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NEC Powermate i-Select XL3 A1300

Desktop PC

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Review Not to be outdone by other 1.3GHz Athlons, NEC's Powermate i-Select XL3 A1300 has a couple of extra tricks up its sleeve. Built around a 1.3GHz processor and 256MB of DDR (double data rate) RAM, its WorldBench 2000 score of 182 is more than respectable.

NEC has also managed to bundle two firsts into this Power system - a new Nvidia GeForce3 graphics card and a DVD-R drive from Pioneer.

Nvidia's GeForce3 can handle more tasks on the card than its predecessors, so the load on the PC is reduced. As information doesn't have to be shifted around as much, this also delivers better performance. The main focus of Nvidia's new chip is to increase the quality of the graphics, although there will also be some performance gains from its new architecture.

Many of the benefits of the GeForce3 won’t come about until Microsoft’s latest games library, DirectX 8.0, is released. That said, even users of the current generation of games can expect some performance increases. Running through some Quake III demos yielded impressive results. Using Demo1 at 1024x768 brought a massive 142.5fps (frames per second), which dropped to only 85.7fps at 1600x1200.

NEC Powermate i-Select XL3 A1300Using the more intensive Annihilator demo, 1024x768 resulted in 45.2fps. Unfortunately, due to the board being an early sample with beta drivers, we were unable to run the Annihilator demo at 1600x1200, but at 1280x1024 it managed an impressive 40.1fps.

Although gamers are well catered for, NEC has also considered backup with the inclusion of a DVD-R drive from Pioneer. Until the release of the latest batch from Pioneer, DVD-Rs cost around £4000 and so were too expensive for most users.

The main advantage that DVD-R has over DVD-RAM is that it can be read in any DVD drive, whereas DVD-RAM discs can’t – because of the caddy that protects them. DVD-R can currently store 4.7GB of data per disc, roughly the same as seven and a half CD-R discs. Unfortunately DVD-R blanks are rather expensive, at around £20 each, but this should fall as the format becomes more prevalent. Bundling a DVD-R drive in a system available for half the price of a drive a few months ago is impressive enough, but the list doesn’t stop there. The Pioneer DVR-A03 can also write CD-R and CD-RW discs. The specifications may not be that great (eight-speed CD-R, quad-speed CD-RW), but this is more than made up for by the convenience of having one integrated device.

In addition to this, the rest of the system is suitably well equipped. There's a 60GB hard drive, SoundBlaster Live 1024 sound card, a set of Labtec speakers plus a three-year on-site warranty. If anything has been sacrificed to keep the costs down, it is the noticeably curvy own-brand monitor.

The Powermate i-Select XL3 A1300 brings cutting-edge technology into the home and business environment. You may think that 650MB is more than enough removable storage, but given the current rate of expansion of hard drives it’s soon going to start looking the same as the humble floppy disk.

In comparison, the DVD-R drive offers a massive 4.7GB of storage, which can be accessed by any machine with a DVD-ROM drive. Combine this with the brand new GeForce3 graphics chip and you’ve got a healthy configuration for the price. ®

Info

Price: £1548
Contact: 0870 010 6326
Website: www.nec-online.com

Specs

Graphics card: 64MB DDR GeForce3
Network card: 10/100
Hard drive: 60GB
Monitor: 19in
Processor/speed: AMD Athlon/1.3GHz
RAM: 256MB DDR RAM
DVD-ROM: 16x
DVD-ROM/DVD-R/CD-R/CD-RW/CD-W: 4x/2x/8x/4x/24x

This review is taken from the June 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication.

Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.

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