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-- by Jonathan Blackwood
Cleveland's CompuWorld is a small vendor with a difference. Instead of focusing almost entirely on price, CompuWorld aims to provide value and support, even if it costs a little more.
Its Mega System is an example of this philosophy. The system consists of a 166MHz P55C Intel Pentium processor with MMX, 64MB of EDO RAM (upgradable to 256MB), a BioStar systemboard with Intel's 430TX chipset, 512KB of pipeline-burst cache, a 3.16GB (nominal) Western Digital hard disk, a Lite-On 16X CD-ROM drive, a Matrox Millennium video adapter with 2MB WRAM and a 33.6Kb-per-second U.S. Robotics fax modem (upgradable to 56K). There's also a 17-inch (16.3-inch viewable) flat-square ViewMate monitor with a 0.28mm dot pitch, a 32-bit 3D wavetable sound card and 150-watt speakers.
The tab for all this is $1,959. CompuWorld could hit a lower price point with less RAM, a 2GB hard disk or a 256KB cache; but better to have a slightly slower processor with extra RAM or additional cache, than the other way around. There's also a raft of entertainment software and, for an extra $69, Corel WordPerfect Suite 7.
What sets this system apart is a full three-year parts, six-year labor warranty, a 30-day money-back guarantee and toll-free tech support (business hours, Monday through Saturday). Just for good measure, CompuWorld burns in each system it builds for 72 hours.
Performance was good for a 166MHz system: 323MIPS, 32MBps cached-disk throughput and 38Mpixel-per-second video throughput. Time to execute our application macros: 77 seconds for Word, 177 seconds for Excel and 19.43 minutes for our Photoshop/DeBabelizer Pro/MMX script. Our new AutoCAD R14 benchmark took 13 seconds to open, 55 seconds to render.
With a price tag that's $660 lower, the comparable Micro Express MicroFLEX PCI/166 keeps its spot on our WinList.