400MHz Celeron debuts in a desktop workstation

Compaq's newest enterprise desktop workstations tout the latest Intel processors and offer increased performance for companies that want to standardize a department or branch on one platform. Although various vendors produce the systems' hard disks, the disks incorporate the second generation of what was originally Compaq's Self Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology (SMART). This technology scans and monitors the disk, even during periods of inactivity, in an attempt to predict imminent failure before it occurs.

I tested Compaq's Deskpro EN, which has a 400MHz Celeron processor with 128KB of Level 2 cache in a Slot 1 package. Some of the early Celeron-based systems lack a Level 2 cache and are very slow. If you purchase a Celeron, you'll want one with 128KB of on-chip Level 2 cache. This cache isn't anything to get excited about, but it's adequate for good performance. Although Celerons also use only a 66MHz bus, the Deskpro EN supports a 100MHz system bus with Intel's BX chipset. The workstation supports as much as 384MB of 66MHz Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM) or 100MHz SDRAM, but the system I tested had only 64MB of 66MHz SDRAM.

The Deskpro EN's horizontal ATX desktop case is somewhat large, but you can easily remove it. In fact, Compaq color-coded the case's catches, knobs, and levers with lime green to help you disassemble the system. To remove the cover, you remove a small thumbscrew on the back of the case, press simultaneously on two sculpted buttons on both sides of the front of the case, pull forward, and lift. The system has a cover-removal detection switch.

With the cover off, you can see that the left side of the system houses the motherboard and expansion slots and the right side of the system houses the power supply, 40X CD-ROM drive (32X is standard), 1.44MB disk drive, and 6.4GB internal hard disk. The system has only one external expansion bay and no internal expansion bays. I'd prefer room for at least two additional internal devices.

For ease in removing or replacing the hard disk, the entire external bay assembly (including the hard disk, CD-ROM drive, and 1.44MB disk drive) rotates forward on a hinge. You lift a lever, which a detailed picture inside the case shows, and the hard disk slides efficiently out to the rear.

My test system came with an Intel 10/100 PCI NIC with Wake-on-LAN support. With the NIC installed, the workstation has three remaining expansion slots. These expansion slots reside on a removable, vertical backplane. The Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) slot isn't with the two PCI slots and two shared PCI/ISA slots; instead, the graphics card is on the far left side of the system, near the three DIMM slots. Although the system lacks integrated Ethernet, the motherboard houses integrated sound.

I ran the Deskpro EN through AIM Technology's workstation benchmark test. The system's WNT Peak Performance score was 640.5 jobs per minute, and its WNT Sustained Performance score was 313.9 jobs per minute. The WNT Peak Performance metric is the most telling value for workstations because it represents how a system will perform for a typical power user. The WNT Sustained Performance metric details a system's performance under a continuous load. For more information about the AIM benchmark tests and to compare the Deskpro EN's results with other systems, go to AIM Technology's Web site at http://www.aim.com.

The Deskpro EN with the 400MHz Celeron processor is well suited for its target market. In an attempt to persuade corporations to standardize their design, Compaq will offer this configuration for the next 18 to 24 months. Thus, IS professionals won't have to requalify systems for purchase because of minor configuration changes. I wonder why the Deskpro EN is so expensive, considering the Celeron is a low-end processor, originally introduced to compete in the sub-$1000 desktop market. However, the system's price is in line with comparable systems.

Deskpro EN
Contact: Compaq * 800-345-1518
Web: http://www.compaq.com
Price: $1339
System Requirements: 400MHz Intel Celeron processor, 128KB of Level 2 cache, 64MB of Synchronous DRAM, 6.4GB EIDE hard disk, 40X CD-ROM drive, Intel 10/100Mbps Ethernet