WHAT'S HOT: This isn't your father's PC. Instead of the basic beige tower in which ABS typically packages its systems, the Performance Ti 500 we tested came in an enormous black, server-style case (built by Antek) with lots of room for extra drives.
And that big, flashy case houses plenty of power: With an Athlon XP 1800+ processor (running at 1533 MHz) and 256MB of 266-MHz DDR memory, our Ti 500 posted an impressive score of 117 on our PC WorldBench 4 test suite--only 4 points shy of our current speed champ, the Falcon Northwest Mach V.
Graphics card cognoscenti will recognize the "Ti 500" in this system's name as NVidia's designation for its latest GeForce3 chip set, which can be found on the PC's Leadtek WinFast Titanium 500 TD board. It helped the Performance Ti 500 churn out smooth, good-looking game play all the way up to 1600 by 1200 resolution and 32-bit color depth.
This Performance Ti 500 also has a stellar sound system. The Creative Inspire 5300 Dolby Digital 5.1 speaker set, supported by a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy card, delivered booming bass, crisp separation of sound channels, and movie theater-like tones in our DVD tests.
WHAT'S NOT: Our gripes are minor. A locking door hides the external drives and the power switch, so you'll have to swing the door open every time you want to access them. And the lock can be easily overridden by snapping the cover off its flimsy plastic hinges. Also, with all the goodies inside, only one PCI slot is available for expansion.
WHAT ELSE: The 19-inch Hitachi CM715 monitor displayed readable (though slightly faint) 12-point Arial text at 1280 by 1024 resolution, and produced natural-looking colors in our graphics test.
The eight drive bays, four of which are free for expansion, offer tool-less access. All the internal bays are located in cages that pop out for easier drive insertion, and you can fill the three empty externally accessible bays without using tools by sliding drives through the front of the system. Inside the cavernous case, cables are bundled together and taped down, leaving plenty of elbowroom.
Ports on the rear of the system are color-coded and well labeled, making assembly a simple task. Two game ports let you hook up a second game controller and play against a friend, and an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) port on the sound card lets you attach digital camcorders or other devices.
The Performance Ti 500's documentation could be better. While the setup poster offers helpful illustrations, it wasn't created for the tower our system came in. Also, the overall manual isn't specific to this machine; it offers generic advice on use and upgrading. A large documentation binder houses all the individual component documents as well as the software, which includes Corel WordPerfect Office 2002.
A Microsoft Internet Keyboard allows for smooth and relatively quiet typing and offers 10 hot-keys for quick Net access. It's paired with Microsoft's optical mouse.
UPSHOT: Thunderous multimedia, excellent performance, and a nifty tower case designed for expansion overshadow any minor complaints we have with the Ti 500. By Joel Strauch