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Product Information

PRO: Speedy Celeron-based system with exceptionally large hard drive

Poor access to upper drive bays, mediocre keyboard, no system manual

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Xi Computer's $1399 333A Mtower takes the prize as the Best overall Celeron-based system we've reviewed. 
(The Xi MTower 333A uses a SuperMicro motherboard). This new midtower earned an impressive PC WorldBench 
98 score
of 182--higher than that of any similarly configured system we've seen in this processor class, and a full 
10 points above average.

The 333A Mtower also excels in storage. Most Celeron-333 and Pentium II-350 systems sport hard drives of 8GB or smaller, and many include a mere 4GB to 6GB of drive space, so the 333A Mtower's 14GB hard drive really stands out. The system comes equipped with Microsoft's popular Office 97 Small Business Edition.

Xi Computer offers an above-average three-year warranty on both parts and labor. In our recent anonymous calls to the company's tech support line, which operates 24 hours a day, Xi's representatives provided helpful advice.

Matrox's popular Millennium G200 graphics adapter and a 17-inch Optiquest V773 monitor combine to provide pleasing, crystal-clear pictures. The monitor easily supports the G200's maximum resolution of 1280 by 1024. Xi also includes a handy combination microphone/headset for use with the voice-mail/speakerphone capabilities of the bundled Lucent modem. Although we liked the layout of the 333A's Keytronics keyboard--especially the enlarged L-shaped Enter key--it seemed a bit noisy and felt flimsy.

Since you never know when you may want to add components to your PC, it pays to purchase a system that opens easily, allowing you to perform surgery on the innards. It takes only a few seconds to remove the 333A's two thumbscrews and get inside. With two open DIMM sockets, four available slots, and five free drive bays, the 333A Mtower offers slightly above average expandability.

However, a wide bar runs the entire length of the computer, hampering access to either of the upper two 5.25-inch drive bays. Two other minor grievances: The Xi 333A comes with no system documentation, just individual component manuals (for the motherboard, modem, graphics card, and the like). And despite the LAN-ready network utilities that come with the system--including LANDesk and a DMI wizard--it doesn't ship with any kind of network adapter.