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NEC Powermate I-Select VL5

NEC is probably the best known brand in this group test, although it might not be synonymous with PCs. The Powermate I-Select VL5 is the only PC on test that is not at least partly black. The design of the case also looks quite dated and it’s very large for something that only offers two 5.25in drive bays.

The next surprise is when you open the case and find a microATX motherboard in it, which means that NEC could have fitted this in a much smaller case.
We’re not certain what is behind NEC’s reasoning here and would have much preferred a smaller system or a full size motherboard.

So what do you get inside the case? Well, the motherboard is, as mentioned a small microATX board from MSI based on the VIA KM400 chipset featuring integrated graphics. The graphics aren’t used in favor of an ATi Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card with 128MB of memory. The processor is from AMD and it’s an Athlon XP 3000+. A single stick of 512MB PC2700 memory is also fitted as the KM400 chipset only supports single channel memory.

A 120GB Western Digital hard drive is the main storage device with an NEC DVD writer that supports DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW as well as CD-R/RW as the main backup device. NEC has also fitted a 16-speed DVD-ROM drive to accompany the DVD-writer.

Sound is provided by a Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live 5.1 sound card, which is fairly long in the tooth now, but it’s not terrible. Sound is output to a set of Creative Labs Inspire 5300 speakers that should prove to be a reasonable setup for games and DVDs. NEC has also fitted a FireWire card to add digital video editing capabilities. The motherboard also adds integrated 10/100Mbit LAN to the package.

We were a bit disappointed with the 17in NEC TFT display as it has a captive analogue cable. This is a shame, especially as the Radeon 9800 Pro graphics card features DVI as well as a D-SUB. An NEC branded keyboard and a Logitech mouse finish off the package, while a copy of Microsoft Works 7.0 is also thrown in for good measures.

The I-Select VL5 didn’t manage to produce any outstanding numbers in the benchmarks, coming out in the bottom of both Sysmark 2002 and PCMark 2002.
This is partly down to the motherboard as it’s not as fast as the nForce2 boards supplied in the competitor’s machines. NEC did however repair some of the damage in 3DMark03 where it came out on top.

It’s a shame that such a big name as NEC hasn’t managed to put together a more well rounded package than this and we did in all honesty expect a lot more.

Verdict

This is a fairly average PC in terms of performance and looks and the component choices are strange. We could have forgiven NEC for this if the price had been right, but the high-end graphics card adds so much to the final price tag that NEC can’t even compete on price

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