Slim PCs pare down functions but not performance

Slim PCs pare down functions but not performance

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

Compact, manageable PCs are becoming the norm in offices that want to minimize disruption of users' work styles by maintenance or updates.

Hewlett-Packard Co. and Micron PC Inc. recently introduced systems for this legacy-reduced environment. It's an idea pioneered by Compaq Computer Corp.'s iPaq [GCN, March 6, Page 27].

HP's and Micron's units look more like standard business systems than the iPaq, which resembles a silver rocket with the cone cut off. But they follow Compaq's path to less complex computing: Get rid of PCI and ISA cards, reduce the chances of hardware conflicts, and automate more functions with Universal Serial Bus and Internet connections.

HP's e-Vectra looks like a cross between a small PC with conventional components and a fat notebook PC without display or battery.

Instead of the customary power supply, the e-Vectra uses a brick AC adapter, just like that of HP's OmniBook portable, which has no screws so it's easy to replace a faulty power unit.

The e-Vectra can incorporate a 24X CD-ROM drive like that of a notebook PC'but not in a modular bay. You can't switch it for another component as you can with a notebook.

No floppy drive is available for the e-Vectra. In fact, there's no way to write anything to removable media short of adding a peripheral through one of the two USB ports in back.

A panel on the side accesses the only interchangeable component'the hard drive. The e-Vectra also can be locked to prevent hard drive access. Most secure government facilities require hard drives with classified information to be locked away in a safe.

A simple pull of a latch releases the e-Vectra's hard drive, which you can lock up after unplugging the cable. It's easy to ghost a new hard drive or replace crashed storage.

The small chassis can sit on end or on its side, but I wouldn't advise placing a monitor on top unless it's a lightweight LCD.

Almost everything is integrated onto the motherboard, including a 10/100-Mbps network interface and a graphics subsystem. Video performance is OK, but don't expect to do any 3-D modeling.











Box Score

e-Vectra

Legacy-reduced desktop PC


Hewlett-Packard Co.; Palto Alto, Calif.;

tel. 703-204-2100;

www.hp.com/go/epc

Price: $999


+ Compact design

+ Limited accessibility

' No way to add memory

' No internal speaker


Usability - A-

Features and configuration - A-

Benchmark Performance - A-

ZD's Business Winstone 99 - 30.0

Three times faster than a 233-MHz Pentium MMX

Box Score

ClientPro Cf

Legacy-reduced desktop PC


Micron PC Inc.; Nampa, Idaho;

tel. 888-224-4247;

www.micronpc.com

Price: $1,067


+ Conventional chassis

+ Two extra USB ports in front

' No internal speaker


Usability - A-

Features and configuration - A-

Benchmark Performance - A

ZD's Business Winstone 99 - 29.8

Three times faster than a 233-MHz Pentium MMX



The overall grade comprises scores for three factors: usability (40 percent), features and configuration (30 percent), and performance (30 percent). The lab used ZD's Winstone 99 Version 1.2. For benchmark information, visit www.gcn.com/gcnlab/benchmark.



With a 600-MHz Pentium III processor and 128M of RAM, the e-Vectra performed acceptably on benchmark tests under Ziff-Davis Winstone 99 suite'the real-world tests of performance on standard applications.

The e-Vectra earned a score of 30, which means it performed three times faster than a 233-MHz Pentium MMX, as you might expect.

The slightly slower processor in Micron PC's ClientPro Cf didn't slow it down. The 550-MHz Pentium III processor nearly matched the e-Vectra on Winstone 99, earning a score of 29.8.

Micron slimmed down rather than remodeled the standard PC chassis. The ClientPro Cf looks like the low-profile models available from Compaq and other companies, but it gets rid of the ISA and PCI card headaches. Moreover, Micron put two USB ports up front and another two in the back.

That's a bonus. As handy new USB peripherals enter the market, users increasingly must heave around their huge systems to puzzle out which cable is which among the tangles.

The Micron chassis can support a 17-inch monitor on top. The company also offers a chassis that can stand on end like a minitower.

The ClientPro Cf has two exterior bays'one for a floppy drive and the second for a CD-ROM drive. The ClientPro Cf-r model excludes external devices.

A single thumbscrew secures the chassis. Except for the lack of cards, the interior looks like a standard PC. The CD-ROM's ribbon cable gets in the way of the two double in-line memory module slots, but otherwise everything is neatly organized.

Both the Micron ClientPro Cf and the HP e-Vectra can be categorized as legacy-reduced instead of legacy-free because they maintain the standard PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, plus parallel, serial, sound and 15-pin VGA video ports.

Neither has an internal speaker'an option both vendors ought to introduce for business computing. Because the ClientPro and e-Vectra are both so small, it would be a shame to waste all that saved desk space on external speakers.

These are solid systems worthy of any office. If your users are comfortable with the legacy-reduced future and don't plan on adding memory, the e-Vectra might be the better bet. If you want to keep one foot solidly in the conventional PC world, try the ClientPro Cf.

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