Whether you work in a corporate cubicle, a retail environment, or a home office, desktop space is always at a premium. Hence, the appeal of compact PCs such as the Gateway E-4000, the IBM NetVista S42, and the Systemax Venture LP U26R--all of which consume a minimum of real estate while offering sufficient business acumen. The Venture LP, specifically, offers some entertainment value as well, with its game-friendly graphics card, combo DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive, and three-piece speaker set. Solid performance, a sharp LCD monitor, and excellent online support round out the package, but its lack of IT-friendly features makes the Venture LP better suited for SOHO environments than for large corporations. The Systemax Venture LP U26R comes in any color you like, so long as it's black. The low-profile case stands just 4 inches high, making it a fine base for the LCD monitor. Alternately, you can tip the case sideways; a plastic stand keeps it upright. Though quite narrow at just 12.75 inches wide, the case is still a relatively deep 16.75 inches.
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|The Venture LP has six USB 2.0 ports, including two in front.|
As its dimensions suggest, the Venture LP's case interior is pretty cramped. There's one memory socket available but no free drive bays. Two of the motherboard's three PCI slots remain open, but your expansion options are limited to half-height cards due to the small case. The same is true for the AGP slot, although the SU30's last-generation Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 graphics will suffice for DVD playback and even light gaming through the built-in DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive. Getting to the hard drive itself requires fairly major surgery with a screwdriver--IT departments looking for quick internal upgrades would do better with something such as the Gateway E-4000, which takes a modular approach to its drives.
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You'll have room inside for only half-height expansion cards.
Though not stocked with the fastest hardware known to man, the Systemax Venture LP has more than enough power for mainstream computing. It's the rare application that would bog down under a 2.66GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM, and a Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 graphics card. The Samsung 80GB hard drive should also satisfy most business users; if you need more space, Systemax offers larger drives.
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|Two for one: DVD-ROM and CD-RW capabilities in a single drive.|
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|The GEM 715A is only semiprecious.|
The Venture LP will suffice for any office chore, and it won't shy away from entertainment. The GeForce4 MX, for instance, delivers the frame rates necessary for light gaming, to say nothing of DVD movies. To that end, Systemax supplies a DVD/CD-RW combo drive and CyberLink's PowerDVD player software. The system also comes with a three-piece Cyber Acoustics 3550 speaker system, so you can enjoy decent--though we wouldn't say stellar--sound with your music and movies.
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Good fit: the speakers are built more for business than pleasure.
Beyond the included CyberLink PowerDVD software, Systemax supplies Windows XP Pro and Microsoft Office XP Small Business Edition. But IT departments are left in the lurch: the system comes with none of the deployment or management software you'd find in competing products from IBM and HP. Buyers without IT departments will bemoan the system's sparse documentation. Application performance
Using an older chipset and slower memory, the Systemax Venture LP's performance falls smack-dab in the middle of systems in its processor class. Using an Intel 845G/GL chipset, 512MB of DDR SDRAM running at 266MHz, the Venture LP's score of 346 on the SysMark2002 Internet-content-creation test is quite average. On the other hand, the 177 it received on the office-productivity test puts it on the lower end of the spectrum for a 2.66GHz P4-based PC. For a business system, however, it will be more than adequate for any SOHO task.
Application performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).
3D graphics performance
Unless you're a hard-core gamer, you probably don't need the fastest 3D graphics engine on the market, which is exactly why an Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440-based graphics card is a solid choice for a consumer-level desktop such as the Venture LP. It doesn't deliver the outrageously fast performance of a high-end graphics card, such as ATI's Radeon 9800 Pro, nor does it come with the premium sticker price of a high-end card. The bottom line: The Venture LP supports strong 3D graphics acceleration that should be powerful enough for most of today's games and educational titles but will not be adequate for any future game titles that appear on the horizon.
3D graphics performance (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001 Pro. We use 3DMark to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8 interface at both 16-bit and 32-bit color settings at a resolution of 1,024x768. A system that does not have DX8 hardware support will typically generate a lower score than one that has DX8 hardware support.
3D gaming performance in fps (Longer bars indicate better performance)
To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Quake III Arena. Although Quake III is an older game, it is still widely used as an industry-standard tool. Quake III does not require DX8 hardware support--as 3DMark2001 does--and is therefore an excellent means of comparing the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. Quake III performance is reported in frames per second (fps).
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Dell Dimension 4550
Windows XP Home; 2.66GHz Intel P4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 64MB; Western Digital WD1200JB-75CRA0 120GB 7,200rpm
MPC Millennia 910a Pro
Windows XP Professional; 2GHz AMD Athlon XP 2400+; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4200 64MB; Seagate ST380021A 80GB 7,200rpm
Sony VAIO PCV-RZ16G
Windows XP Home; 2.66GHz Intel P4; 1,024MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; IBM IC35L120AVVA07 120GB 7,200rpm
Systemax Venture LP U26R
Windows XP Professional; 2.66GHz Intel P4; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; Samsung SP8004H 80GB 7,200rpm
ZT Group Home Office Desktop A5003
Windows XP Professional; 1.83GHz AMD Athlon XP 2500+; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra 128MB; Seagate ST3120023A 120GB 7,200rpm The standard Systemax warranty expires after just one year, but our Venture LP review system came with two years of coverage included in the price (the second year adds $49). You'll have to pay extra for onsite service (provided by a third party); the standard warranty includes depot service where you are responsible for shipping the system back to Systemax.
The company earns high marks for its support options, which include toll-free, 24/7 phone service. Among the Venture LP's paperwork, there is a page containing three self-adhesive stickers, each with your system's serial number, Systemax's toll-free support number, and the URL for online support. The latter takes you to a site where you input the serial number to access your exact system configuration and links to component-specific downloads and knowledge-base articles. Though this support site is otherwise generic--Systemax's name appears nowhere on it--it's nicely designed and admirably comprehensive.