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For the 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 system.

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.