by June 10, 2004 0 comments



In an organization, there is always a percentage of users who need better machines than the rest. This can be either need based or based on where the user stands in the organizational hierarchy. So, a software developer would need a more powerful machine than say, a marketing executive, and a network administrator would need a better machine than someone in accounts. Similarly, the top brass of an organization may want something better than what everyone else gets. So how do you decide what’s the best for them?  

Since the decision is a mix of technology and esteem value, what you look for has to be a proper balance of the two. It must have a good configuration, the right set of features, and of course, be just right on your pocket.  

Having said that, here’s a drill down of what you should consider within these three parameters when looking at the best business PCs in the market. We evaluated and compared 11 of them to help you decide.

Before we get into the key concerns while choosing a high-end business machine, let’s understand how they’re different from regular office PCs, home PCs and workstations. The distinction is a mix of configuration as well as features. So, while its configuration could be similar to an ordinary PC, it might have better manageability features, looks, and accessories. On the other hand, home PCs may have more frills such as 6-channel surround sound speakers, a gaming card, TV tuner and gaming devices. Finally, a workstation may have a dual processor configuration with truckloads of memory and a professional display card thrown in.  

Having made the distinction, let’s look at the key considerations when choosing a high-end business machine.  

Pricing and support
Besides trying to get the best bargain on price, the other key consideration for most CIOs is post sales support. This not only includes the warranties and service, but also the responsiveness of the vendor to a service request. This is a concern since the turnaround time for repairs is very crucial. This responsiveness should also be complimented by the ready availability of spares by the vendor. Finally, the service team of the vendor should be well prepared for the challenges that it may face at the customers end. An ill-equipped service engineer is the last thing a person needs when his prime concern is to get his PC up and running. This can happen especially in cases where the support is outsourced to third parties. Though this is good way of setting up a service network for vendors, it generally backfires with low customer satisfaction.

The other worry in the customers’ mind is the warranty and replacements. These are also a part and parcel of the vendor support. There is a catch here too, that needs to be looked in closely by the CIO. It is the jargon that is used with the warranty. Be very careful while evaluating the same.  

On the face they may look the same. But between the lines you would see that they are talking about limited warranty, onsite warranty and offsite warranty. Let’s define them.

Onsite comprehensive warranty: As the name suggests, it is the most comprehensive type of warranty that is provided by the vendor. Here the service is provided to the customer at the site of installation. The warranty includes the servicing and part
replacement costs.

Offsite/carry in comprehensive warranty: It is similar to the onsite warranty, but the customer would need to carry in the product to the vendors’ service station to avail the same. Quite an effort if you want the machine up and running in an hour’s time.

Parts only warranty: As the name suggests, the warranty covers only the parts. The service charges will have to be borne by the customer.

Limited warranty: This is nebulous term. It may mean anything as decided by the vendor. It is better if you look at the fine print in this case. For instance, a three-year limited warranty may include a year of onsite warranty and 2-years of parts only warranty.  

Configuration
A PC’s configuration has direct influence on its performance. Here, the main elements to consider are the processor, RAM, hard drive’s rpm and graphics.  

Processor
This is the first thing that comes to mind while choosing a PC. You can call it market dynamics, or hype created on processor speeds by Intel. Somehow, people have started measuring PCs in GHz. Though, this can be an indicator, but in no way is it the only performance barometer for a PC. So, don’t consider differences in just the processor speeds, look at other things as well. For instance, a processor supporting higher FSB speed will give better performance.  

When going for a high-end business machine, don’t settle for anything less than a 7200-rpm hard drive.  

Memory size and speed
Remember that performance doesn’t increase in the same ratio as the memory. So, don’t expect to find a major difference if you jump from 512 MB memory to 1 GB RAM. Today 256 MB memory is the bare minimum that you should consider. Also, watch out for dual-channel memory architecture, where the memory controller splits the data and simultaneously writes it to memory modules on two separate memory channels. This requires at least two or more memory modules. Check whether the PC’s motherboard supports this. If it does, then ask for two 128 MB modules instead of one if you’re going for 256 MB memory. Intel 865 and 875 chipset-based boards support this architecture. To give you an idea, the Zenith PC came with 256 MB RAM configured in dual channel architecture. It performed much better than some other machines, which came with 512 MB RAM as a single module.  

Graphics
Most business PCs today come with onboard graphics, which are sufficient for running regular business applications. So opt for a separate more powerful graphics card if your work demands it. Check the machine for the type of graphics card it offers. You might be able to save some money by choosing onboard graphics. The Priya Athlon 64 machine for instance, came with a high-end gamers card, which will make it great for graphics and gaming. However, it may not be required at all for a business machine.  

We judged the performance of these PCs using both real world and synthetic benchmarks. The synthetic benchmark we used was PCMark 2004, which has a wide array of component level tests. It can test the hard drive, memory, CPU and graphics. The real world benchmarks used were MCCW (Multimedia Content Creation Winstone 2003) and BW (Business Winstone 2002), which test the machine for running high-end multimedia and business applications respectively.  

The features
These are parameters that don’t have a direct influence on the machine’s performance, but are nevertheless important. Here are the ones to keep in mind.  

Manageability
A machine’s cost is not determined just by the purchase price. It’s also determined by how trouble free has it been over its life. If a machine becomes a constant problem, then you end up spending more on its maintenance than what you bought it for. Look for manageability features in the machine, such as tool-free access, noiseless operation, proper ventilation and channelized air circulation inside. On the software front, look for recovery CDs and desktop management software bundled with it.  

HDD capacity
Today, 40 GB hard drives have become commonplace, but some machines also ship with 80 GB. While 40 GB is more than suitable for most needs, there might be times when you need more. Take for instance software developers who need to test their projects on multiple OSs. They could install a product like VMWare, which can load multiple OSs in their own virtual space. Or a system administrator might require the extra space for emergency backups, or to load heavy applications.

Optical drives
So, what kind of an optical drive should your best business machine have? Surely, a plain old CD-drive won’t do, because there are so many other good options to choose from. These start from a CD-ReWriter or DVD-drive, move up to a DVD combo-CD-ReWriter/DVD drive in one-, and go all the way to a DVD-writer at the highest end. That’s how we also rated, that is, the machine having a DVD-writer getting the higher points.  

Network connectivity
While all business machines come with a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port, the value is added if it also supports Gigabit Ethernet. WiFi connectivity is also picking up, and we noticed that some of the PCs we received also had WiFi PCI cards.  

Expandability
Most machines we received had almost everything onboard, be it sound, networking or graphics. Plus, there were at least a couple of free PCI slots for anything extra you may want to add, such as a SCSI card or another network card. There would be at least one free bay to add another optical or hard drive. We also looked for additional bays and ports for future expansion. Things to look for include the presence of an AGP slot for adding a better graphics card, FireWire port and SerialATA ports.  

Performance
Table
Vendor/Model BW2002 MCCW2003 PCMark2004
    PCMark
consolidated  
CPU Memory Graphics HDD
  Winstone  
Units
PC
Marks
Acer
Veriton 7600GT
30.4 45 3509 4550 3452 691 3294
CONNOI
P4024
29.1 41.9 2732 3269 3537 788 3354
eSYS
ePC H280WML
29.9 44.4 3297 4213 3328 677 3297
HP
D530 Work Center
25.4 37.4 2644 3139 2673 688 3413
Ingram
Micro Vesta
28.7 42.5 3246 4191 2842 655 3314
Priya
Voyager 040002(32bit)
35.2 36.8 3169 3639 2201 876 4565
Priya
Voyager 040003(64bit)
41 44.1 3381 3725 3214 1311 4764
RP
Tech Maestro IP 280 Wifi
27.8 41 3256 4121 3268 660 3410
Wipro
Super Genius WSG800.GX
34.1 46.5 2930 4321 4360 331 3455
Zenith6D 30.3 44.9 3569 4139 4120 752 3987

Monitor size and type
Here, the choice is between a CRT or LCD monitor. The latter is of course more expensive, but offers other advantages such as immense desk space saving, lower power consumption and less eyestrain. All this of course comes at a price, which could be three times that of an ordinary CRT monitor of the same size. So if price is a constraint, then go for a CRT. We gave higher points to machines that came with a 17″ flat screen CRT monitor as against a regular 15″ CRT. The ones that came with LCD monitor got the highest points.  

Form factor, build quality and aesthetics
A good business PC should not only perform well, but blend in the office space too. Imagine having a tower cabinet that takes up most of the limited space on your table but performs very well. Don’t think you would want that. Also, the looks should not compromise on the build quality of the PC. A sleek cabinet that breaks as soon as it falls from a standing position is absolutely unacceptable. Another feature to look for would be easy port accessibility. So it becomes really convenient if a machine provides its USB and audio ports on the front. Thus the whole PC should be a right mix of durability and aesthetics. In our evaluation we have taken the form factor of the cabinet into consideration.

Finally, while evaluating these 11 machines, we used our three-axis model of performance, features and price to arrive at the winners. We used the Brown-Gibson model to arrive at the
weightages.  

Geetaj Channana and Siddharth Sharma

BEST BUSINESS PCs

Acer Veriton 7600GT
Elegant charcoal black and silver looks and the maximum processor clock speed symbolize the Acer PC. This was the only machine equipped with the P 4 Prescott processor clocked at 3.0 GHz, which is the highest clock speed among all others in the shootout. It scored the highest in CPU performance part of PCMark 2004.  

Though it does not score the highest in most benchmarks, its consistent performance across all tests help it get an overall good performance score. This along with its features and a good price make the Veriton the Editor’s Choice in this shootout.

On the features front, worth mentioning are a special pop-up panel on top of the cabinet that consists of four USB and two audio jacks. It is also one of the few machines that sport a Gigabit Ethernet port. It is also the only machine other than the HP machine that comes with a tool-free design cabinet, making repairs an easy affair. The bundled software consists of recovery CDs, Norton Antivirus 2003 (OEM) and LANScope v6.3 software to manage and troubleshoot common computer problems remotely.

Finally, add to it a three-years limited warranty and you have a great buy. SMS 130660 to 9811800601

Priya Voyager 040003
The only 64-bit machine in the shootout based on an Athlon 64-bit 3000+ processor, and interestingly the best performer of the lot, despite the fact that it was running on a regular 32-bit OS.  

At 41 Winstone units it is way ahead of everybody else in BW. The MCCW score is also among the highest. Other notable specs that help its performance were a SATA hard-drive and 512 MB RAM. The notable features in this PC include Gigabit LAN, a DVD writer, FireWire port and Nvidia GeForce FX5200 AGP with 128 MB of VRAM. Though the graphics card boosts its performance, it can be too much for a business PC. Though it’s a great performer, it doesn’t have too many manageability features. Plus, it comes in a large ordinary cabinet. SMS 130661 to 9811800601

HP D350 Work Center
The Work Center scores high on looks and features but less on performance. Sporting a 15” LCD, that has portrait view support, an ultra slim chassis and a unique stand, it would add value to your desktop. The chassis is tool-free and the common hardware including the HDD, CD-ROM and the PCI card can be changed without any tools. The machine loses out on performance because of a comparatively slow processor and 256 MB RAM, running in single channel mode. It scores over the others in features because of built-in gigabit LAN, a DVD combo drive, a recovery CD and system management software. All this combined with a three-years onsite warranty makes it the most feature rich machine of the lot. And if looks appeal to you more than performance then you can go for it. SMS 130662 to 9811800601

BEST BUSINESS PCs

Connoi P4024
The Connoi comes with a 2.4 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a 17” monitor. On the downside, it comes with an ordinary CD-drive and a 40 GB HDD and does not have any management features, such as tool-free access, management software and recovery CDs. The Connoi didn’t match the others on the performance front, which is perhaps due to its low speed 2.4 GHz processor. It did, however, perform better than the HP machine, which was perhaps due to the extra dose of RAM running in dual channel. This was one of the cheapest PCs that we reviewed, its price being complemented with a three-years warranty. Overall, this machine would serve well as an ordinary business desktop, but would need to pump up its features and configuration to become a high-end business machine. SMS 130663 to 9811800601

eSYS ePC H280WML
Housed in a smart black and silver chassis, it matches the Acer Veriton in performance and price, but isn’t as rich in features. In fact, if you can compromise on the features, it’s a great buy, being the cheapest of the lot at Rs 32,000.

It lacks manageability features such as tool-free access, recovery CDs and management software. In performance it gave the third highest score among all Intel processor-based machines, being behind the machines from Acer and Zenith.  

And finally, one major drawback in this machine is the one-year offsite warranty, improving which could really make this a great choice. Thus if you are looking at an above average PC with an attractive price tag this could be the right choice. SMS 130664 to 9811800601

Zenith 6D
It is a very compact and a good-looking PC. Although the PC is based on 2.8 GHz P 4, it managed to match the scores of BW and MCCW with not only similar frequency PCs, but also the Acer Veriton, which had a higher speed CPU. It was second only to the Priya Voyager 400003. This could be attributed to the fact that Zenith uses memory in dual-channel configuration. On the features front, it doesn’t have too many manageability features such as tool-free access and recovery CDs. On the price front, it only costs Rs 35 K, and comes with a year warranty. This clubbed with the performance, makes it a good buy. SMS 130665 to 9811800601

Ingram Micro Vesta
This is an aggressively priced machine, which is perhaps why it isn’t really clad with features. It’s a barebones machine with average performance. Fitted inside a large ordinary cabinet, the machine doesn’t have any manageability options; there are no USB ports on the front panel. It comes with a CD-drive and a 40 GB HDD. Being an average performer, the machine could be used for regular business productivity work. RQS# E66 or SMS 130666 to 9811800601

Priya Voyager 040002
Voyager 040002 is the only 32-bit machine in the shootout based on the Athlon XP 3200+ processor. It was one of the best performers in BW and the graphics score of PCMark 2004. But, it failed to measure up to the challenges put up by MCCW, where it scored the lowest.  

The onboard Nvidia GeForce4Mx graphics engine, which was the most powerful among all the onboard graphics, throttled the graphics performance. On the features front, it is one of the few machines that comes with a DVD writer, but lacks manageability features such as recovery CDs and tool-free access.  

Thus, it’s an average machine, which could be useful for regular productivity and graphics work. The DVD writer also adds value at this price. SMS 130667 to 9811800601

Wipro Super Genius WSG800.GX
One GB RAM gives it a boost in performance making it the highest scorer among all Intel-based machines. The machine has a 15” LCD monitor and a DVD combo drive. It has the USB ports on the front panel, and also comes with speakers and a microphone. One strange thing is that it comes with a SiS 315 AGP card with 32 MB VRAM, besides having an onboard Intel Extreme2 graphics core. We tested it with both options, and found that it performed better with the onboard graphics. It is the only PC that comes preloaded with Win XP Home Edition, as against XP Pro in the others.

Finally, this machine gives great performance and has a good set of features. However, where it really looses out is the hefty
price tag of Rs 77 K. SMS 130668 to 9811800601

Apple eMac Combo
Talk of an Apple and you talk of machines that ooze class, great features and ease-of-use. Combine that with good pricing and you have an eMac. Positioned as an entry-level product by Apple, the eMac is competent enough to be in the big league. Sporting a DVD combo drive, Wifi and FireWire it can put a lot of machines in shame with the features. Combine that with drop dead looks, humongous space saving on the desktop and the new ‘panther’ OS and you have a great machine on your hands. And at about Rs 55 K it is a steal if you compare it with other Apple
machines.SMS 130669 to 9811800601

Specifications’ Table

Specifications’ Table
Vendor
/Model
Chipset Processor RAM(MB)
Actual/
Maximum
Monitor HDD Optical
Drive
Ethernet PCI
Total\
empty
AGP Graphics

Ports

Software
pack
Recovery
CD
OS Accessories Price
(Rs)
Warranty Vendor
Address
Back
Panel
Front
Panel
Acer
Veriton 7600 GT
Intel
865G
P4
Prescott 3.0 GHz (HT)
256
MB/4 GB  (256*1)
15″ 80
GB 7200 RPM
CDROM Gigabit 3\3 Yes Onboard
Intel Extreme 2
PS2-2,
USB-4, 
Audio, 
Parallel-1, 
serial-1, Gigabit Ethernet
USB
-4,
Audio
In/Out
Norton
Anti Virus 04, Lanscope 6.3
Yes Win
XP Pro
None 39,990 3
Years Limited
Acer
India
Bangalore Tel: 25219520/23 
E-mail: shishir_singh@acer.co.in 
CONNOI P4024 Intel
865G
P4
2.4 GHz
512
MB/4 GB (256*2)
17″ 40
GB 7200 RPM
CDROM Gigabit
PCI
6\4 Yes Onboard
Intel Extreme 2
PS2-2,
USB-4,
Audio, Parallel-1,
Serial-1, Ethernet,
Modem
None None None None IBM
PC camera, Intex headphone

 

33,500

 

3
Years
Limited
Connoiseur
Electronics,
Bangalore Tel: 51152203 
E-mail: harish@connoiseur.com 
eSYS
ePC H280WML
Intel
865G
P4
2.8 GHz (HT)
512/4
GB
(512*1)
15″ 40
GB
7200 RPM
CDROM Onboard 3\2 Yes Onboard
Intel Extreme 2
PS2
– 2, USB – 4, Audio, Parallel – 1, Modem
USB-2 None None Win
XP Pro CD
Speakers 32,000 I
Year Offsite
eSys
Distribution, 
Delhi Tel: 51811694/96 
E-mail: vsharma@esysmail.com 
HP
D350 Work Center
Intel
865G
P4
2.4 GHz
256/2
GB (256*1)
15″
LCD 7200 RPM
40
GB
DVD
Combo
Gigabit
Onboard
1\1 No Onboard
Intel Extreme 2
USB
– 4, Audio, Ethernet, Modem
USB-2
Audio
HP
Client Manager
Yes Win
XP Pro CD
None 59,990 3
Years Onsite
Hewlett-Packard
India, Gurgaon Tel: 2561111 
E-mail: arun.rao@hp.com 
Ingram
Micro Vesta
Intel
865G
P4
2.8 GHz (HT)
256
MB/4 GB  (256*1)
15″ 40
GB 7200 RPM
CDROM PCI 6\5 Yes Onboard
Intel Extreme 2
PS2
– 2, USB – 4, Audio, Parallel – 1, Serial – 2, Ethernet
None None None None None 28,100 1
Year (parts only)
Ingram
Micro India, 
Chennai Tel: 22333071 
E-mail: ganeshkumar.r@-ingracro.co.in
Priya
Voyager 040002 (32 bit)
NVIDIA
Nforce 2

 

Athlon
XP 32-bit 3200+
256
MB/3 GB (256*1)
None 40
GB 7200 RPM
DVD
Writer
Onboard 3\3 Yes Onboard
nVidia GeForce 4Mx
PS2
– 2, USB – 2, Audio, Parallel -1, Serial -1, Game -1, Ethernet
USB
-2,
Audio In/Out
Multimedia
Pack, Nero OEM Suite, Studio Fun, Norton Internet 
None None None 31,000 1
Year Onsite
Priya,
Mumbai
Tel: 56663100
E-mail: sales_mum@priya-group.com

 

Priya
Voyager 040003 (64 bit)
K8T800
VIA
Athlon
64-bit 3000+
512
MB/2 GB (256*2)
None 80
GB SATA
DVD
Writer
Gigabit
Onboard
5\5 Yes GeForce
FX 5200  (128 MB) AGP
PS2
– 2, USB – 2,Audio, Parallel – 1, Serial – 2, Gigabit Ethernet,
Firewire – 1
S Video, Digital Video Fun Out
USB
– 2
Norton
Internet Security 2003, Norton Ghost 2003, Studio
None None None 43,700 1
Year Onsite
Priya,
Mumbai
Tel: 56663100
E-mail: sales_mum@priya-group.com
RP
Tech  Maestro IP 280
Wifi
Intel
865G
P4
2.8 GHz (HT)
256
MB/4 GB (256*1)
17″ 80
GB 7200 RPM
DVD
Combo
Onboard
+ WiFi PCI
3\2 Yes Onboard
Intel Extreme 2
PS2
– 2, USB – 4, Audio, Parallel – 1, Serial – 2, Ethernet
None None None Red
Hat 9.0
2.1
speakers, headphone
41,990 1
Year Onsite
Rashi
Peripherals, 
Mumbai Tel:28221013   
E-mail: ho@rptechindia.com 
Wipro
Super Genius WSG
800.GX-0757

 

Intel
865G
P4
2.8 GHz (HT)
1/4
GB (512*2)
15″
LCD
80
GB 7200 RPM
DVD
Combo
Onboard 3\2 Yes Sis
315 32MB VRAM/ Onboard
Intel Extreme 2
PS2
– 2, USB – 6, Audio, Parallel – 1, Serial – 1, Ethernet, Modem
None Norton
Anti virus  2004, Nero 5.5, Cyber Link, Power DVD
Yes Win
XP Home Edition
Speakers, 
microphone
77,000 3
Years
Onsite
Wipro
Infotech, Bangalore
Tel: 28440011
E-mail: supergenius@wipro.com 
Zenith
6D
Intel
865G
P4
2.8 GHz (HT)
256
MB/4 GB
(128*2)
15″ 40
GB 7200 RPM
CDROM Onboard 3\3 Yes Onboard
Intel Extreme 2

 

PS2
– 2, USB – 4, Audio, Parallel – 1, Serial – 2, Ethernet
USB
– 2
Norton
Anti virus
None None None 28,700 1
Year
Onsite
Zenith
Computers, 
Mumbai
Tel: 28366030
E-mail: info@zenith-india.com 
Apple
eMac Combo
N/A Power
PC G41 GHz
128
MB
17” 40
GB
DVD
Combo
Onboard+
WiFi
None Yes ATI
32 MB

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