New Microns gain in speed and power

Micron builds its systems bare-bones, an approach I like. The motherboards lack
integrated video and networking, which users can add in the shared ISA/PCI, three ISA and
three PCI slots.

 Why is this better? When you buy a system with integrated components, you usually
get a 2M video card and Ethernet networking at most. But if you need better video and Fast
Ethernet, you have to add two cards anyway. You're essentially paying twice.

 And don't forget the pains that come when Microsoft Windows 95 Plug and Play
discovers that multiple components are competing for the same interrupt-request addresses.
Even if you can disable the integrated components in the BIOS, Plug and Play finds them
and issues warnings.

Micron integrates sound onto its motherboard-a practical touch, because most users
don't need to upgrade audio. I also like Micron's inclusion of two COM ports instead of
the usual one.

 Both systems I examined came with a SCSI controller, another nice touch though not
necessary for a standard Pentium PC.

 The MMX system included an internal Iomega Corp. Zip drive. Zips are beginning to
spring up everywhere and could supplant the 312-inch floppy drive, which stores only 1.4M.
The 100M Zip media isn't much larger or thicker.

 The Millennia Plus came with an 8X 
CD-ROM drive that used a caddy. The MMX Millennia had a caddyless 12X model, 
which scored 11X on our GCNdex32TM benchmark.

 The Micron had CD-ROM and floppy drives and still had two external bays open,
leaving adequate room for expansion. But the difficulty of getting into the case would
give any large-scale Micron installer a pounding headache and sore fingers.

 In theory, you loosen a thumbscrew and press in two flaps to slip off one side of
the case. But both systems required excessive prying to remove the panel.

 Once inside, I saw the cables and wires neatly wrapped and out of the way, although
I still had to struggle to access the exterior bays. Both systems were fan-cooled with the
airstream right over the chip's heat sink.

 Replacing the panel took more effort than taking it off. There were no indications
how to reassemble the elements. 

System administrators probably would prefer the case designs from Dell, Compaq Computer
Corp. and others that really are easy-access. 

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