Applications: office suites, Internet, games, MPEG playback/recording
With Intel?s recent release of the MMX chip, a host of manufacturers have rushed to get the new processors into their PCs and onto the market. Commendably quick off the mark, Carrera has developed the aptly-named Panther in an attempt to steal a march on its competitors.
The Panther?s 200MHz Pentium processor flies along even without application support for its MMX abilities. The clock speed is enhanced by 512Kb of pipeline burst cache memory which ensures short access times to the 1.2Gb hard disk drive. An all-round dynamic formation is completed by an eight-speed CD-ROM drive and 16Mb of EDO RAM ? this is certainly a fast machine by anyone?s standards.
One of the most interesting features is the Matrox Mystique graphics adap- tor, which is armed with 2Mb of video-RAM and powerful full-screen MPEG playback facilities.
We had problems configuring the maximum screen resolution of 1,600x1,200 pixels on the supplied 15in FST SVGA monitor. Our monitor did manage 1,280x1,024 pixels, but the display is sharper in 800x600 which, according to research, is the resolution that is least damaging to the eye when using a 15in screen. The true 32-bit colour setting is excellent, particularly during video playback.
The supplied mouse inconveniently uses a serial connector, but there is a power outlet for the monitor on the rear of the case. A parallel port and the surviving 25-pin serial port provide a few options for attaching printers, modems or other peripheral devices.
Housed in a mini-tower case, the Panther?s base unit would not look out of place in either domestic or commer- cial environments. If you slide the side panel off, there is plenty of room for expansion cards with six spare slots ? three EISA and three PCI. System memory can be expanded via four SIMM banks on the motherboard.
Audio is provided by a Carrera Pro sound card which is fully Soundblaster-compatible. It can be up-graded to Wavetable at a later date. This is fully configured on delivery, and produces quite impressive audio quality. However, speakers are not included in the deal.
All the software was conveniently pre-configured on the PC we reviewed, which booted straight into Windows 95 and displayed the Lotus Smartsuite toolbar.
Smartsuite boasts a complete set of business applications, including word processor, spreadsheet, database and a scheduling program. Other software on the system is Microsoft?s Internet Explorer, Corel 4, a Matrox video utility and the handy accounting package from Intuit, Quicken for Windows.
The monitor comes with a free three-year warranty and the PC is covered by a one-year parts and three-year labour return-to-base warranty. Carrera also provides free lifetime technical support over the phone.
Verdict: the MMX processor is more a safeguard for the future than a tool for the present. However, this would be a fast, competent multimedia PC even without it. The excellent Matrox Mystique graphics card is a bonus, which the 15in FST SVGA monitor goes some way towards complementing.
Contact: Carrera on 0171 830 0586
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