Speed and reliability with two processors

Are you looking for a fast, reliable system that's on Microsoft's Hardware Compatibility List (HCL)? Look at the DTK APRI-32, which comes with dual Pentium Pro processors at a reasonable price.

When I first heard about systems with dual or even quad processors, I thought that they would make killer workstations. I dreamed of being able to pop extra processors into my workstation. Need more speed? Just pop in another processor and--bam! A faster system. I tested this theory on the DTK APRI-32.

DTK Computer has been in business since 1981 and has produced computers since 1988. Many DTK systems have someone else's label affixed to the front of the system because Value Added Resellers (VARs) buy these systems and put their label on them.

DTK is Underwriter's Laboratories (UL) approved, and its systems are FCC certified. The company backs its systems with a two-year warranty that includes parts and labor and lifetime technical support. Onsite service is available for a minimal fee.

The DTK APRI-32 system is available in either desktop or middle-tower configurations and can be configured with up to 384MB of Enhanced Data Output (EDO) memory. You can install up to four PCI and three ISA expansion slots. The Adaptec SCSI (AIC-7880P), two IDE controllers, and floppy controller are embedded, so you don't have to waste slots for these controllers and you can purchase any storage device that you want without buying separate controllers.

The system I tested was armed with dual 200MHz Pentium Pro processors, 132MB of EDO RAM, a Seagate Cheetah 2.1GB Wide SCSI hard disk, an 8X SCSI CD-ROM drive, and a loaded Diamond Stealth 3D 3000 video card, all in a middle-tower case. The system also came with a 17" Energy Star monitor, a Microsoft mouse, and a Microsoft natural keyboard. Only a sound card and speakers were lacking.

We have been using the APRI-32 in our Lab for reviewing products such as Datametrics Systems' ViewPoint, testing tape backup software, and performing other tasks. It has been a rock-solid system. I have had problems with the power switch not working, but this problem has to do with getting the front cover back on properly, nothing more. Other than that problem, this system has been very useful.

We benchmarked the APRI-32 with the BAPCo SYSmark for Windows NT 4.0 (http://www.bapco.com). This package runs scripts over several popular applications and tracks how long each script takes to run. BAPCo SYSmark then compares the times to a baseline system and generates a number based on the differences. Table 1 lists the applications that BAPCo uses.

You would think that two processors would get you twice the performance, right? Well that's not the case; someone has to write the software to take advantage of multiple processors, and right now most software isn't designed for this configuration. Figure 1 shows processing times (in seconds) for the DTK and our baseline system. (The baseline system uses an Intel motherboard, a 200Mhz Pentium Pro processor, 32MB of RAM, an Adaptec 2940UW SCSI controller, two 2.1GB Quantum hard disks, an 8X CD-ROM, a Creative Labs AWE32 sound card, and a 4MB Matrox Millennium Video card.)

The DTK system did well against our baseline system, but none of the applications that BAPCo uses are optimized for a multiprocessor environment. I didn't get twice the performance with the dual processor, but I saw an improvement.

You can see some performance gains with these software packages because Windows NT can run OS services on one processor while your application runs on the other processor. I have seen almost a two-fold increase in speed when I've simultaneously run multiple applications (something I do all the time) or run applications such as Adobe Photoshop, which takes advantage of multiple CPUs. If you are in the market for something faster than the available Pentium Pro 200MHz systems and want to run multiple CPU-intensive applications or applications that can take advantage of multiple processors, this system is worthwhile.