So you've been stuck with a regular run-of-the-mill desktop for the past few years because it was all you could afford. Well, it's time to invest some of that hard-earned money into a desktop with some pizzazz-something that can handle a big workload without freezing on you at the most inopportune moments. The desktops we looked at sparkle, and not just from the sparks that fly from the high-speed processors. Certainly by the time this goes to print, these may no longer have the fastest processors available, so it's important to look at expansion capabilities when deciding what system is right for you. And be forewarned: Bundle any of these systems with one of those 18-inch flat-panel displays, and you may never go home again.
Compaq Deskpro EXS
Street price: Starting at $1,833, depending on configuration
Phone: (800) 345-1518
A 1GHz Pentium III and 133MHz front-side bus power the Compaq Deskpro EXS. MyWorkspace.com, a built-in configurable portal, features free e-mail and investment- and portfolio-tracking; it also offers such business-specific features as easy access to Headlight.com and e-Stamps.com. 256MB SDRAM and a 20GB SMART Ultra ATA/100 hard drive are brawny enough to handle a myriad of applications sans problems. Available in minitower and desktop configurations, the EXS offers one AGP, two PCIs and many free bays. An easy-access keyboard and Compaq two-button scroll mouse come bundled, along with Norton AntiVirus, Norton Utilities and AOL 5.0 and your choice of Windows 95/98SE/00/NT.
HP's Pavilion 1Gig PC
Street price: $2,399
Phone: (800) PC-HOME-1
Hewlett-Packard's Pavilion 1Gig PC offers a Pentium III processor with an Intel 820 chipset, and although it only offers 128MB PC800 RDRAM, its 7,200 RPM 40GB hard drive is double that of the Compaq system. The Pavilion offers a lot of extras, like an 8x DVD drive, a CD-RW drive, Polk Audio AMR2 speakers and a Creative Sound Blaster Live! Soundcard. A V90 56Kbps modem and an Intel 10/100BaseT network card take care of network and Internet access. HP's One-touch Internet keyboard and scroller mouse come bundled as well.
Street price: $2,399
Phone: (800) 432-0486
The MTower SP can be configured to suit your needs. The system we looked at has an AMD K7 Athlon 1100MHz processor, one of only three systems that surpassed the gigahertz mark. A 40GB 7,200 RPM Ultra ATA100 hard drive and 128MB SDRAM make it comparable to HP's 1G PC, but for $800 less, you get a faster processor and a 16x DVD-ROM. The MTower SP comes bundled with a CreativeLab Live Value PCI 3DwaveT sound card, a Logitech InterNet Keyboard and a Microsoft Intellimouse as well as Windows 98.
Power Mac G4
Street price: $2,499
Phone: (800) MY-APPLE
The Power Mac G4 has two 500MHz PowerPC G4 processors. The G4 is great for graphics professionals, offering an ATI RAGE 128 Pro Graphics card and iMovie 2. A built-in 56Kbps V.90 modem card provides Internet access, and regular networking can be had with its built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Ethernet card; an optional AirPort for wireless networking is also available. Expansion capabilities include three PCI slots as well as two FireWire and two USB ports. A 40GB hard drive and 256MB PC100SDRAM round out the specs.
Street price: $3,513
Phone: (800) 388-8542
Powered by a 1.5GHz Intel Pentium IV, the Dimension 8100 is the fastest system we looked at. The mini-tower model offers 128MB RDRAM and 265KB integrated advanced transfer L2 Cache, along with a 40GB Ultra ATA-100 hard drive. The goodies on the Dell include a 12x DVD drive, and a 12/4/32x CD-RW. A 56Kbps WinModem and a 10/100 network card come pre-installed. Microsoft Office 2000 Small Business, Windows Millennium (ME) Microsoft Internet Keyboard and an MS IntelliMouse come bundled.
Street price: $1,949
Phone: (800) 989-9900
The MicroFLEX 1.1G has one of the fastest processors but still manages to cost less than any of the other systems we looked at. It offers many of the same goodies, like a CD-RW drive and a 12x DVD drive. Using an AMD Athlon processor with enhanced cache, 128MB SDRAM and a 30GB Ultra DMA hard drive, the MicroFLEX offers a good system at a great price. PCI audio with speakers, a 56Kbps V.90 fax/modem and a 10/100 BaseT Ethernet card come preinstalled. It also offers expansion capabilities, including 6 PCI slots and one AGP slot. A Microsoft Natural keyboard and mouse come bundled along with Windows 98SE.