Top 100

Pick Your Processor: Intel and AMD Duke It Out for Speed SupremacyA monthly update of the best desktop PCs, notebooks, printers, monitors, and modemsIntel asserts that Athlon hoopla is nothing more than media-generated hype, and that Intel remains king of the CPU hill. But AMD's Athlon has become a serious contender for the throne, vying with Intel's offerings in both price and performance. And with competition comes progress, so consumers can expect to profit from the rise of AMD.

Land Speed Record

Intel's latest shot across AMD's bow is its new Pentium III processor, formerly code-named Coppermine. This chip features 256KB of integrated L2 cache and "advanced transfer cache," in Intel-speak, which performs much faster than standard L2 cache. As a result, Intel claims, the PIII based on the Coppermine design offers significantly higher overall performance.

This month, the first of these new PIII systems hit our Top 10 PCs charts, and the results seem to support Intel's claim. In sixth place on our Top 10 Power PCs chart, the Micron Millennia Max 733, roared to a 309 on PC WorldBench 98, the highest score yet for a Windows 98 machine. Meanwhile, the Dell Dimension T700r, with a 700-MHz Pentium III running Windows NT, posted a 373, the highest NT score ever on our benchmarks.

Besides carrying new PIII CPUs, two of the Microns we tested this month ship with NVidia's new GeForce 256 graphics card. Dubbed a GPU, or graphics processing unit, the GeForce handles much of the transformation and lighting effects previously performed by the CPU.

You'll also find new 450-, 500-, and 550-MHz PIIIs in the latest line of notebook PCs. These processors provide serious portable punch. Check out our Top 15 Notebook PCs section to see which models made the most of Intel inside.

Packard Bell Packs It Up

Though you'll soon see systems from every major manufacturer packing the new PIII, you won't see any carrying the Packard Bell name. NEC, the parent company recently shut down its North American Packard Bell home consumer division, and expects the Packard Bell brand (along with 1500 jobs) to vanish by early 2000.

Since its 1986 inception, Packard Bell enjoyed considerable success in the low-end PC market. In recent years, however, Packard Bell was undercut on pricing by other PC makers, and consumers reported a high incidence of problems due to low-quality components.

Good To Go

Meanwhile, Dell's new Inspiron 3700 C466GT, with its flashy Tahoe Blue case, debuts at number one on the midrange segment of our Top 15 Notebook PCs chart.

Among power portables, another Inspiron, the 7500 R500VT, beats all comers (and many desktops) with a PC WorldBench 98 score of 236. Nonetheless, Gateway captures the number one spot on the power side of the notebooks chart with its Solo 9300LS, a PIII-450 system with a 15-inch screen for $2870--over $1200 less than the Dell Inspiron 7500 R500VT.

Clash of the Printer Titans

While intel and amd battle for the processor prize, three ink jet printer makers struggle for supremacy on our Top 10 Printers chart. HP, Lexmark, and Epson have three models each on our list, while Canon--once a star in the ink jet world--lands just one model in the ranking. The two top printers remain HPs, but this month Epson makes the biggest news. The $229 Epson Stylus Color 760 lands at number seven, while its sibling, the $279 Stylus Color 860, debuts at number ten. Both produce realistic photos on glossy paper--with framable results.

Grace Aquino, Cameron Heffernan, Mick Lockey, Kalai Murugesan, Karen Silver, and Alan Stafford contributed to the Top 100 this month. Testing was performed by Ulrike Diehlmann, Robert James, Elliott Kirschling, Jeff Kuta, and Sean Tieu of the PC World Test Center.

Powered by Intel's new Pentium III CPU based on the Coppermine design, Micron's Millennia Max 733 is superfast.

PIII Power: Coppermine's in the Dell Dimension 7500 R500VT.

Your Guide to the Top 100

Questions about our charts? The following information should answer most of them.

How do the charts work? Each month we test a large number of PCs, printers, scanners, monitors, graphics boards, and modems, and compare them with previously reviewed products. Only the best products land on the Top 10 charts, which are refreshed monthly. System configurations are shown as tested. Vendors may have since changed components.

What does the overall rating mean? This 100-point scale reflects results from our hands-on evaluations and performance tests. A score in the 90s is exceptional, while one in the 70s is above average.

What does the PC WorldBench 98 score mean? It's a measure of how fast a PC can run a mix of common business applications as compared to our baseline machine, a Gateway PMMX-200 configured with 32MB of RAM, a 2GB hard drive, and 512KB of secondary cache. A PC that scores 200, for instance, is twice as fast as the baseline system.

Where do the scores for reliability, support quality, and support policies come from? Reliability and support quality scores are based on surveys of PC World readers and anonymous support calls made by PC World staff. The policies score is based on vendor support policies.

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