So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
PC West Elite
- Good bundle for the price.
- Not the best graphics for playing the newest games.
For $1455, this machine is a well-performing and well-featured solution for a first-time PC buyer.
Price$ 1,455.00 (AUD)
PC West's first submission to the PC World Test Centre is a solid dual-core PC that would suit a home or business user with basic computing needs.
The PC West Elite is based on a Gigabyte GA-M51GM-S2G motherboard, which houses an AM2 socket-based AMD Athlon 64 3800+ X2 CPU. Paired with 1GB of DDR2 memory, the machine reached a healthy score of 97 in PC WorldBench 5. The time it took to complete the multitasking test faired particularly well against other dual-core systems we have seen in its class. This is despite the machine's integrated graphics, which use up part of the system's memory resources.
The integrated graphics are based on NVIDIA's GeForce 6100 chipset. For playing the latest games, this chipset will not be of much use (its score of 184 in 3DMark2006 is very low), but it may be capable of running some older games. For everyday tasks such as using the Internet and viewing photos, this chipset will suffice. If you use memory-hungry applications or do a lot of heavy multitasking, then adding more RAM or getting a dedicated graphics card is a good idea. The Gigabyte motherboard does have a vacant PCI Express graphics slot, making the system ripe for upgrading.
A feature that may cater more to the home user's delights than the business user is Compro's DVBT-300 digital TV tuner. It has the ability to decode high definition and standard definition TV signals, and is a good performer for the most part. Its software has plenty of features for watching and recording shows and Compro appears to update this software frequently, so keep an eye on its Web site for the latest version.
To store TV recordings, the Elite has a 250GB Western Digital IDE hard drive. While we would have preferred to see a SATA drive instead of an IDE one, the installed drive performed well in our transfer tests, where it averaged a data transfer rate of 23MBps (megabytes per second).
The installed LG dual-layer DVD burner is capable of burning to LightScribe DVDs. If you have LightScribe discs at your disposal, once you burn your data you can flip the disc over and burn an image or write directly onto the label. It looks more professional than using a pen, but does take a long time to accomplish.
Rounding out the configuration of the system are a 17in Acer LCD monitor, which has a native resolution of 1280x1024, and a memory card reader. This reader adds to the user-friendliness of the system, along with front-loading USB 2.0, FireWire and audio ports, which PC West has painstakingly enabled. The mid-tower case of the system has plenty of space for more drives, but the motherboard may be the limiting factor when it comes to upgrading. It's only a micro-ATX motherboard, which means it is shorter than a full-size ATX motherboard, and its two PCI slots are already taken up by a modem (if you use broadband then this can be omitted) and the aforementioned TV tuner card. Four SATA ports and two DIMM slots are free for upgrading.
The machine does come with a decent hardware bundle for its sub-$1500 price tag. The included extras are a Logitech webcam, a 1GB USB storage key, a set of Logitech R-20 speakers and your choice of a Brother MFC-115 or a Canon Pixma MP150 multifunction device. These make the Elite ready-to-use as soon as you take it home and should appeal to those of you who want a complete solution without having to shop around for individual components.
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