Just when you thought you'd equipped your office with the latest computer, along comes new processing technology that is faster, more powerful and better than ever. Intel, the biggest brand name in the CPU industry, has given birth to a second generation of CPUs, the Pentium II, whose dazzling velocity leaves rockets to Mars in the dust.
Intel's original Pentium technology became the chip of choice a few years ago. Later, its Matrox Millennium (MMX) technology, which facilitates multimedia applications, upped the ante. The newest release marries MMX and the original Pentium Pro.
Measured in megahertz (MHz), or 1 million cycles per second, Pentium II PCs are available with 233, 266 or 300 MHz processors that relegate 486 computers to the dump. Many Pentium IIs are also equipped with SD-RAM technology (see "Inside Scoop" on page 56), which allows you to expand RAM memory to as high as 384MB.
While our chart features the base (233 MHz) models, most
manufacturers offer a complete three-model lineup either in desktop
or upright (minitower) versions. Pentium IIs come standard with a
and a mouse. Be warned, however: Monitors and modems are not always included and can add more than $300 to your total bill.
Manufacturers that include monitors with Pentium IIs are shipping 17-inch monitors. CD-ROM drives also usually come standard, as do speakers, which are usually internal, and other multimedia features. Among NEC's Pentium II features is an optional built-in Iomega Zip Drive that backs up your data, with removable cartridges that can be taken on the road. All Pentium II PCs come standard with Windows 95 or NT 4.0 already installed.
These new computers offer greater efficiency, faster graphics, enhanced color, higher-quality multimedia functions and new features for small-business owners. One much-touted feature is an Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) internal card, which uses the main system memory instead of the standard, crowded graphics controller PCI bus memory, thus speeding things up and freeing hard-drive space.
If you use multimedia applications, you'll find the new computers provide more realistic on-screen images and better-quality musical tones when using CDs. Some models have the capability to add voice mail, an answering machine, a speakerphone, distinctive ring, auto-answer and Caller ID.
How important is it to have a multimedia computer? Even if your business is mainly text-oriented and you think you have no need for multimedia applications, analysts predict that software will almost certainly be sold only on CDs in the future, requiring you to add a CD-ROM drive when you want to add new programs.
Jill Amadio is a writer in Newport Beach, California.