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WinBook PowerSpec 8342 review: WinBook PowerSpec 8342

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The Good Bundled 17-inch LCD; open AGP slot; includes Works 6.0 app; onsite repair service.

The Bad Poor performer; minimal allotment of slow memory; not configurable.

The Bottom Line The WinBook PowerSpec 8342 will serve you well if you stick to basic office tasks, but it won't be long before you'll need to spring for a replacement.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 5
  • Support 6

Review Sections

summary

The WinBook PowerSpec 8342 we tested carries a full-system price of $978, but nearly half that cost pays for its 17-inch flat-panel display. The display is spacious, particularly for such a low-cost PC, but that's where the pluses end and the minuses begin. Compared to the other budget PCs we've seen recently, the PowerSpec 8342 is woefully underequipped. Its Intel Celeron processor takes a backseat to the Intel Pentium and AMD Athlon CPUs available in this class of PC, and its performance is further weakened by its small allotment of slow memory, which shares resources with the aged SIS 651 integrated graphics. Although the PowerSpec 8342 can handle basic office tasks, you'll get more value from competing budget PCs. The WinBook PowerSpec 8342 is your basic no-frills business PC. It costs all of $499 without the monitor, which WinBook sells separately through its &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Emicrocenter%2Ecom%2F">Micro Center Web site. Clad in black and made of metal, the sturdy midtower case is perfectly dressed for any office space and should stand up to a good deal of abuse. In line with its all-work, no-play design, the PowerSpec 8342 offers little room for addition or expansion.

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The midtower case doesn't leave much room for future expansion, but thankfully, it supplies an AGP slot, should you want to upgrade the PowerSpec 8342's graphics.

Inside, there are one 3.5-inch drive bay, two 5.25-inch bays, and two internal 3.5-inch bays. With one free 5.25-inch bay and one free internal 3.5-inch bay, the system leaves room for you to add another optical drive or an additional hard drive. Two of its three PCI slots are unoccupied as well, as is one of the two DIMM slots. With its modest specs, the PowerSpec 8342 will never be considered a gamer's dream, but you can improve upon its integrated graphics by putting a graphics card in the open AGP slot.

The back panel provides Ethernet, audio, and modem connections, as well as PS/2 ports for a keyboard and a mouse. It also provides legacy serial and parallel connections--a definite plus for any office environment still using older peripherals. For those who've entered the 21st century, however, there are four USB 2.0 ports on the back and two easily accessible ones on the front. Legacy users still clinging to their floppy disks are in luck--the PowerSpec 8342 includes a floppy drive.

There are, however, no FireWire ports. This isn't really a problem, since the PowerSpec 8342 isn't designed for any application that would benefit from FireWire, but the absence is conspicuous when you compare the PowerSpec 8342 to the similarly priced Systemax Ascent 64, which has three FireWire ports, or to the eMachines T3085, which has one FireWire port and a multiformat media-card reader.

The WinBook PowerSpec 8342 has two strikes against it: it has limited room for expansion or upgrades, and it is filled with low-end components. For starters, it gets its processing power from a 2.8GHz Intel Celeron processor. While the Celeron was once a standard for budget systems, it's possible to get much more for your money today from processors such as the 64-bit AMD Athlon 64 3000+ in the Systemax Ascent 64 or the full-fledged Pentium 4 processor found in the Dell Dimension 2400.

Adding insult to injury, the Celeron is backed by only 256MB of slow 266MHz memory (other budget PCs we've seen recently use 333MHz RAM). Further, the integrated SIS 650 graphics share 32MB of that memory. But since this Windows XP Pro system isn't meant for doing more than crunching numbers, word processing, Web surfing, and e-mailing, its memory and graphics abilities will suffice.

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The PowerSpec 8342's specs aren't impressive, but we're surprised to find such a roomy flat-panel display.

There's more bad news. The WinBook PowerSpec 8342's sole optical drive is a speedy 52X CD-RW drive, but we've seen a multiformat DVD-recordable drive in the eMachines T3085 and both a CD burner and a DVD-ROM drive in the ABS Awesome 1300. Also, the 7,200rpm, 80GB hard drive, while still reasonably large, is on the small side compared to those in other budget systems we've recently reviewed. Curiously, WinBook chose to bundle CyberLink's PowerCinema. You can use the app to create picture slide shows and play MP3s, but its main function, playing DVDs, will go unused because of the system's lack of a DVD drive.

Although it almost doubles the price of the $499 PowerSpec 8342, the best feature of our review system is the $479 Qrium 17-inch LCD. Most full systems that cost less than $1,000 will bundle a 15-inch LCD or CRT. Of course, the more money directed toward the system instead of the monitor, the more powerful and feature rich the PC will be. Still, the extra screen real estate is especially handy for multitasking. In our tests, the picture was sharp and text was easy to read. The bundled amplified stereo speakers are serviceable for basic use with the integrated 16-bit, six-channel stereo surround sound.

The extraordinarily utilitarian, black Windows keyboard and two-button Internet scroll mouse bundled with the PowerSpec 8342 will get your inputting done, if nothing else. For office tasks, the software bundle includes the generation-old Microsoft Works 6.0 productivity suite.

Application performance
Of the budget PCs we've tested recently, the WinBook PowerSpec 8342 is by far the worst performer. It trailed the second-slowest machine, the ABS Awesome 1300, by a whopping 33 percent. Its poor application performance is due to a number of factors, chief among them the antiquated SIS 651 chipset with integrated graphics. In addition, the system's Celeron processor takes a backseat to Intel Pentium and AMD Athlon CPUs, and the minimal amount of system memory is slow. Adding insult to injury, the poky 256MB of memory shares resources with the PowerSpec 8342's integrated graphics subsystem. Consider the WinBook PowerSpec 8342 for only the most basic office apps.

Application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark 2004 rating  
SysMark 2004 Internet-content-creation rating  
SysMark 2004 office-productivity rating  

To measure application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark 2004, 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 and gaming performance
The WinBook PowerSpec 8342 is not intended for 3D gaming or advanced graphics work, as evidenced by its poor showing on our Unreal Tournament 2003 benchmark. Unless your idea of gaming begins and ends with solitaire, playing games on this system will prove quite taxing. To be fair, this system is not meant for gaming--nor is any $499 system, for that matter.

3D gaming performance (in fps)  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Unreal Tournament 2003 Flyby-Antalus 1,024x768  

To measure 3D gaming performance, CNET Labs uses Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2003, widely used as an industry-standard benchmark. We use Unreal to measure a desktop's performance with the DirectX 8.0 (DX8) interface at a 32-bit color depth and at resolutions of 1,024x768 and 1,600x1,200. Antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are disabled during our 1,024x768 tests and are set to 4X and 8X respectively during our 1,600x1,200 tests. At this color depth and these resolutions, Unreal is an excellent way to compare the performance of low-end to high-end graphics subsystems. We report the results of Unreal's Flyby-Antalus test in frames per second (fps).

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs technician David Gussman.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

ABS Awesome 1300
Windows XP Home; 1.92GHz AMD Athlon XP 2600+; Via KT600 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Nvidia GeForce4 MX 440 64MB; Maxtor 6Y080P0 80GB 7,200rpm

Dell Dimension 2400
Windows XP Home; 2.66GHz Intel P4; Intel 8645G chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; integrated Intel 845G 64MB (shared memory); Seagate ST3120026A 120GB 7,200rpm

eMachines T3085
Windows XP Home; 2.17GHz AMD Athlon XP 3000+; Nvidia Nforce-2 chipset; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; integrated GeForce4 MX 64MB; WDC WD1600BB-00FTA0 160GB 7,200rpm

Systemax Ascent 64
Windows XP Home; 2.0GHz AMD Athlon 64 3000+; Via K8T800 chipset; 256MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; ATI Radeon 7000 64MB; Samsung SP1203N 120GB 7,200rpm

WinBook PowerSpec 8342
Windows XP Professional; 2.8GHz Intel Celeron; SIS 651 chipset; 256MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; integrated SIS 651 32MB (shared memory); Samsung SP0802N 80GB 7,200rpm

WinBook backs the PowerSpec 8342 with a one-year warranty that includes a year of onsite service. Toll-free support for hardware-related questions is available seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to midnight CT (software support is fee based). Although onsite service is a boon for a budget PC, the company's Web site is virtually bereft of practical instruction. You won't find anything in the way of online FAQs, downloadable files, PDF documents, or other features that most major PC makers offer. There's also no system manual. Printed materials included in the box consist of a setup poster, a Windows XP Pro manual, a warranty page, and an Emergency System Recovery guide.

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