High performance with a low price tag

To broaden the appeal of the company's Intel-based PC commercial desktops, Digital Equipment (which Compaq Computer acquired in June) is offering a modified version of its 5000 series corporate desktops: the 300MHz Digital PC 3500. The Digital PC 3500 is less expensive than the Digital PC 5510, but it offers the same base performance (For a review of the Digital PC 5510, see "Digital PC 5510," page 108).

System Features
One of the Digital PC 3500's most likable features is its tool-less access design. You loosen three thumbscrews and use the handle to slide the cover back and thus remove the case cover (which consists of the top and one side of the case). After you remove the cover, you can easily access internal components.

The space for the 4.3GB hard disk is on the back of the case under the power supply and is large enough to hold two hard disks. On the front of the system, a 3.5" drive sits on top of three external expansion bays, one of which contains a 32X CD-ROM drive.

One PCI slot, one ISA slot, and two shared PCI/ISA slots are on the bottom of the motherboard. One of the Digital PC 3500's unusual features is that the motherboard separates from the card backplane via a connector similar to an overgrown (approximately 9") DIMM socket. Because of this design, you can use one motherboard for Digital Equipment's low-profile and short tower systems and eliminate cabling between the motherboard and the bus backplane. This design provides an easy and cost-effective method for repairing and upgrading the system.

The Digital PC 3500 has other ports, including two Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports, one 9-pin COM port, one parallel port, and two 9-pin DIN connectors (for the mouse and keyboard). An Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) slot is at the top of the motherboard, above three DIMM sockets that can hold as much as 384MB of Synchronous DRAM (SDRAM).

My Digital Test System
The Digital PC 3500 I tested had 64MB of SDRAM. The system also had an optional 10/100 PCI Ethernet card and standard integrated OpenGL-compliant 3-D graphics that featured the 4MB Matrox 1164SB chipset with a 2MB upgrade. To test the 3-D rendering capabilities of this integrated graphics solution, I ran three of the Viewperf benchmark's five Viewsets: CDRS, Data Explorer (DX), and Lightscape. (For more information about the Viewperf benchmark and to see the test results for other systems, go to http://www.specbench.org). On the CDRS, DX, and Lightscape Viewsets, the Digital PC 3500 scored 7.542, 2.137, and 0.408 frames per second, respectively. These Viewperf scores are the lowest I've seen among similar products I've tested (and lower is better). I was surprised to find an integrated graphics solution that can run these tests: Most integrated solutions I've seen are two-dimensional and freeze when you give them a Viewperf Viewset to render.

Additional Testing
I also tested the Digital PC 3500's performance using Pragma's TelnetD remote connectivity software and AIM Technology's Workstation Benchmark for Windows NT. The Digital PC 3500 had a Peak Performance score of 539.2 application jobs per minute and a Sustained Performance score of 190.3 application jobs per minute. The Digital PC 3500's big brother--the more expensive, corporate-oriented Digital PC 5510--received scores that were 5 percent lower for AIM's Peak and Sustained Performance tests.

This PC Has Appeal
The Digital PC 3500's greatest asset is its performance. The system's accessibility and modular motherboard add to its appeal. If you're looking for corporate desktop systems with high-performance Pentium II processors but don't want to pay a high price, the Digital PC 3500 might be your answer.

Digital PC 3500
Contact: Compaq Computer * 978-493-5111 or 800-344-4825
Web: http://www.windows.digital.com
Price: Starts at $1400
System Configuration: 300MHz Pentium II processor, 64MB of SDRAM, 6MB video memory, 32x CD-ROM drive, 4.3GB hard disk, Digital PC 3500