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JAL Computers Capricorn 3000

JAL Computers might not be a brand that you are familiar with as it is one of the smaller PC manufacturers in the UK. Nonetheless, JAL has managed to win quite a few awards in the UK computer press and the size of a company has nothing to do with the quality of its products.

The first impression of the Capricorn 3000 wasn’t great, as it comes in what looks like a very cheap case and it lacks the quality feel that good cases have. But this is a minor issue and it’s still more stylish than the NEC system.

Luckily the rest of the system is more impressive than the case, as JAL has fitted a high-end Gigabyte nForce2 motherboard in the Capricorn 3000. This together with an AMD Athlon XP 3000+ processor and 512MB of PC2700 DDR memory earned the JAL the performance crown in Sysmark 2002 by an amazing 20 points. We’re not sure how this is possible as the core components are very similar to those of several of the other PCs on test, but JAL has obviously done some excellent configuration here.

A 160GB Seagate native S-ATA hard drive is the main storage drive and should prove to be a fast hard drive. In fact Seagate is the only manufacturer to date to provide native S-ATA drives it should be a very fast drive indeed. This is backed up by an NEC DVD writer that supports DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW, which makes up all current writable DVD media bar DVD-RAM. This is backed up by an unbranded 16-speed DVD-ROM drive.

JAL has taken full advantage of the integrated 5.1-channel sound on the motherboard. Sadly the Gigabyte board doesn’t feature the MCP-T so there is no Dolby Digital support in hardware. There are however dedicated 5.1-channel outputs for the rear and centre/subwoofer channels as well as coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs. A set of Creative Labs Inspire 5100 speakers are also supplied, but these are very basic 5.1 speakers compared to what we have seen supplied with some of the other PCs on test.

The motherboard also features integrated FireWire, IDE RAID and S-ATA RAID, and is thus a very capable platform for future upgrades. It is also the only motherboard that features integrated Gigabit LAN, but this is more of a novel feature than something really useful.

But the most impressive part of the Capricorn 3000 is its graphics card, a Gainward GeForce FX Powerpack! Ultra/1200 XP "Golden Sample". Although it is referred to as an Ultra card, it is not based on the FX 5900 Ultra chip as it has only 128MB of memory. Gainward has however in all honesty used the Ultra name longer than nVidia and it is still an excellent graphics card. It also adds video capture capabilities, although don’t expect professional results, but it should be fine for the occasional spot of home video editing. It is a shame that JAL didn’t manage to squeeze in a TV tuner card as well, but you can pick one of these up pretty cheap these days.

The graphics card is connected to a Sharp 17in TFT display with a native resolution 1,280 x 1,024 at 75Hz and comes with integrated stereo speakers. It is good to see that JAL has supplied a display with DVI input as this offers improved image quality over the analogue video exhibited by the Mesh and NEC.

A high-quality wireless Microsoft keyboard and an optical wireless mouse is also supplied along with a copy of Microsoft Works 7.

Verdict

If you take a closer look at the benchmarks you’ll notice a pattern, the JAL Capricorn 3000 is among the top three in every single benchmark. This is very impressive indeed and we feel that despite the poor case, the JAL Capricorn 3000 has made itself a deserving winner of our Recommended award.

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