NEC entry makes respectable showing in 200-Mhz PC derby

NEC's mantra for the PowerMate line seems to be, "There's always room for
improvement."


The 200-MHz PowerMate P2200 Pentium PC has been substantially redesigned since the GCN
Lab looked at its 166-MHz predecessor, a Reviewer's Choice [GCN, April 29, Page
1].


My test unit, a preproduction model of the PowerMate P2200 Performance series, arrived
in a minitower case with an eight-speed CD-ROM drive, 20-watt speakers, a microphone and
an Iomega Corp. Zip 100 drive as standard equipment. Also built in were a pair of the new
Universal Serial Bus (USB) connectors that will become common next year for convenient
daisy-chaining of peripherals.


In the P2200, NEC has moved the infrared data transfer port from halfway up the
minitower down to keyboard level, responding to users who wearied of trying to hold their
notebooks steady at the mid-tower height IrDA ports. Like I said, there's always room for
improvement.


The interior has been reconfigured for easy access and maintenance. Crack the case by
loosening three thumbscrews, and you see a layout that was put together with admirable
care.


Cables are arranged manageably, with card slots extremely easy to reach. Six drive bays
are crammed into this unit, some easier to access than others but none very difficult. The
two PCI and two ISA slots and a shared PCI/ISA slot are at the top of the tower and
parallel to the workspace. For all its bells and whistles, the interior is surprisingly
roomy, always a sign of good design.


Connecting all manner of peripherals was easy. Color-coded keyboard and mouse ports are
joined by input and output jacks for the integrated Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16-bit
sound controller. Besides the two USB connectors previously mentioned, the P2200 has two
serial ports and a parallel port.


NEC Technologies ships the Performance series with either Microsoft Windows 95 or
MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows for Workgroups preinstalled. It is Desktop Management
Interface-enabled and comes with a host of useful software: McAfee Associates' VirusScan,
CyberMedia's FirstAid 95 Deluxe [GCN, July 15, Page 40], Traveling Software's
LapLink and assorted other packages.


Now, down to the numbers. The PowerMate performed solidly on the GCNdex32 benchmark
suite under Win95, turning in scores almost indistinguishable from those of Dell Computer
Corp.'s Optiplex GXMT 5200 and EPS Technologies Inc.'s Evolution GXL 200 [GCN,
July 9, Page 1].


Its integer math score was 4.44 and the floating-point math score 2.23, indicating,
respectively, 4.44 and 2.23 times the performance of a baseline 66-MHz 486 PC. Actually,
you wouldn't expect to see much difference among 200-MHz Pentiums here, because the chip
can drive the 66-MHz bus only so fast.


With a video score of 5.54 using a standard ATI Technologies GT Rage 64-bit controller,
the NEC's performance was respectable but behind the EPS' score of 6.08. The small-file
disk access score was 3.83, and the large-file score 3.43--both slightly slower than the
EPS and the Dell.


When I ran the GCNdex32 disk I/O benchmark on the NEC's MultiSpin 8X CD-ROM drive, it
came out at 4.29, translating into a 1.28-megabyte/sec data transfer rate. Though not
remarkably fast for an eight-speed, it exceeds the minimum 1.2-megabyte/sec rate of a true
8X device.


My tests of the Zip removable-media drive showed a 1.53-megabyte/sec transfer
rate--faster than a 540M IDE magnetic hard drive.


The P2200 delivered solid performance, good engineering and a load of features and
options for a not-bad price: $3,350. It's a good example of how to take a good design and
give it more convenience and ergonomic value.


NEC Technologies Inc., Mountain View, Calif.; tel. 800-374-8000


http://www.nec.com 


Price: $3,350 without monitor


Overall grade: A-


[+] Great minitower chassis design and an extensive and useful software bundle


[+] Zip and 8X CD-ROM drives are great additions


[-] Needs video upgrade to separate it from 200-MHz Pentium pack



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