What is it: a multimedia MMX PC with a built-in modem.
Applications: office suites, graphics editing, Internet, games.
It takes a long time and lots of money to set up a large production facility to manufacture a range of PCs. So it?s not surprising that major manufacturers cannot always be as responsive to developments in technology as they would like. This means that smaller suppliers can compete with the giants because they have greater short-term adaptability.
Small PC builders with the right attitude to quality are constantly reviewing the flood of new, ever-faster, ever-cheaper components, and experimenting to find combinations that offer performance and reliability at the most competitive prices. Sourcing from such companies can put you ahead of the game at a stroke, effectively extending the life of your investment.
The Dotlink Terminator 200MMX demonstrates this characteristic of the PC business. The PC has an MMX-enhanced 200MHz Pentium processor, 512Kb of pipeline burst cache, 32Mb of EDO-RAM, and a 4Mb graphics accelerator. It also features a built-in 33.6Kbits/sec modem, 32-bit wavetable audio, 8-speed CD-ROM and a massive 5Gb hard disk. Dotlink is asking #1,599 for this configuration, a price that other, big-name manufacturers probably could not come close to.
So has Dotlink cut corners to cut costs? Although one of the first indicators of a cheap ?n? cheerful PC is shoddy peripherals, the Microsoft mouse and superb Fujitsu keyboard give no cause for complaint. And the active stereo speakers are also above average because of their clear top-end and reasonable level of bass response.
The Viewsonic 15GS monitor is perfectly acceptable, giving a focused, easy-to-read 800x600 image on its relatively flat 15in screen. Flicker wasn?t a problem thanks to support for a stable 75Hz vertical refresh (repaint) rate, and the digital image controls were comprehensive and easy to use via an on-screen setup menu.
The inside of the compact midi-tower case is tidy, which makes life easier if you need to make any modifications. There are plenty of free memory sockets for extra RAM, which are easy to get to. You also get front-opening bays for an extra 5.25in and 3.5in drive, as well as an internal 3.5in bay for a second hard disk if the 5Gb Maxtor Diamondmax drive gets full.
In addition, there?s a bay which accepts a Travan-type backup device. This can be removed and shared between several machines so long as each has the same Exobyte Eagle?s Nest mount.
However, there is limited card expansion. This is because although there are two ISA and three PCI slots free there?s a shared backplate cutout where they meet, and all but the lowest ISA slot are reduced to half-length by obstructions.
Still, with a 4Mb Hercules Terminator 3D graphics card (based on the S3 Virge 3D accelerator chipset), Creative Labs Soundblaster 32 wavetable sound card and fast 33.6Kbits/secs internal modem, you may well not need to add anything else to the line-up, except perhaps a network adaptor.
The Terminator is relatively fast for its class, partly because of the generous allocation of RAM and the 512Kb of cache. But the Hercules card handled well, and the Maxtor hard disk was especially impressive for an EIDE drive.
The PC comes with a choice of bundled software ? you can opt for Lotus Smartsuite 96 or the Microsoft Family CD Pack, which includes Works, Money and the Encarta encyclopedia.
Contact: Dotlink on 0181 902 5802
Verdict: this product is excellent value for money because you get a comprehensively well-specified system built from carefully selected, good-quality components for a remarkably reasonable price.
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