PowerSpec 7501 - Core 2 Duo E6300 1.86 GHz review: PowerSpec 7501 - Core 2 Duo E6300 1.86 GHz

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Vista-friendly core configuration; large 320GB hard drive; Windows Media Center operating system qualifies for free upgrade to Windows Vista Home Premium.

The Bad Paying the $899 price tag requires jumping through a mail-in rebate hoop; competing systems are more attractive and more powerful.

The Bottom Line If you're simply looking for a basic PC that will run Windows Vista, the PowerSpec 7501 is a good choice, both for its current configuration and for its upgradeability. But this is not exactly the most attractive PC we've ever seen, and we're not fans of mail-in rebate programs. For folks willing to take those lumps, you can find a good deal here.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Service and support 6.0

WinBook PowerSpec 7501

Like many $999 and under PCs this year, WinBook's PowerSpec 7150 aims for a bare-essentials sweet spot, combining an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and a discrete graphics card into an affordable Windows Vista-ready desktop. At its core, its configuration is almost identical to the Velocity Micro Vector GX Campus Edition we reviewed way back in July. That system (now called the "Holiday Edition") no longer has the 17-inch LCD included in its price, but, when we match its specs to the WinBook's, the Velocity Micro system is $30 cheaper and comes with a faster 3D card. WinBook's advantages are that it comes with Windows XP Media Center 2005, and it has a $100 mail-in rebate. If you're looking for an easy way to get to Windows Vista, WinBook is a reasonable way to go. If you're willing to spend a little more, the Velocity Micro system is much more attractive and slightly more capable. We expect that many people will find the free Vista Home Premium upgrade tempting, but for our money, we'd rather have the cleaner-looking system.

We're not kidding when we say that the two systems have almost the same specifications. You can match them at every level, right down to their 320GB hard drives, media card readers, dual-layer DVD burners, and DVD/CD-RW tandem drives. Both systems have a single PCI Express graphics slot and a handful of x1 PCI Express and standard PCI connectors for further expansion; and both come with 1GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM, enough to run Windows Vista Home Premium as long as you have a discrete 3D graphics card.

The two systems have an identical core configuration that consists of an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and the aforementioned 1GB of system memory. As you might expect, each of the two systems' application performance is nearly identical to the other. As far as the graphics hardware, neither is a high-end gaming system, but the WinBook's 256MB GeForce 7300 GT is a lower-end part than the Velocity Micro's GeForce 7600 GS card. We expect that both will be fine for Windows Vista, but Velocity Micro has the edge when it comes to gaming. It won't play demanding games very well beyond lower resolutions, but as long as you're realistic, you should be OK. We can't say the same about the WinBook.

Multitasking test
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Adobe Photoshop CS2 image-processing test
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Apple iTunes encoding test
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Cinebench
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3D gaming performance (Quake 4 1,024x768, 4xAA 8xAF)
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* Memory upgraded to 2GB for this test

The WinBook's utility as a home theater PC is somewhat limited. For one, its standard midtower chassis makes it hard to stick in the living room, and it doesn't come with a TV tuner or a wireless network adapter. It's also a fixed-configuration PC, so any changes to improve its home entertainment outlook have to come after you buy it. Still, it does have the aforementioned pair of optical drives, as well as the roomy 320GB hard drive for storing music and video files. The PowerSpec 7501 also has room for three more internal hard drives if you want to add more.

As with many Media Center PCs, the WinBook PowerSpec 7501 also includes a coupon for a free upgrade to Windows Vista Home Premium. You'll need to pay for shipping and handling, but the upgrade disk itself is free and should arrive a few weeks after the scheduled Windows Vista launch date on January 30. With the Velocity Micro system, you're stuck with a Windows Vista Basic coupon (which needs an added $60 to turn in) if you opt for Windows XP Home, and a Windows Vista Business coupon, if you spring for the $99 upgrade to XP Pro. Neither of those two options include any Media Center functionality.

The WinBook's free ride to Windows Vista Premium might make the decision easy for many of you, and we can't blame you. But considering the WinBook's specs, we don't imagine that you'll be able to do much more with the PowerSpec 7501 and Vista than you could with the Velocity Micro and XP Home or XP Pro. We're not that jazzed about the WinBook's uninspired visual design, either. We've definitely seen worse, but it's just boring. In contrast the Velocity Micro cuts a pretty clean line. Throw in its added 3D punch, and the Vector GX Holiday Edition feels like the better deal to us.

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