past four years, Xi Computer Corporation earned bragging rights as the
Fastest Machine in our annual review of desktop systems!
With this in mind,
I couldn't wait to get my hands on its Pentium Pro 2OOMHz entry for this
year's review. Although it wasn't the first to arrive, it had to be returned
in a hurry--just the excuse I needed to start our 1996 review with Xi's
The Xi Pro200 MTower SP offers more than enough storage space in its stylish
MidTower case that measures only 7 1/4" x 16" x 17 3/4" (WxDxH).
The system has ten drive bays, seven of which are directly accessible from
the exterior. Two of these ware filled with a 31/4" floppy drive and a
PCI Creative Labs 6x CD-ROM drive. One of the three internal drive bays held
a giant-capacity 4.3GB Quantum Grand Prix hard drive with 9msec rated
average access time and SCSI-3 PCI controller.
The front panel includes the standard power and reset switches, power and
hard drive activity lights, and a three- digit LED speed indicator. Two
high-speed configurable serial ports, one EPP parallel port, and the
Creative Labs sound card's jacks (for the two 25-watt active-powered
speakers included) are located at the rear of the system.
The motherboard, which you can upgrade with a 266MHz Pentium Pro when
they're available, utilizes Intel's ORION support chipset. The Pentium Pro
requires no additional cache memory; it includes an embedded 16KB Level 1
cache and 256KB Level 2 cache. Four SIMM sockets allow a maximum of 512MB of
memory with ECC (error checking and correcting) support. The review system
included 64MB of 60ns fast page RAM. A ZIF socket holds the CPU and
thermo-sealed heatsink with fan. There are three 32-bit PCl, three 16-bit
ISA, and one dual PCI/ISA expansion slots. Two of the PCI slots are filled
with the drive controller and graphics card, and the sound card fills one of
the ISA slots.
The Xi Pro2O0 MTower SP arrived with a Iiyama 17" 9017E color monitor
featuring a Diamondtron CRT with 0.25mm dot pitch, complete digital controls
with on-screen display, and maximum resolution of 1600X1200 at a vertical
refresh rate of 72Hz. A Matrox Millennium PCI graphics card with 4MB of WRAM
(Windows RAM) supports a maximum resolution of 1600x12O0 with 65,536 colors.
It offers 16.8 million colors at 1280x1024. A Fujitsu 104-key keyboard and
Logitech three-button mouse complete the package. Xi warrants the system for
three years and offers 24-hour, seven-day-a-week technical support over the
phone through automated or live response.
Thanks to the DynaView 3D driver that's bundled with the Matrox Millennium,
the Xi Pro2OO MTower SF provides 3D graphics acceleration, at least under
DOS. The 3D acceleration capabilities of the Millennium are not available
for Windows NT and Windows 95 at this time. (A separate utility for Windows
3.1 requires a translation of the AutoCAD model first.) However, because
special commands are required to access the 3D acceleration, the new
benchmark could not quantify it.
The Xi Pro2OO MTower SP also included Soft Engine, Vibrant Graphics'
efficient 2D display-list driver for AutoCAD that supports DOS, Windows 95,
and Windows NT. All tests ware run with the Soft Engine driver. (The Xi
Pro2OO Mtower was the only triple-boot Pentium Pro in this review.) Its C96
scores were 5.11 (2D) and 5.30 (3D) for Windows NT, 4.85 (2D) and 5.20 (3D)
for Windows 95, and 4.53 (2D) and 5.58 (3D) for DOS. The old benchmark
scores were 440, 390, and 383 for Windows NT, Windows 95, and DOS,
respectively. All scores were tops for each category-you can't get more
consistent than that.
To sum it up in a few words: for the fifth year in a row, Xi Computer
Corporation delivered the fastest Intel-based AutoCAD system we've seen to
date. How does Xi do it year in and year out? It knows which brand-name
components to put together to squeeze every last drop of performance out of
AutoCAD. With a price of only $6,499 for the complete system described here,
you'll have a tough time finding a better value. If you're looking for the
fastest Intel box around for AutoCAD at a great price, Xi Computer
Corporation should be your first stop. Highly Recommended. -A.L.
Art Liddle is technical editor of CADALYST.
David Cohn is senior contributing editor of CADALYST, author of seven
AutoCAD books, and an AutoCAD consultant in Bellingham, Washington.