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WinBook PowerSpec 8344 review: WinBook PowerSpec 8344

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The Good Low price; room for expansion, including an AGP slot for graphics card; great support.

The Bad No customization options; light on RAM and software; below-average performance; noisy; shipping charges run up the price.

The Bottom Line A lack of configuration options and weak performance overshadow the WinBook PowerSpec 8344's low price and great support.

6.5 Overall
  • Design 6.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Performance 5.0
  • Support 8.0

Review Sections

WinBook PowerSpec 8344

Apple's new budget Mac Mini is grabbing all the headlines, but WinBook sells its own $499 PC, the WinBook PowerSpec 8344. As you might expect, the PowerSpec 8344 is a wholly no-frills system, suitable for little more than basic computing tasks: e-mail, Web surfing, and the like. And while WinBook, unlike Apple, does supply a mouse and a keyboard with this machine, the 8344 is also a BYO-monitor deal. You can surf to the parent company's site, MicroCenter.com, and order one there, but before you do, make sure you can live with the PowerSpec 8344's many compromises.

For starters, there's the PowerSpec 8344's 2.8GHz Intel Celeron D 335 processor. Although it's the fastest chip in the budget Celeron family, it lacks the chops for games, video applications, and other high-end software. Add to it a minuscule 256MB of 333MHz DDR SDRAM, some of which is shared by the onboard Via S3 graphics chip, and it's no wonder the PowerSpec 8344 posted below-average benchmark scores among its budget-class brethren. Another 256MB--to say nothing of an AGP graphics card--would give the system a much-needed performance boost.

You're left to your own devices, however, for added memory and other upgrades. WinBook offers no configuration options for the PowerSpec 8344--only a handful of accessories. If you want, say, 512MB of RAM, you'll have to choose the $649 PowerSpec 8736, which also includes a 2.9GHz Pentium 4--another worthwhile upgrade.

You can purchase PowerSpec machines through WinBook.com or MicroCenter.com, but you'll need to use the latter site to include a monitor in the deal. The company sent us a Daewoo C729BBK 17-inch CRT, which adds $129.99 to the price tag and delivers decent, if unspectacular, text and graphics. We also received a 2.1-speaker set with the PowerSpec 8344, available though MicroCenter.com. The Altec Lansing VS2121 speakers are an upgrade over the two-piece set that comes standard with the PowerSpec 8344 via WinBook.com, and they add $34.99 to the total. Throw in $62.09 more in shipping charges, and our test system comes to a grand total of $727.06.

The PowerSpec 8344's solidly built, all-black, midsize tower features an attractive front bezel, two front-accessible USB 2.0 ports (out of six total), and room to grow. Inside, you'll find a pair of available PCI slots, one AGP slot, an open SDRAM socket, and a couple of extra drive bays. The side panel is rather curious; both screws and plastic clips hold it in place, but you can toss the former and enjoy tool-free access.

One benefit to relatively low-end hardware is that heat rarely poses a problem, yet WinBook installs a large, noisy CPU fan, making the PowerSpec 8344 much louder than it needs to be. The fan even drowns out the spinning of the 52X CD-RW drive.

If it ran a little faster and a lot quieter, we'd be more inclined to recommend this system for students and small businesses. Among budget PCs, our pick is still the eMachines T3256, which costs $100 more than the PowerSpec 8344 but provides twice the memory and hard drive capacity, plus a DVD burner and better performance.

Except for the operating system and a 90-day trial version of Norton AntiVirus 2004, the PowerSpec 8344's 80GB hard drive arrives just about empty. We're not sure why WinBook opted to include Windows XP Professional over the less-expensive Home version, but we think most users would be better off with the latter OS and an extra 256MB of RAM. At the very least, some CD-burning software would've been nice.

WinBook provides relatively generous support for the PowerSpec 8344, including a one-year warranty, with onsite service included, and toll-free phone support that's available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. ET.

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).

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