Large-screen PC not quite ready for conference room

The Destination Big Screen PC is looking for a place to go in
the government market.


With its 31-inch monitor that doubles as a television, jet-black Pentium CPU, wireless
keyboard and remote mouse, the $3,499 Destination may revolutionize home computing. But
the concept doesn't go far enough yet to spark a similar revolution in the conference
room.


The huge screen welcomes you with Microsoft Windows 95 games, home office and
education/reference program groups. I doubt the Commerce Department would get much out of
"Monopoly" or that NASA really needs "The Magic School Bus Explores the
Solar System."


The logical Destination? In the conference room for presentations or group training--no
more crowding around a small monitor. Yet the software collection includes only the
low-end Microsoft Works integrated package and 14 entertainment titles on CD-ROMs. You can
substitute a Microsoft Office 95 Professional CD with PowerPoint--the only office software
option available.


Gateway comes with a sound card but no speakers, in the expectation that you'll hook
the Destination into a stereo receiver. For $699 more, you can buy a Harman/Kardon Dolby
Prologic Surround Sound system that comes in three boxes weighing almost 300 pounds.


For an additional $219, technicians will set up everything. Unless you're an
experienced audiophile and adept enough to program your videocassette recorder flawlessly,
I'd recommend hiring the technicians. An ordinary PC takes me about 10 minutes to set up.
Destination took three people working together well over an hour.


About 70 minutes into the setup, we hit significant snags.


The Destination's Field Mouse is a trackball combined with a TV remote control. Both
mouse and keyboard communicate by radio frequency with an antenna that plugs into the
standard mouse and keyboard ports on the CPU.


Our first Field Mouse, an early production unit, didn't work. Following Destination's
excellent documentation, we set DIP switches and pressed reset buttons, but no go. A
second RF receiver worked fine, although it had limited range. The Field Mouse must be
pointed at the antenna.


The Destination's six-speed Wearnes CD-ROM drive failed about half the time; a second
Wearnes unit sent by Gateway worked. Future Destinations will be shipped with eight-speed
Toshiba CD-ROM drives.


The 31-inch monitor was sharp and easily viewed from across the room. Its 640- by
480-pixel VGA resolution and 256 colors may sound a little downscale to users accustomed
to 15-inch SuperVGA monitors. But its resolution was better than that of a standard
television. The connection from the CPU's video/television card to the monitor was
standard VGA.


If you're under a Buy American restriction, the 31-inch Mitsubishi monitor does not
conform. Gateway is considering a 27-inch monitor to meet the government's Buy American
requirements, but it's not expected to be available until December.


In our GCNdex32 benchmark testing, the Destination performed reliably and received
better than average scores. Compared to a Gateway P5-166 [GCN, April 29, Page 1],
its GCNdex32 integer and floating-point math scores were about 14 percent lower, with
hard-drive performance virtually the same.


The Wearnes CD-ROM drive scored a disappointing 1.3 on the GCNdex32; a 6X drive usually
scores 3.0 or higher.


On Windows 95 application benchmarks, the 133-MHz Destination was about 1 1/2  
minutes slower than the Pentium 166, but it was slightly faster on the Microsoft Word
test.


I loved trying out the Destination. Gateway is really onto something if it provides a
more office-oriented software bundle.


GCN Lab assistant Theron Bunnell contributed to this report.


Gateway 2000 Inc., North Sioux City, S.D.; tel. 605-232-2000


Price: Pentium 100, $3,499; Pentium 120, $3,599; Pentium 133, $3,799; Pentium
166, $4,349; $119 to


upgrade one-year warranty to three years


Overall grade: B+


[+] Best of both worlds in 31-inch sharp screen, VGA connection and TV card for
cable or VCR


[+] Solid Pentium PC at a good price


[--] Software more for living room than conference room


[--] One-year warranty when three-year is pretty much the norm


Standard configuration:


16M extended-data-out dynamic RAM, 2M video RAM with cable-ready TV tuner,
28.8-kilobit/sec


modem, 16-bit Hi-Fi Wave Table sound card, 850M to 2.5G hard drive


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