Labs roundup: 9 to 5 PCs: Performance Analysis
Unlike many of our performance-based Labs, business workstations are a whole different world of PCs, focusing not on the maximum number of frames per second, or how many overall points they can churn out in any given benchmarking utility.
Unlike many of our performance-based Labs, business workstations are a whole different world of PCs, focusing not on the maximum number of frames per second, or how many overall points they can churn out in any given benchmarking utility. Business workstation reviewing instead gravitates more towards the manageability of software and hardware, response times from vendors for replacement parts during failure requests and the total cost of ownership (TCO) over a generally longer period of time than home desktop units.
We've done the legwork for you, taking seven of the best business PCs and putting them through their paces.
Our goal when benchmarking is always to be able to demonstrate real-world performance, reproducible by users through a series of thorough and more importantly relevant utilities to demonstrate the capabilities of any given system. We've opted to use both PCMark04 and SYSmark2002 - chosen to simulate a standard office productivity workload representing the typical usage of machines such as these. SYSmark2002 runs multiple instances of Microsoft Office 2000 applications such as Word, Excel and Outlook as well as web content creation tools like Adobe Premiere and Macromedia Dreamweaver to simulate normal business usage. Amazingly, despite the plethora of instability issues with SYSmark2002, we managed to squeeze out five successful runs, with only the DigitalStar IntelliPro 4000GX refusing to finish its workload and return a score.
PCMark04 on the other hand is yet to give us any trouble during testing, and takes advantage of open source media encoders and decoders such as the Zlib, OGG Vorbis and DivX compression. While this isn't an entertainment or graphics focused system roundup, PCMark04 also features physics and polygon throughput calculations to round out the tests. Also covered are anti-virus scanning, editing and correction of text documents and spreadsheet mathematical calculations.
We've determined Labs scores using our usual Labs calculations, by first finding individual scores, then comparing scores to averages using weighting for categories most relevant to the Labs. Again this month we were unable to Benchmark the Apple system as our stable of benchmarks are not available for Mac OS X, we've still calculated features and value for money but rated its quality independently of the PCs.
As both the graphs and our feature table indicate, the machines we received this month are processor heavy, with more money and focus being put towards CPU performance than graphics. Half of the machines in our roundup featured some form of integrated graphics on the motherboard rather than an additional PCI or AGP driven adaptor, with DigitalStar's IntelliPro 4000GX and Altech's Silver Cube both offering 128MB of RADEON 9200 graphics. Finishing third and fourth in our SYSmark2002 testing, our winning and recommended Altech and IBM systems weren't the highest performers, beaten each time by the higher spec Dell Optiplex GX270 with its mammoth Pentium 4 3.2GHz processor. Altech climbed ahead a place in PCMark04 to second, IBM dropping a place to fifth. Despite this, both units featured better after sales service in three-year on-site next day warranties, high quality scores and above average value for money ratings.
In this case our Overall score was weighted with 50 percent given to quality, 20 percent features and 30 percent value for money. This means lower specification machines have just as good a chance at walking away with an award, provided their quality score is high.
Given the price ceiling we imposed on participants and our focus on value for money over specifications, we were more than pleasantly surprised with the calibre of the machines in the marketplace under $2,000. Ultimately it's about finding a unit which performs all your intended functions to the best of its ability, we're sure you'll find at least one of those in the pages ahead.
Browse this article:
This Group Test appeared in the June, 2004 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine