HP's Vectra gets big boost from 233-MHz MMX chip

The GCN Lab examined Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Vectra XA 5/233DT.


TheVectra is among the first 233-MHz MMX machines available to federal buyers.
Hewlett-Packard often waits until a technology has a market hold before releasing its own
version, so the lab staff was glad to get a Vectra back into the lab after more than a
year's absence.


The XA 5/233DT has many enhancements, but the lab couldn't test them all, particularly
the Top Tools utilities that comply with the Desktop Management Interface standard. Why?
The lab staff had to wipe the hard drive and reinstall an operating system from the
get-go.


The preproduction Vectra XA had arrived with Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, which was
supposed to load on initial startup and then reboot. But the PC crashed and hung at the
blue screen. The lab crew could not recover it with Hewlett-Packard's operating system
load.


Part of the problem was the 2.4G hard drive, which was formatted for a 16-bit File
Allocation Table with a 500M primary partition and a 1.9G secondary partition. That
indicated the hard drive originally had been formatted by an older version of Windows 95
or MS-DOS 6.22 because those OSes cannot handle hard drive capacities higher than 2G. Why
the company set up the smaller partition as primary is a mystery.


The lab opted to wipe the drive and start over with Windows 95 and the 32-bit FAT,
known as Windows 95B. After removing the partitions and making one large drive, the lab
team installed the latest OS version from Microsoft Corp. The lab downloaded drivers from
Hewlett-Packard's World Wide Web site because no documentation or software came with the
PC.


Everything went fine, although Windows' Plug and Play had difficulty identifying two
components. Neither conflicted with anything else, so the lab disabled them and the system
worked fine.


GCNdex32TM benchmark testing produced pleasing scores, higher by an average of 16
percent than the 200-MHz Pentium MMX's math scores. File access performance climbed almost
9 percent.


These were the most impressive benefits the lab has seen from a simple clock-speed
increase.


For example, Intel's 200-MHz Pentium had a 34-MHz higher clock speed than the 166-MHz
version, yet it netted only an 8 percent performance boost.


The 233-MHz Pentium MMX performed about 37 percent more slowly than its 266-MHz Pentium
II sibling and probably will cost 15 percent or 20 percent less. Government prices are not
yet available from Hewlett-Packard.


The 2M Matrox Millennium video card turned in a respectable 7.34 on the GCNdex32 video
test. In comparison, an 8M card scored 22.3, but most video cards on Pentium-class PCs
have scored 4.0 to 9.0, putting the Vectra XA near the top end. Processor clock speed and
the OS also influence video score slightly.


Other nice enhancements include a speaker on the front that delivers 16-bit sound,
although it is not stereo. The PC has hardware control for speaker volume and a headphone
jack.


Also on the front is an ingenious light that indicates LAN activity. It keeps you from
having to turn around the PC to see whether the network interface card is operating.


The PCI 10/100-megabit/sec NIC oddly had one RJ-45 port for 10 megabits/sec and another
for 100 megabits/sec. The NIC is opposite four other card slots-two PCI, one shared
PCI/ISA and one ISA. The ISA and one PCI are occupied by sound and video cards,
respectively.


You enter the chassis simply by flipping two switches. Inside, it's a little crowded,
but four of the six single in-line memory module slots are open for upgrades. That's
outstanding, because most makers offer two vacant SIMM slots.


The power unit sits like a bridge over the processor and clips into place.


inside gcn

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