NEC PowerMate ML7 review

£399
Price when reviewed
NEC’s business entry into this Labs, like Evesham’s, uses a similar chassis to its consumer offering. Whether on or under a desk, this mini-tower has a smart appearance, and there are a few nice touches to add to its appeal.

The side panel is easy to remove, and physical security includes a case-intrusion switch as well as a padlock tab and Kensington lock slot. There’s also a metal hoop with an internal screw to secure mouse and keyboard cables so that devices can’t be stolen.

Tool-free clips abound and there’s some plastic ducting to allow the CPU’s fan to draw in cool air from outside the case. The quick-release clips on the upper bays work very well, and there are plenty of spare bays. Below the CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive there’s a spare 5.25in bay as well as two 3.5in bays, all with front-panel access. Bear in mind you’ll be short of one PSU connector if you fill all four bays.

Further down, the 80GB hard disk clips to yet another spare 3.5in bay. The release clip is easy to remove but tricky to replace because you can’t see the far end of it. The 915G-based motherboard offers Serial ATA RAID if you need it.

The PowerMate ML7 offers the only PCI Express graphics card in the group. It’s a passively cooled ATi Radeon X300 SE with a DVI interface. Since you can also use the Intel GMA900 GPU at the same time, it makes the NEC the only PC to offer a dual-monitor capability out of the box.

As we’ve seen this chassis before, we were expecting quiet operation. We weren’t disappointed with the idle noise of 301dBA. And this is in spite of the 3GHz Pentium 4 630 under the heatsink. There’s 512MB of PC3200 to back it up, resulting in an overall 2D benchmark score of 0.77. Up to 128MB of that RAM can be shared with the HyperMemory graphics card, even though it has 128MB of its own RAM. Adding memory is easy, with the two spare sockets free from cable clutter.

Many will appreciate the excellent warranty: three years with on-site, next-business-day response. Note that NEC doesn’t offer extra service options such as network configuration or disk imaging, though.

NEC’s PowerMate ML7 is a decent choice here, especially if you want to drive two monitors. But it won’t suit everyone; if you want to spend below £400 per machine and need a smaller case, the Dell is well worth shortlisting too.

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