Hello Computers Mercury

Faced with the prospect of putting together a complete computer system for $1000, Hello Computers, a new vendor in the Best Buys charts, has come up with a configuration that is suitable for all sorts of pursuits, including multimedia and 3-D gaming.

It features a Socket-939 AMD Athlon 64 3000+ CPU as well as 512MB of DDR400 RAM and a Leadtek GeForce PX6600TD PCI Express graphics adapter. These components sit in a Foxconn NF4K8AC-RS motherboard, which is based on the NVIDIA nForce4 chipset. This platform gives the system a good raft of connectivity, including up to eight USB 2.0 ports, a 10/100 Ethernet port, PS/2, serial and parallel ports and even an S/PDIF coaxial port for digital audio output.

On the inside, it has four Serial ATA (SATA) ports and a RAID controller is also available for implementing a striped or mirrored array. Four DIMM slots allow up to 2GB of memory to be installed on the motherboard and there are four PCI slots in addition to two PCIe x1 slots and the PCIe x16 graphics slot.

All the components and ports are well spaced on the motherboard providing a good opportunity for some neat cable work. Hello Computers has not taken any fancy routes for the power and data cables in this system, but luckily, these cables don't impede the CPU fan or the extraction fan at the rear of the case.

For future expansion, the aforementioned ports and slots on the motherboard are facilitated by a fairly roomy ATX mid-tower case, which has three hard drive bays free to use, as well as three CD-ROM-sized bays and two floppy drive bays. Our test system had a 120GB Samsung SpinPoint SATA drive installed, which runs cool and relatively quiet as well as a Pioneer DVR-109 double-layer DVD burner. Hello has not installed a floppy drive in this system, but if you require one, for re-installing Windows on a RAID array, for example, then you can purchase one for around $15 or so.

For cooling, the system has the previously mentioned rear case fan installed, as well as a stock CPU cooler. A heat sink and fan resides on the motherboard chipset and also on the graphics card's chipset. Upon booting the machine, an internal noise immediately confronted us and turned out to be the rear case fan, which was rubbing against the metal of the case. The metal the case is constructed out of is fairly soft, which is understandable considering that this is a budget system, so care should be taken if working on it or moving it. Pressure placed on the rear of the case is probably what caused the fan blades to scrape.

As for performance, the machine did not set any speed records, even with its solid configuration. This is due to the entry-level motherboard and graphics card, which are more feature oriented rather than performance oriented. The machine will suffice for everyday tasks, mid-level gaming and multimedia work though.

Costs have also been kept down by including an LG CRT monitor with a flat tube instead of an LCD monitor and this CRT will consume a fair amount of desk space, but will provide more than decent output when viewing and editing photos or working with video.

Verdict: All up, Hello Computers has configured a capable system out of recent, entry-level components that is suitable for everyday tasks as well as game playing - which won't cost you more than $1000. Despite some of the inevitable issues that surround the build quality of inexpensive systems, this one is great for students and home environments and does offer good scope for upgrading over the next couple of years through its PCIe slot and SATA ports.

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Elias Plastiras
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