IBM NetVista X series review:

IBM NetVista X series

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MSRP: $2,049.00
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good 17-inch LCD panel; four-hour response-time service available; excellent overall design.

The Bad No drive expansion; conservative performance.

The Bottom Line Beautifully designed on the outside but lacks oomph on the inside.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall
CNET Editors' Choice Nov '01

People usually consider computers such as IBM's NetVista X41 corporate trophies, as though the sleek, stealth-black skin, the highly integrated components, and the LCD panel were rewards for overachieving. A NetVista sitting on your desktop announces that you've done well. But that's not news. What's novel about the NetVista X41 is its affordable--and mostly justifiable--$2,299 price. People usually consider computers such as IBM's NetVista X41 corporate trophies, as though the sleek, stealth-black skin, the highly integrated components, and the LCD panel were rewards for overachieving. A NetVista sitting on your desktop announces that you've done well. But that's not news. What's novel about the NetVista X41 is its affordable--and mostly justifiable--$2,299 price.

Designed for living
Typically referred to as an all-in-one system, the NetVista's computer wraps around and behind the display's pedestal. The drive bay sits on a pivoting platform that hides just below the lower bezel of the panel. Press a button and it drops down for access. Give it a gentle tuck upward and it latches out of sight. In previous versions of the NetVista that we've reviewed, the bay platform contained both floppy and DVD drives. Here, only a combo DVD-ROM/CD-R/RW drive is present; the floppy is provided as an external USB device.

Kudos to IBM's design team for finally getting the connectors positioned correctly. Many of the integrated systems we've seen require near-torturous hand contortions to get connectors into tiny, recessed cubbyholes situated in all the wrong places. Here, the NetVista X41 presents its ports both at the back of the computer and at the top rear of the display--all within easy access. That's also where you'll find a removable hatch for two low-profile expansion slots. Though low-profile cards are rare, at least IBM offers modem and IEEE 1394 upgrades. No other device-expansion opportunities exist, except via the six USB ports.

Perfect picture
Once you've absorbed the design nuances and sit in front of the screen, you'll notice that the 17-inch LCD display excels in both graphics and video. It produces vibrant colors, and screen brightness during DVD playback--often a problem for LCDs--is perfect. In fact, we had to back it off a bit. You can make the adjustments from either the front-mounted controls or from within the Mediamatics DVD player. The two speakers integrated into the panel's bezel aren't meant to get loud, but the audio quality makes up for the lack of volume.

Slow going
IBM computers are known for their conservative performance, and the NetVista X41 lives down to that goal. Though based on a 1.8GHz Pentium 4, it's saddled with SDRAM and an integrated, last-generation graphics system. Compared to decked-out RDRAM systems, the NetVista delivers only mediocre performance. Pitted against rivals with a similar memory type but cutting-edge graphics cards, the X41 suffers only in our Office productivity test, its score falling about 10 percent below that of the competition. Three words about 3D: don't go there.

IBM offers 24/7 toll-free customer support and wraps the NetVista X41 in a one-year onsite warranty. Considering the level of integration in the system, you might want to think of it more as a notebook and opt for one of the three-year onsite warranty upgrades: standard business-day response time for $129 or four-hour response, 24/7, for just $30 more.

We're not going to try to convince you that the NetVista X41 is anything less than a trophy. But underneath the glitter lies a competent, meat-and-potatoes computer with an LCD display that you could stare at for days. Besides, you probably deserve it.

Performance test
100=performance of a test machine with a PIII-800, 128MB of PC133 CL2 SDRAM, Creative Labs GeForce Annihilator 2 32MB, and Windows 2000 (Service Pack 1)
Longer bars indicate better performance

Overall rating   
Internet content creation   
Office 2001 productivity   
Gateway 700
176 
195 
158 
IBM NetVista X41
141 
163 
122 
 
Quake III Arena test
Frames per second; longer bars indicate better performance
Gateway 700
121.9 
IBM NetVista X41
12 
 
Editor's note: CNET recently upgraded its system benchmarks to BAPCo's SysMark 2001. All the systems mentioned in this review were tested using the new benchmark and cannot be compared to systems tested using previous benchmarks.

Gateway 700
Windows 2000; Pentium 4 1.8GHz; 256MB RDRAM 400MHz; Nvidia GeForce2 Ultra 64MB; WDC W0400BB-AUA1 40GB 7,200rpm

IBM NetVista X41
Windows XP Professional; Pentium 4 1.8GHz; 256MB SDRAM 133MHz; ATI Rage 128 Ultra 16MB; IBM IC35L040AVER070 40GB 7,200rpm

Though based on a 1.8GHz Pentium 4, the NetVista X41 is saddled with SDRAM and an integrated, last-generation graphics system. Pitted against rivals with a similar memory type but cutting-edge graphics cards, the X41 suffers only in our Office productivity test, its score falling about 10 percent below that of the competition. Three words about 3D: don't go there.

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