NEC PowerMate MT M5005h review: NEC PowerMate MT M5005h

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The Good Dedicated video card. Media Center Edition of Windows. Fast hard-drive.

The Bad Older CPU. Small 17 inch LCD. No external speakers.

The Bottom Line A very capable desktop PC that achieves reasonable results overall but is marred by an outdated CPU.

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6.4 Overall

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The M5005 is a curious desktop because it's targeted at the budget market but comes with niceties such as the Windows Media Center Edition operating system as well as a dedicated graphics chip. Our review unit had a 17-inch PV710 monitor as part of the package, though you can spec a larger 19-inch model if you wish. The bundled keyboard and mouse were both wired units, a major indicator that this package is not suited for use as part of a home-theatre setup.

Despite many desktop machines moving to smaller form factors, NEC has decided to make the M5005h similar in size to older, conventional desktops. Its case has a nice curvaceous body, with no sharp bits to get in the way. On the front you have a DVD burner, mounted ports to connect two USB devices, headphones, and a microphone. These are hidden away by a flimsy sliding panel that's sure to break with repeated use. There's no floppy drive on this machine, though there are two spaces in the front for expanding. The LCD monitor is one of the few on the market to have speakers built-in, and is encased with a silver finish. We would have liked to have seen a set of external speakers in a package at this price, as the integrated speakers are underpowered, producing audio quality that's worse than most notebook speakers.

The M5005h is powered by an AMD Athlon 3500+ processor, which is now a fairly old model and not very good in the performance stakes. We would have preferred one of the new dual-core AMD chips, which are much more efficient at completing more than one task at a time, but the 3500+ is still plenty fast for most general computing tasks. The processor is backed up by 512MB of RAM, the minimum amount you should have for XP, though there are more slots if you want to upgrade later. The M5005h comes with an ATI X1300 Pro graphics card with 256MB of RAM. You won't be able to play the absolute latest games on it, but it can easily handle favourites like Half-Life 2 and World of Warcraft. Storage comes in the form of a 160GB hard drive -- pretty generous for most people, but still less than we'd expect in a machine of this price. There's also a DVD-RW drive and the supplied software suite comes with a useful multimedia recording package that includes Sonic My DVD LE and RecordNow DX, as well as antivirus and recovery software.

Connectivity is no major issue with the M5005h -- it has all the usual options. At the back we have four USB ports, a FireWire port, an older parallel port and a 56K built-in modem plus integrated 10/100Mb network card. Not included in our test model is a 15-in-1 memory card reader that can be added as an upgrade option.  

The M5005h handles basic office and internet applications without breaking a sweat. However, the system does start to show significant signs of slowing down when you start to run several applications at once. We noticed viewing video files while browsing on the internet made the system slow. Testing under some performance benchmarks, the M5005h achieved very average results. Running the PCMark 2005 benchmark, the M5005h managed a score of just 2831.

The hard-drive was very fast, and while spinning at 7200rpm it still managed to remain on the quiet side. Performance from the ATI X1300 graphics card achieved mixed results. It was very quick in running most of our test software, but wasn't able to display the latest 3D games such as Prey properly. Adjusting quality to medium settings improved results, and still looked reasonably good due to the 17-inch LCD's lower resolution. The screen, though small, was an excellent unit, and images were bright and crisp.

The M5005h comes with a one year limited warranty and offers a full service and support hotline.

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