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.