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     Xi Computers has never let me down when it comes to performance. The Xi Pro200 MTower SP proved to be the fastest system ever tested by CADALYST. (I don't know how Xi can top this for our annual review of systems coming up in April, but I'm sure it will.) The C96 2D index score for this system reached 6.54 with the included Soft Engine driver. That's more than 10% faster than its closest competitor.

     The Pro200 MTower SP owes its astounding performance to three things: the Soft Engine driver; a new motherboard design that includes integrated Ultra Wide SCSI and video buffer caching; and the 512KB integrated L2 CPU cache featured in the latest version of Intel's 200MHz Pentium Pro chip.

     The Xi Pro200 Mtower SP arrived in a mini tower case measuring 7" X 19.25" X 17". The front panel controls include power and reset switches, a hard disk activity light, and an LED speed indicator. Two serial, one parallel, and two USB (universal serial bus) ports are located at the rear.

     The system was configured with 64MB of memory (512MB maximum), 2GB SCSI hard disk, integrated Ultra Wide SCSI controller (40MB/sec transfer), RAID port, 12X CD ROM drive, Logitech three-button mouse, Ethernet card, sound card, and speakers.

     Xi's choice of components for the graphics subsystem includes the 17" Optiquest monitor (0.26mm dot pitch) manufactured by ViewSonic and the recently released Hercules Dynamite graphics card (4MB DRAM). These two support a maximum usable resolution of 1280x1024 with 256 colors (75Hz refresh) and a full 16.7 million colors at 1024x786. Windows NT was preinstalled.

     The new Pentium Pro (and its 512KB L2 cache) included with this review system currently carries a premium of nearly $600 compared to the standard Pentium Pro with 256KB cache. To get a hard number for the actual performance improvement due to the larger integrated cache, I swapped in a standard CPU and ran the C96 benchmark again. This time the 2D index score was 6.29, showing the doubled cache adds nearly 4% to system speed. You'll have to decide if the additional performance warrants the extra money.

    With a list price of $4,199 for the fully configured system reviewed here and a record-breaking performance of 6.54 a measured on the C96 benchmark, the Pro200 Mtower SP certainly offers exceptional value for your money.

-Art Liddle

MMX 200 MTower SP

     Xi Computers has been on the cutting edge of technology. Not only is it working with Intel's latest Pentium Pro CPU, but the Xi MMX200 MTower SP is based on the latest Pentium design - the 200MHz Pentium MMX. MMX stands for multimedia extensions; it's designed to accelerate multimedia applications. Thanks to its larger integrated L1 cache (32KB versus 16KB), it also offers improved performance to non-multimedia programs, such as AutoCAD.

     The MMX200 MTower SP was configured identically to the Xi Pentium Pro system just reviewed. It includes 64MB of system memory (512MB maximum), 2GB hard disk, Ultra Wide SCSI controller, RAID port, a 12x CD-ROM drive, Logitech three-button mouse, Ethernet card, sound card with speakers, 17" Optiquest monitor (0.26mm dot pitch) manufactured by ViewSonic, and Hercules' Dynamite graphics card (4MB DRAM). Its maximum usable resolution, supporting the CADALYST minimum refresh rate (70Hz), is 1280x1024 with 256 colors. It provides 16.7 million colors (24bit) at a maximum resolution of 1024x768. As requested, Windows NT 4.0 was preinstalled.

     The C96 scores for the MMX200 MTower SP were very good: 5.23 with the included Soft Engine driver and 2.92 with the standard WHIP driver. Those numbers would have made it the fastest system in our May 1996 roundup of 200MHz Pentium Pro systems. Of course, today's 200 MHz Pentium Pros are faster than they were a year ago, but you get the idea.

     I know at least some of you are wondering exactly what difference the MMX technology means for AutoCAD. Well thanks to Xi Computer, I was able to get test results with the exact same box and a standard 200MHz Pentium chip. The C96 2D score dropped to 4.15 (Soft Engine) with the standard Pentium CPU. Some quick math shows that the MMX technology provides a 26% increase in AutoCAD performance. WOW. There's no doubt about the importance of the L1 cache. I can't wait to see what the MMX technology brings to new applications specifically designed to take advantage of it.

     You can get the MMX200 Mtower SP, configured exactly as described here, for only $3,199. If you're on a tight budget and looking for top value, this system is for you.

-Art Liddle