NuTrend Athlon Special 2
WHAT'S HOT: NuTrend's Athlon Special 2, while coming in at a rock-bottom price of $999, turned in superb performance using AMD's top-notch Athlon 1.33-GHz processor. In fact, with its PC WorldBench 2000 score of 183, this model is the best performer we've seen yet in the value class, and it's beaten only by a power system with twice as much RAM--MicronPC's Millennia Max XP2.
If you're looking for a PC that you can keep for several years and upgrade, this midsize tower has plenty of room for expansion: Four drive bays and three PCI slots remain open. Other perks include a network adapter and a sturdy Microsoft Internet keyboard.
WHAT'S NOT: Despite its office-applications savvy, the Athlon Special 2 did not fare so well on our 3D-game tests. Like other NuTrend models we've tested that also use the MicroStar MS-8808 (an NVidia TNT2 M64-based graphics board), this system exhibited noticeably low frame rates in Microsoft Flight Simulator and Rage Software's Expendable. Driver problems prevented us from even loading Quake III; we had to download additional drivers from NuTrend's site before the game would run. The Athlon Special 2 also produced unimpressive DVD movie playback results; while skin tones appeared particularly lifeless, general screen colors appeared washed out (as though they'd endured one rinse cycle too many).
WHAT ELSE: The Optiquest Z70 display that NuTrend paired with this Athlon Special 2 delivers lackluster image quality, though the overall quality is acceptable. Neither text nor icons appeared exceptionally crisp at our testing resolution of 1024 by 768, but the optional Z70 was a vast improvement over the ADI monitors we've seen with NuTrend PCs in the past.
NuTrend plugs two USB ports into one of the system's PCI slots. This unusual arrangement gives users a total of four USB ports for peripheral devices such as scanners. Corel's WordPerfect 2000 is bundled with this PC, but no other noteworthy productivity titles are offered for free. NuTrend's parts warranty runs for three years, and the labor warranty lasts for the life of the product.
BEST USE: It's no video behemoth in this reviewed configuration, but the NuTrend Athlon Special 2 runs office applications admirably, making it a fine choice for simple office tasks or as a second home PC. If you plan to purchase this speed demon, though, make sure to upgrade to a better graphics card.
NuTrend Athlon Special 2
PC WorldBench 2000 score of 183, Athlon-1333 CPU, 128MB of SDRAM, 256KB L2 cache, Windows Me, 30GB hard drive, 16X DVD-ROM drive, MicroStar MS-8808 graphics card with 32MB of SDRAM, 17-inch Optiquest Z70 monitor, integrated sound, Altec Lansing ACS33W speakers, V.90 modem, ethernet adapter, midsize tower case, WordPerfect Office 2000. Three-year parts warranty, lifetime labor warranty, free unlimited 24-hour tech support.
Street price: $999
By Kalai Murugesan