We at Tom's Hardware are known for doing in-depth reviews of PC-technologies and PC-components. However, we still haven't tested any complete system yet. There are a lot of reasons that have kept me from doing so, which I don't want to get into right now, because it would go far beyond the boundaries of this article.
While I may not have reviewed any OEM-systems yet, I still need to keep track of what is going on in the PC-business, which means reading computer publications and checking the latest offers of the big OEMs as Dell, Gateway, Compaq, IBM, HP and Micron. Recently, when reading my favorite computer magazine, the German PC-gaming publication 'Gamestar', I was startled by an ad from Dell, offering a complete Pentium 4 system for the surprisingly low price of only $1500. I hardly believed my eyes, because I had considered Pentium 4 systems to be much more expensive. With that price, I thought, Pentium 4 is even able to compete against Athlon systems. Thus I had a closer look at this system, which goes by the name 'Dimension 8100'. After reading the equipment list of this system, I almost got angry. This particular wannabe-high end Dimension 8100 system, targeted to the rather critical German PC-buyer, had indeed teamed up a Pentium 4 1.3 GHz with NVIDIA's slowest TNT2 M64 3D-decelerator!
Pentium 4 Plus TNT2 M64? Insanity Par Excellence!
I was shocked. How could any sane person castrate the almost only strength of Intel's expensive Pentium 4 processor in 3D gaming with this pathetic graphics card? This seemed like a typical case of taking customers for fools, which really upset me. Instantly I went to my console and checked Dell's website to find out more details. I also looked at HP's, IBM's and Gateway's Pentium 4 system offers and found the very same situation. All those great OEMs are trying to ride Intel's Pentium 4 marketing pony by selling 'reasonably priced' Pentium 4 systems in highly mediocre configurations. The inexperienced customer might indeed get fooled by Intel's juicy promises of this supposed high-end processor, and completely overlook that the other components in those systems ensure mediocre performance.