Microland Tech Pro124 review
At a glance, the specification of the Microland Tech Pro124 isn’t bad at all. Not only does it come with the 17in Sharp LL-171G-B TFT, but it also packs 5.1 surround-sound speakers, which weren’t required by our invite this month.
The Tech Pro124 is based around a Chaintech motherboard with matching integrated six-channel audio from C-Media’s CM19761A controller. Microland also supplies Chaintech’s Multimedia Riser, which features audio mini-jacks, a coaxial S/PDIF output and a game port. As well as better connectivity with auxiliary audio and midi devices, this allows you to hook up the speakers without using the microphone-in and line-in ports.
But, look a little closer at the specification and you’ll see that some compromises have been made. The 1.8GHz AMD Sempron 3100+ is the most obvious. While we don’t place huge emphasis on performance, this lacked punch in our 2D benchmark applications compared to all but the Holly. Plus, the CFL and JAL PCs include this CPU, and they only cost £399. The 512MB of PC3200 RAM stops Windows from dragging its feet though, and we can’t complain too much given the excellent TFT.
The aforementioned speakers are Creative’s Inspire P580 set. We’ve never been impressed by them – the subwoofer leaves a lot to be desired in most situations. Then there’s the PowerColor Radeon 9800 SE, which is far from the best 3D performer in this group. Unreal Tournament 2004 ran at a steady 37fps, but Halo played at 14fps. You could try the unofficial method of modifying it to a more powerful 9800 Pro, but this would still be slower than the Holly and Mesh.
Still, there are some areas where Microland beats other machines. One is the hard disk. Maxtor’s 200GB DiamondMax 10 will keep those needing acres of storage happy for a long time. Also, outputting files to DVD won’t be a problem thanks to NEC’s top-of-the-range ND-3500AG 16x DVD writer. But video enthusiasts will miss integrated FireWire.
The Tech Pro124 makes a good base to upgrade from, though. Two RAID-compatible Serial ATA ports, two spare DIMM sockets and five PCI slots mean you can expand to your heart’s content. Access to components is straightforward, but cable routing isn’t as neat as in the CFL.
Overall, the Microland isn’t the perfect PC. It suffers in comparison to faster machines with better after-sales support, in particular the award-winning Mesh.