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Xi Computer Corp. Xi P66 NTower -- Highly Recommended!
Pros: Incredibly fast; impressive list of components. Cons: The extra components cost extra money.

Xi has always done its best to surprise us in our annual desk-top systems review. Two years ago, the company topped our list with the fastest machine. Last year, it stuffed more quality components into a desktop case than we'd ever seen before. The company earned highly-recommended ratings both years. This year, Xi has done it again.

The Xi P66 NTower is a powerhouse in a tower case. Built around a motherboard with three EISA slots, three PCI slots, and one slot that accepts either EISA or PCI board, the test machine came equipped with a 66 MHz Pentium CPU and 16MB of RAM installed as two 8MB SIMMS, leaving four SIMM sockets open. The motherboard accommodates up to 192MB, using six banks of 32MB SIMMs. Our evaluation unit came with 512KB of write-through cache, and all four PCI slots have bus master capability. The small footprint motherboard almost seemed lost in the expansive 7-3/4" X 17" X 25" case (w X d X h). The solid tower has integral plastic legs that swivel out to balance the case, and both side panels detach easily. Nine drive bays are provided, and the 300-watt power supply ensures that there's power to spare. Cooling is provided by three fans: one in the front panel, one in the power supply, and one mounted directly to the CPU. A single ISA I/O card powers two serial ports, a parallel port, a game part, and the TEAC combo 5-1/4"/3-1/2" floppy drive. All ports are clearly labeled. The 540MB Maxtor hard drive is driven by a PCI SCSI controller, and the internal double-speed Mitsumi CD-ROM drive is supported by a Creative Labs SoundBlaster 16 soundboard that also adds a second game port. Xi also sent along a pair of Labtec amplified speakers.

For input devices, Xi supplied a very nice Fujitsu 101-key keyboard and a Logitech mouse. The NTower came with a ViewSonic 21" monitor powered by a Diamond Viper PCI graphics board with 2MB of VRAM and a Vibrant Graphics SoftEngine ADI driver.

When I ran the NTower through the CADalyst System Benchmark, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. The P66 NTower turned in the fastest index scores of all the machines in this years review: 170.04 at 640 X 480 with 256 colors using the supplied ADI driver, and 57.32 under Windows at the same resolution. Index scores of 135.03 and 45.33 for DOS and Windows, respectively, at 1280 X 1024 with 256 colors make this machine fast enough to reasonably select this resolution for everyday work. In 3D Studio, the NTower turned in a similar stellar performance, completing our test rendering in 23 seconds.

The combination of the slightly faster CPU (66MHz versus 60MHz) and the SCSI hard disk boosted the Xi machine above the rest of the pack. The trade-off is that the NTower comes with half the memory of the next fastest machine, but costs about the same when similarly equipped. Xi includes DOS 6.2, Windows, and a business-application bundle and offers similar machines configured without the multimedia kit or based on 60MHz Pentium chips. This Xi system is truly a multimedia power tower. 

Highly Recommended.

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