SAN FRANCISCO (10/07/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: Powered by Intel's 3.2-GHz Pentium 4 processor (with an 800-MHz frontside bus) and a gigabyte of dual-channel DDR400 memory, the PC Power and Cooling Inc. SleekLine 3000MX proved a robust performer. It achieved an impressive 136 score on PC WorldBench 4 tests--the fastest performance we've recorded for a system with this configuration. The all-black steel case measures less than 4 inches high, and is quiet, due to its three small fans and hushed power supply.
PC Power and Cooling sells Sony Corp.'s 17-inch, wide-screen SDM V72W LCD monitor with this SleekLine. We've liked this monitor in previous testing, and we liked both its image quality and the sound of its built-in speakers when we used it with the SleekLine 3000MX.
Our test configuration included Sony's DRU510A DVD drive, an US$299 option on the 3000MX, but one we recommend choosing. This do-it-all drive is compatible with both DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW, as well as CD-R and CD-RW, formats. To store video or to perform other disk-intensive work, the 3000MX comes with a boatload of storage--a total of 240GB on two 120GB Serial ATA hard drives in a RAID 0 (or striped) configuration.
WHAT'S NOT: At $3798, this PC is quite expensive. You pay handsomely for Intel's current top-of-the-line processor and Sony's LCD display. Add a set of Logitech Z-680 speakers (a $349 option not included in our review package), and this system could set you back over $4000.
The company backs the 3000MX with a three-year warranty, but unlike many other companies, PC Power and Cooling doesn't provide on-site service; nor is there telephone technical support on weekends. If you need to return the system for repairs, though, the company will send out a loaner overnight.
As attractive as the Sony monitor is, it presented a few problems in our hands-on tests. When playing games, you'll have to switch the display to Normal View, which reduces screen real estate to that of a 15-inch LCD. Otherwise, game images will look slightly elongated in the wide-screen format (unless the games specifically support such a display). Furthermore, the LCD can't run resolutions higher than 1024 by 768, skimpy for a 17-inch LCD. Most 17-inch LCDs we've evaluated have an optimal resolution of 1280 by 1024, comparable to the screen real estate of a 19-inch CRT.
SleekLine's pamphlet-size user guide contains only rudimentary information. For example, the troubleshooting section covers the status lights on the case front and nothing more, while the set-up instructions don't go much beyond simple diagrams and lack troubleshooting tips. The company does provide separate manufacturer manuals for the LCD, mouse, and keyboard, but not for the rewritable DVD drive.
WHAT ELSE: We saw impressive frame rates at 16-bit color resolutions from the ATI Technologies Inc. Radeon 9700 Pro graphics card, but the inability to run the monitor at 1280 by 1024 pixels is limiting.
To take off the top panel and open the case, you'll have to remove eight tiny screws. Since there's little headroom in this compact case, you can add only an AGP card and two memory modules, but unlike other SleekLine systems we've reviewed, the 3000MX can take a full-sized graphics card. We found an exceptionally tidy layout with cables and wires neatly tucked out of the way.
Two FireWire ports (one each on front and back) let you connect devices such as hard drives or DV camcorders. Also on the back are six USB 2.0 ports (with one more up front) and jacks for speakers, headphones, and a microphone, plus a line-out port to hook up a high-end audio device such as a stereo receiver. Missing, however, are front-mounted audio jacks, which would make it easier to occasionally connect a headphone set.
The Logitech Inc. wireless keyboard has a detachable palm rest, nine customizable keys to launch Web sites, and buttons that control audio settings.
UPSHOT: Costing more than a few pretty pennies, the 3000MX offers sleek styling and high-end entertainment components. Its low-rise case height is perfect for space-constrained A/V shelves, and its performance will satisfy power-hungry users.