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With 900MHz and 1GHz CPUs becoming commonplace, single-processor workstations usually provide more than enough computing power for corporate business users. But designers, financial analysts, and multimedia and software developers still demand higher performance for CPU-intensive applications, so workstation vendors offer dual-processor configurations to address high-performance needs.

This Buyer's Guide provides information about workstations that are configured with two Pentium III processors (or equivalent) with speeds of 600MHz or faster, have a minimum of 128MB of RAM, and are priced below $5000. Pricing includes a preloaded version of Windows 2000 Professional (Win2K Pro). Some workstation vendors were revising their product lines at press time and didn't submit information.

Although Win2K Pro supports dual-CPU systems, some applications can't take advantage of the second processor. Make sure to verify that your applications can support a dual-processor workstation. Applications that don't currently benefit from an additional processor can benefit in the future if the application's upgrade includes SMP support.

The Description column of this Buyer's Guide lists the markets that each workstation targets. Per our request, vendors provided only one configuration for each workstation, so if your target application isn't listed for a particular model, contact the vendor to investigate other component options. Most vendors offer several processor, graphics, and disk subsystem options to let you optimize the configuration for your intended applications. The graphics subsystem is particularly important because some graphics cards are optimized for performance with 2-D applications, whereas other graphics cards are specifically designed for optimal performance in 3-D OpenGL environments. Complex 3-D applications are extremely CPU-intensive, so most vendors offer several 3-D graphics options. One benefit that some of the more expensive graphics cards offer is to offload some of the geometry and lighting calculations from the CPUs.

Many of the listed dual-processor workstations feature Intel's 840 chipset and Rambus DRAM (RDRAM), a combination that significantly increases the system's price but improves performance at higher CPU speeds. One vendor offers dual 19" monitors with graphics-card support, a useful feature if your applications require an extremely large work area. For a higher price, some vendors offer dual-processor workstations configured with fast processors and, in a few cases, SCSI disk subsystems. Other vendors offer dual-processor workstations that cost less and are configured with slower processors and IDE disk subsystems. You should base your selection on your budget and the applications you run.