It's so far, so good for nexar, the new kid on the PC block

Government buyers want inexpensive, speedy and expandable PCs. The Nexar covers those
three bases, but it has no track record yet for reliability.


Its maker pushed into the market only recently [GCN, June 10, Page 51]. But in
two months of GCN Lab testing, the Nexar never gave us a moment's worry.


Its most noticeable feature is the removable access panel on the right side for easy
upgrades to the processor, memory and cache. But accessing ISA and PCI cards required
opening the case, which was held together by four standard screws. The side panel had to
be removed first, because memory and cache chips poked outward, blocking the case's
removal.


The Nexar has seven slots, four PCI and three ISA. In our test machine, two ISA slots
were occupied by a modem and a sound card, and one PCI slot held a video card. The
interior had a straightforward layout, although the slots were near the bottom. Cords and
wires were bundled and out of the way.


One 3 1/2 inch interior bay was open but blocked by a support bar. With a CD-ROM drive
and hard drive installed, only one exterior 5 1/4 inch bay was available.


Wonder why the hard drive was in a 5 1/4 inch bay? It's removable. This is a valuable
feature for security reasons; there are separate keys to unlock the unit, the hard drive
and the side panel. You could buy an extra drive or two for working with different
operating systems.


The Nexar contains Intel Corp.'s Triton chip set and supports synchronous burst single
in-line and extended-data-out dual in-line memory modules. The test system had a 166-MHz
Pentium with its own cooling fan. You could substitute a 75- to 200-MHz Pentium or one of
the 5x86 or 6x86 processors from Cyrix Corp. and others.


Lab tests proved the Nexar noteworthy. Compared against the benchmark scores of the 12
166-MHz Pentium systems we evaluated recently [GCN, April 29, Page 1], the Nexar
racked up the highest GCNdex32 integer math score of any 166. But its floating-point math
score was the lowest.


It didn't quite rank with a 200-MHz Pentium, but we had to pause a moment to verify
that we were indeed dealing with a Pentium 166.


The video score also blew us away. Even though it's only a 64-bit card, the Diamond
Stealth 3D 2000 beat some 128-bit cards. The Stealth, with 2M of EDO RAM, performs best at
drawing 3-D environments, but we found the performance excellent in two-dimensional
Microsoft Windows 95.


On our application benchmarks, the Nexar performed about 7.5 percent better than an
average Pentium 166. It wasn't the fastest but was among the best without a SCSI hard
drive.


We did have a few criticisms. The keyboard was one of the poorest we've
seen--lightweight and flimsy, as if it might fall apart under the slightest pressure.
However, Nexar didn't skimp on the Logitech Inc. mouse.


The Pixie Technologies Inc. monitor ran low on fairy dust, and its pixels looked a
little pale. Still, it wasn't as bad as some monitors we've seen.


We assured Nexar in advance that the PC would be used only for lab testing, and we
found it strange that a system for the government market would come loaded with games like
Doom and Heretic. The rest of the Nexar's software was useless.


Government Technology Services Inc. sells the Nexar at open-market prices. If you're
considering a PC buy soon, think seriously about this one. You're going to see a lot more
of it in government offices.


GCN Lab assistant Theron Bunnell contributed to this report.


Nexar Technologies Inc., Westborough, Mass.; tel. 508-836-8700


http://www.nexartech.com 


Price: $2,000 up from GTSI of Chantilly, Va.


Overall grade: B+


[+] Impressive benchmark scores, especially video


[+] Easily upgraded


[-] Flimsy keyboard


[-] Monitor could be better


GCNdex32 scores:


Integer math: Nexar 3.87, average 166-MHz Pentium 3.19


Floating-point math: Nexar 1.96, average 2.80


Video: Nexar 5.46, average 4.77


Small-file disk access: Nexar 3.61, average 3.23


Large-file access: Nexar 3.17, average 3.32


CD-ROM access: Nexar 3.97, average 3.03



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