated network-savvy workstation-but the extra dollars will pay off in terms of reduced eyestrain.
The machine comes with eight SIMM slots; two are filled with 32MB of EDO RAM. Compaq's NetFlex built-in NIC can be upgraded to Fast Ethernet (100BaseT). The SCSI controller is connected to a fast 4.2GB hard drive; the PD/CD drive that's included in this model is an EIDE version.
The PD part of the drive comes in really handy for backup; Compaq designed the Model 5200X so it performs an autobackup to the PD drive if there are potential problems. The unit read multiple CDs and wrote to its PD cartridge flawlessly. About the only thing you sacrifice with this type of drive is a bit of CD speed. The CD portion of this unit is only 6X, as opposed to the 12X drives Compaq uses if you don't opt for the PD/CD. Still, the unit's performance is so smooth and well-cached that you won't notice a great deal of difference between this drive and 12X drives.
As with other Deskpro 6000s, Compaq includes a unique hard drive guarantee: The drive will predict its own failures in advance, giving you time to back up critical files and get the machine serviced before disaster strikes. When that happens, Compaq will replace the drive free of charge, whether or not the drive actually fails. The guarantee's good for three years.
Compaq builds several other corporate management features into this computer. A sensor will detect if the unit's cover has been removed, optionally warning the network administrator, and there's a built-in thermal detection device that can initiate shutdown if the Deskpro is in danger of overheating.
IBM's PC 350, the WinList product this system is replacing, also offers many desktop-management options in its NetFinity client-management software, but its features can't match those of the Compaq.
The Deskpro did well on our benchmark tests. The processor churned out performance of 385MIPS and 119MFLOPS, exactly what you'd expect from the 200MHz P55C Pentium chip that drives this machine. Application performance was a bit better than anticipated with a 200MHz Pentium, since the system was able to complete our Word macro in 9.53 seconds and our Excel macro in 4.33 seconds.
The Deskpro ran our new Equilibrium DeBabelizer/Adobe Photoshop graphics/MMX exercises in an average of 16.4 minutes, about as fast as any MMX-enabled 200MHz Pentium.
The Deskpro 6000's great management options undoubtedly push its price higher than you might expect for a machine in this class. Some users will find the cost prohibitive. But those options, coupled with an extensive feature set, make this PC an ideal choice for corporations looking for high-performance workstations that won't give a company's tech staff time-consuming (and expensive) headaches. Like so many of its worthy predecessors, the newest Deskpro 6000 gets our unqualified WinList recommendation.