Amax AMD Max 3200+

SAN FRANCISCO (10/06/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: The Amax Engineering Corp. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. Max 3200+ we tested was equipped with AMD's current top-of-the-line 2.2-GHz Athlon XP 3200+ CPU with a 400-MHz frontside bus (a little faster than the 333-MHz frontside bus in previous Athlon XP chips). Between this CPU and 512MB of DDR400 SDRAM, our test unit cooked up a score of 134 on our PC WorldBench 4 tests, which is only 4 percent less than that of our current top performer, the ABS Ultimate M5.

The AMD Max 3200+ has a slick, contemporary design, with a sturdy black case accented by a stainless steel door--a touch that makes it look a bit like a fancy kitchen appliance.

But it gives you lots of removable media choices: Our unit featured a Plextor PX-504A DVD+R/RW drive, and a front-mounted memory card reader that accepts CompactFlash I and II, Memory Stick, Secure Digital/MultiMediaCard, and SmartMedia cards. It also came equipped with two 80GB Serial ATA hard drives in a RAID 0-striped configuration.

WHAT'S NOT: The 17-inch Impression 7LSP LCD monitor produced uneven results. It rendered our text screens well, showing sharp fonts even at the smallest sizes, but colors in a test photo looked dark and too saturated. Because Amax did not include a speaker set, we judged the system's sound quality using the monitor's built-in speakers. Like most monitor speakers, the 7LSP's produced weak, muddy bass notes and brassy trebles when we listened to music and a DVD movie. You can upgrade to the Creative Inspire 5.1 5200, a five-channel surround-sound system, for about $65 when you order this PC.

WHAT ELSE: On average, the performance of the ATI Technologies Inc. Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card in the Max 3220+ was about 5 percent slower than comparable cards--a minimal difference not likely to be noticeable to most users, but critical to serious gamers.

To reduce fan noise, the Max 3200+ has an adapter with a control knob on back that lets experienced users adjust the speed of the CPU fan. Though quite easy to use, it doesn't allow for fine adjustments. The back of the case also sports six USB 2.0 and two FireWire ports, plus audio input and output jacks. To use the optical drives and the card reader, you swing open a large front panel door. You'll also find three front-mounted USB 2.0 ports at the bottom of the chassis.

Getting inside the midsize case took some effort. Undoing the two large thumbscrews was easy enough, but you have to apply some elbow grease to unhitch the side panel. It would be nice if Amax had designed the panel with indentations or some other way to grab hold of it. Inside the box, we found four open PCI slots, though only two were usable because adapters blocked access to mounting brackets. Still, seven open drive bays (three internal for additional hard drives; four externally accessible bays for removable or optical drives) provide plenty of room for upgrading the system's storage capacity.

The Microsoft Wireless Multimedia Keyboard provides comfortable typing and has a detachable palm rest, eight programmable hot-keys, and six audio-control buttons.

Our PC came with NTi's CD & DVD Maker Gold Suite, but not much other software. At US$2399, it would have been nice to see at least a basic productivity suite, and perhaps some games and video editing software.

Amax's documentation is text-heavy and rather generic. Instead of detailing system specifics, it discusses PC basics that apply to all desktops. Moreover, we thought the manual needed better illustrations.

UPSHOT: With good looks, quick performance, and tons of storage options, this Amax is a tempting power machine. But home users who want trimmings like friendly documentation and lots of software should look elsewhere.

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