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There are many reasons for choosing a small-form-factor PC over a hulking desktop, including space and noise considerations. But even putting aside its poor performance, there's little reason to choose Monarch Computer Systems' Traveler 1000 over its similarly small competitors.
The system costs less than $1,200, but it's no bargain. For one thing, colors on its 15-inch CTX LCD look washed out; graphics appear slightly out of focus; and in CNET Labs' tests, everything was fuzzy-looking. Similarly, the two-piece Creative Labs speaker system sounded flat and would probably be best used only for low-volume background music. Finally, the Traveler that we tested shipped with a notebook-size keyboard--a $29 option with the basic system--that was cramped and difficult to type on. To make matters worse, the company omitted a real mouse in favor of the keyboard's touchpad.
Despite these faults, we uncovered a few things to like about the Traveler. Its DVD/CD-RW combo drive worked flawlessly in our tests, and the slim case serves up four USB 2.0 ports (two front-mounted), a FireWire port, and an S/PDIF connector. These external-connectivity options mean you may not miss the absolute lack of internal-expansion alternatives. Also, the monitor and the system use 12V DC power, so they can be installed in truly mobile environments, such as cars, campers, and boats.
Monarch outfits the Traveler with a 1GHz Via C3 processor, 256MB of 266MHz DDR memory, and a 7,200rpm 40GB Western Digital hard drive. The whole ensemble is dead-quiet and suitable for a living-room setting. But in this case, a silent PC is a slow PC. For all practical purposes, the Traveler was unable to complete our SysMark2002 application benchmarks, and games played exceedingly slowly; the system should be fine, however, for basic day-to-day tasks and Web surfing.
Monarch covers the Traveler 1000 with a scanty one-year parts-and-labor warranty but makes up for it with onsite service for that year and 24/7 toll-free phone support. A three-year parts-and-labor warranty without onsite service costs a reasonable $49 extra. Online support is limited to FAQ pages.