[QQ]WHAT ARE THEY?[QQ]hines - the Compaq Professional Workstation 6000 and the Dell Workstation 400 - but which workstation will work for you? Lance Concannon presides over a close-fought contest. Single-processor Pentium II-based workstations.[QQ] This issue of Business Computer World sees the first of our new head-to-head reviews. This month we compare entry-level workstations from two of the PC industry's major players - Compaq and Dell.[QQ] [QQ] Compaq Professional Workstation 6000[QQ] The Compaq Professional Workstation 6000 offers a choice of either single or dual Pentium II processors, with 266MHz or brand-new 300MHz flavours available. Any amount of memory can be specified, ranging from 32Mb to a maximum of 512Mb; an interesting technical point is that the 6000 uses an RCC logic chipset which supports dual memory controllers. This effectively doubles the memory bandwidth, allowing information to be fed more quickly to the processors.[QQ] Compaq offers both 2Gb and 4Gb Ultra Wide SCSI hard disk drives, and the machine ships with a 16X CD-ROM drive. Rather than using a caddy or tray loading mechanism, the CD drive simply allows you to insert discs into a slot on the front - a nice touch.[QQ] In the graphics department, Compaq can offer a run-of-the-mill Matrox Millennium II card, which delivers good 2D acceleration, or a choice of ELSA Gloria-L or Diamond FireGL4000 3D cards. The ELSA device provides a good price/performance ratio, whereas the Diamond delivers all-out performance at a higher price. The monitor supplied with our review system was Compaq's own P70, an acceptable 17in device based on the Sony Trinitron tube; it can also supply a 21in version.[QQ] The system comes with 16-bit sound capabilities (including a built-in speaker) and a 10/100 Ethernet card supplied as standard.[QQ] [QQ] Dell Workstation 400[QQ] The Dell Workstation 400 also offers the choice of single or dual 266MHz or 300MHz Pentium II processors, as well as up to 512Mb of RAM. The only difference in this area is that Dell offers a minimum memory specification of 64Mb. Also, the 400 uses a more common Intel 440 FX logic chipset.[QQ] This may be an important factor for IT managers who are keen to standardise on a particular chipset.[QQ] Dell supplies a wide range of hard disk drive options, including 2Gb, 4Gb and 9Gb Ultra Wide SCSI devices, and 3.2Gb or 4.3Gb Enhanced IDE drives.[QQ] Users can specify whether they want to use the integral EIDE controller or if they need an Adaptec Ultra Wide SCSI controller installing. You can also opt for a 12/24 speed IDE or an eight-speed SCSI CD-ROM drive.[QQ] There's also a greater choice of graphics cards - the entry-level Matrox Millennium II in either 4Mb or 8Mb formats, the ELSA Gloria L/MX, or the Appian Jeronimo J2 which allows you to use two monitors simultaneously for displaying separate applications. Dell supplies a 17in monitor, (a rebadged Nokia screen) and, like Compaq, offers a 21in version.[QQ] A choice of three network cards is available: a 3Com 10/100 Fast Etherlink PCI, a 3Com Etherlink III Combo ISA and a 1Mb Token Ring PCI card. The Dell also offers 16-bit sound, but doesn't feature an internal speaker, although an Altec Lanseng option is available.[QQ] [QQ] Operating system support[QQ] Compaq offers support for the following operating systems on the 6000 series workstations: Windows NT versions 4.0 and 3.51, Windows 95 and Sunsoft Solaris 2.5. All the supported Microsoft systems can be pre-installed and configured by Compaq, but Sunsoft is responsible for the installation and set-up of Solaris. Support is also provided for the Hummingbird Unix connectivity tools running under Windows NT and 95.[QQ] Dell provides support for only Windows NT 4.0 or 95, both of which are pre-installed before delivery, although NT 3.51 can be installed if required.[QQ] [QQ] Manageability[QQ] As you would expect from Compaq, which was largely responsible for building the TCO bandwagon, the Professional Workstation has plenty of management features. A workstation-specific version of its Smartstart software is supplied, which ensures that the operating system and support software are installed and configured correctly.[QQ] The machine comes with a thorough diagnostics program which provides detailed information about your system configuration; it can even tell you the machine's internal temperature and when the case was last opened.[QQ] The desktop case of our review machine had an easy-to-open, screwless design allowing easy access to the internals. A tower case is available as an option.[QQ] The machine is DMI-compliant and comes with a DMI browser which allows system managers to explore the set-up of the machine, enabling easier administration. The hard drive supplied with the system is Self Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART) compliant, which means it can detect any performance degradation and report the likelihood of a failure before it occurs, giving you the opportunity to back up important data.[QQ] Dell also provides a good level of manageability, although perhaps not as thorough as Compaq's. The company's DMI Inspector software is user-friendly, which makes configuration browsing simple for end users, but it doesn't offer the same flexibility as the equivalent Compaq software.[QQ] The Dell hard drive is also SMART-compliant, and warns users of impending failure by showing a red drive access light as opposed to the usual green.[QQ] Also, the flip-top case is easy to get into, should you need to gain access to the machine's innards.[QQ] For users who are PC illiterate, Dell provides a step-by-step set-up and installation sheet, so even if you've never used a PC before, you should be able to get the Workstation 400 up and running in a matter of minutes.[QQ] [QQ] Service and Support[QQ] Compaq offers a three-year parts and one year on-site warranty, as well as telephone support and a comprehensive online information base.[QQ] Dell offers a three-year service - the first year is a next day, on-site service, the final two years are return-to-base. A range of telephone, online and fax-based support options is also on offer.[QQ] [QQ] Conclusion[QQ] It's hard to separate these two, especially when the prices are so similar.[QQ] However, there's no argument that, in terms of technical innovation in the field of manageability, Compaq has the edge.[QQ] To Dell's credit, the company offers a flexible configuration for its machine, whereas Compaq offers a wider range of models to cover users' requirements.[QQ] It's a tough call, but our money would go on the Compaq.[QQ] [QQ] DELL WORKSTATION 400[QQ] Contact: Dell on 01344 720000 or www.euro.dell.com.[QQ] Price: The entry-level Workstation 400 with a single 266MHz Pentium II processor, 64Mb of RAM, 2Gb SCSI hard drive and a 4Mb Matrox Millennium II costs #2,110.[QQ] While not quite as polished as the Compaq in its technical features, this machine does offer a more flexible range of configuration options.[QQ] There's also a relatively small, but not insignificant price advantage with the Dell machine.[QQ] [QQ] COMPAQ PROFESSIONAL WORKSTATION 6000[QQ] Contact: Compaq on 0990 270 4000 or www.compaq.co.uk[QQ] Price: The Professional Workstation 6000 with a single 266MHz Pentium II processor, 32Mb of RAM, 2Gb SCSI hard drive and a 4Mb Matrox Millennium II costs #2,090 (+#195 for 32Mb ECC SDRAM memory upgrade).[QQ] Ultimately the Compaq was the machine to offer the most well-thought-out design - although you will pay a little extra for the privilege.
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