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Compaq Presario 5000Z

WHAT'S HOT: This $1459 Presario 5000Z is a good-looking, well-designed family PC with solid performance. Equipped with a 1.2-GHz Athlon processor, 128MB of SDRAM, and an NVidia GeForce2-based graphics board with 64MB of DDR SDRAM, it posted a PC WorldBench 4 score of 99. Compaq packages this system in a handsome white minitower case with translucent blue accent panels. Two of the system's four USB ports are conveniently mounted behind a white plastic door on the front of the case, and the lower accent panel folds down to reveal storage for five CDs.

Compaq's 17-inch FS740 monitor (which includes a built-in microphone) displayed very legible 12-point text at 1024 by 768 resolution, although icons blurred slightly. The monitor rendered good color, including lifelike flesh tones, in our photograph test, though our DVD movie looked a bit dark.

WHAT'S NOT: Video games fared poorly: The system was unable to support higher resolutions in 32-bit color on Quake III and Unreal Tournament, and it displayed incorrect colors and shapes during our Quake III test. Similar distortions appeared on several systems using the default NVidia driver that shipped with Windows XP; a driver upgrade may fix the problem.

WHAT ELSE: The two monitor-mounted JBL Platinum Series satellite speakers delivered clear, reasonably strong sound, although bass tones were a bit weak.

Compaq's USB keyboard is jam-packed with 18 hot-keys, including Internet shortcut buttons and CD and DVD playback controls. The standard keys offer solid tactile feedback.

UPSHOT: Our test Presario 5000Z is an attractive, fairly speedy home system that's suitable for a variety of tasks, from office work to digital entertainment. By Sean Captain

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