- The Washington Times - Monday, January 3, 2000

Desktop computer

Compaq Presario 5900. The sturdy 5900 series debuted in late November with the AMD Athlon processor, running at speeds up to 750 MHz. That has since been eclipsed by Intel's Pentium III running at 800 MHz, which in turn will soon be eclipsed either by AMD or by Intel itself.

The age of fast processors is here, thank goodness, and sooner or later, applications will come along to take full advantage of them. For now, it's just nice to have as much muscle as possible.

But the best thing about the Compaq Presario is the way the firm's engineers have put so much together in so simple a package. In our test unit, there was not only a DVD-ROM drive, but also a CD-RW drive, which lets users "burn" their own CDs. This option has been priced at as little as $1 during the holiday season; I suspect Compaq (http:// athome.compaq.com/store/ default.asp) will continue such largesse in one form or another. Making technology accessible and affordable is a great thing for the company to be able to deliver.

Pricing and features do not make a computer ggreat, of course. Computers need performance, and this the 5900 possesses in abundance. It's fast with the 700 MHz chip this unit employs, thanks to a 200 MHz system bus that moves data more quickly. Having 128 Mbytes of RAM isn't bad, either.

In short, this is a PC for a dedicated home or home office user. It's one you should check out.

Runner-up: Hewlett Packard's Pavilion 8490 PC, reviewed here in March. It, too, has tons of features that home users will appreciate. Installation and setup were remarkably easy, and performance was zippy. About the only negative was the keyboard, which I found a bit uncomfortable.

Portable PC

A tie, this time, between Apple Computer's iBook and Hewlett Packard's OmniBook XE2.

HP's OmniBook line, aimed at small-business and home office users, is a remarkable blend of style, substance and sensibility. The unit I tested has a 333 MHz Pentium II processor (P-IIIs are now available), a 13.3-inch active matrix display, 64 megabytes of random access memory and a 6.1-gigabyte hard-disk drive, as well as a 24-speed CD-ROM drive, floppy-disk drive and a 56-kilobits-per-second modem.

The computer performed well on a trip to Amsterdam and then Nairobi, Kenya, and has worked well on the road ever since. I like it; details on the OmniBook are found at www.hp.com.

The iBook is a special delight in and of itself. There's the color of the case, which will certainly attract attention. Then, there's the raw computing power of the 300 MHz G3 processor inside. Finally, there's the advantages of a Mac operating system and applications lots of good stuff that works well and doesn't crash as often as Windows 98.

But to have done all this for $1,599, well, that's an accomplishment. The iBook is a great bargain for a notebook computer what with the active-matrix screen, built-in 56 kbps modem and Ethernet connection and it's a product well worth examining when you're in the market for something new.

Information is available at

www.apple.com/ibook/.

Handheld computer

The Palm VII, just for adding reliable wireless communications to the leading handheld PC. The Palm VII offers reliable communications and information management in a small package, and could become an indispensable tool for millions of people.

The $749 unit connects with the world via BellSouth's data network, and does so rather reliably. Details on the machine and wireless service are at www.palm.net.

Runner-up: Hewlett Packard's Jornada 430se, the $499 color-screen handheld computer reviewed here recently. It's sprightly, colorful and cool enough to impress the folks at your next networking breakfast.

Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; or e-mail MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page at (www.markkellner.com).

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