WinBook PowerSpec at home in fast lane

If you want a desktop PC that performs like a Ferrari but is priced like a midsize sedan, check out a WinBook.

WinBook Computer Corp., known for its inexpensive and midrange notebook PCs, has recently begun building the PowerSpec line of towers for the desktop PC market.

Starting at $399 with a 1.2-GHz AMD Duron processor and 256M of RAM, the line tops out with the $1,499 model we tested.

Our test PowerSpec 9340 had a 3.06-GHz Pentium 4 processor with 800-MHz front-side bus, six Universal Serial Bus 2.0 ports and a Sony DVD-/+RW drive. It came standard with a full 1G of double-data-rate synchronous dynamic RAM and a big, 120G Western Digital Corp. 7,200-rpm hard drive.

The internal components were up-to-date, though buried in a sea of wires, and the old-fashioned, rectangular tower lacked modern, toolless entry and efficient heat circulation. Reaching the RAM, PC Cards, optical drive or hard drive was difficult.

Four of the USB ports were inconveniently located in back. The other two were even more inconvenient, on the bottom right side of the chassis.

It's imperative in today's IT world to distribute some of a desktop computer's ports in front because the last thing the buyer of a state-of-the-art client wants to do is feel around for a port behind or under a large, heavy chassis.

The network port was so close to a USB port that both ports couldn't be in use at the same time if one held, say, a bulky USB keychain hard drive.

The 1G of RAM and fast processor suited the WinBook well for media editing of TIFF or JPEG files, but our benchmark tests showed that the system did best at less memory-intensive and more processor-intensive applications, such as database and chart processing.

That was evident from the GCN Lab's Alterion Corp. benchmark suite. On the graphical portion, the WinBook 9340 scored 7,963, well above the average in our last desktop PC review.

Mixed video scores

In the processor-specific portion of the test, the WinBook scored 37,084'only 1,406 lower than the average for the 3.07-MHz MPC Millennia 910i.

The WinBook 9340 had a decent nVidia GeForce FX 5200 graphics card, which was good for video but substandard for working with 3-D computer-aided design programs. Compared with the GeForce4 Ti-4600 and ATI Radeon 9700 Pro cards we saw in the April 21 review, the FX 5200 was a little weak.

Although the WinBook's graphics card had 128M of RAM like the others, it could process only 81 million vertices per second compared with the Ti-4600's 138 million. And although it had the same 10-Gbps bandwidth as its competitors, the slower fill rate made the FX 5200 less effective at generating complex graphics.

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