Compaq hits hard line drive with Deskpro 6000 PCs

The compelling Deskpro 6000 line from
Compaq Computer Corp. has some of the best-engineered, heavy-duty, enterprise-ready
computers available to government buyers. Only sluggish hard drives mar what comes close
to perfect performance.

The GCN Lab examined two of these top-end desktop PCs: a 200-MHz Pentium MMX minitower
and a 266-MHz Pentium II in a low-profile chassis. Both gave strong benchmark performance
everywhere except in hard-drive file access.

I can't fault Compaq for this, because every Seagate Technology Barracuda UltraSCSI
drive we've examined had lower than expected benchmark scores, such as the drive in Dell
Computer Corp.'s WorkStation 400 [GCN, Sept. 8, Page 1].

Few users would likely notice the sluggishness on small, cached files, but the cache
wasn't big enough for large files. Besides Compaq and Dell, NEC Computer Systems Division
and Digital Equipment Corp. also use some of these UltraSCSI drives in their systems.

The GCNdex32TM benchmark suite measures sustained writes of a particular file or files.
The Barracuda, according to Seagate Technology officials, has a variable transfer rate. So
burst transfers might go faster than our GCNdex testing indicated.

Part of the slowness also might come from the supporting SCSI firmware selection, such
as an Adaptec Inc. adapter. But the SCSI backbone did give breakneck performance to the
Deskpro's 8X CD-ROM drives--a 19X score on the Pentium MMX and almost 22X on the Pentium
II system.

Power users accustomed to workstation-class products might notice the slight drive
delays, but most desktop users won't. Some might dislike the Seagate drive's high-pitched
whine, which is outside hearing range for many people.

All the other GCNdex benchmarks were at the top of the field, especially video scores.
The Pentium II drew our second-highest score ever. Both systems come standard with Matrox
Millennium video cards.

As for ease of opening, the tower had three thumbscrews to remove its side panel. The
desktop had one thumbscrew and two latches. Both motherboards integrated
10/100-megabit/sec network interfaces.

The interiors differed. On most Pentium II systems, the processor casing, which looks
like a computer game cartridge, connects perpendicular to the motherboard. On the Deskpro
Pentium II, it lay parallel and on its side. Most other components were accessible though

Card cages on both Deskpros had an interesting T design with slots to either side. The
desktop had four slots, of which two PCI slots were occupied. The single ISA slot also was
occupied, and a shared PCI/ISA slot was vacant.

The minitower had seven slots: four PCI, two occupied; and three ISA, one occupied.
Sound and video cards in both systems were UltraSCSI.

The built-in speakers were good, but you might want to add Compaq's Multimedia Sound
System with two 5-watt speakers. It fits perfectly around the base of any Compaq monitor
and provides volume control and a mute button for instant silence.

When you press the mute button again to restore the sound, it doesn't suddenly assault
your ears. Volume rises slowly to ease you back.

That's just one ex-ample of the thoughtful detail in this generation of Compaq's
desktop systems, listed on General Services Administration schedule contract, NASA's
Scientific and Engineering Workstation II and Air Force Desktop V.

Compaq's Intelligent Manageability software and features such as chassis intrusion
alert should make the Deskpro 6000 line welcome on government networks.

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