NEC PowerMate ML450 review

£728
Price when reviewed

The PowerMate ML450 is the cheapest PC in this month’s Labs, costing just £728. Sadly for NEC, being the cheapest doesn’t make it the best value, and there are several reasons why.

One is the power on offer. All around this ironically named PowerMate are Athlon 64 X2 and Core 2 Duo-based systems, while the ML450 packs a mere 3GHz Pentium D. This could only manage an overall 2D score of 0.92. While this may be reasonable, it’s the slowest of the group; when editing large batches of photos it may feel sluggish, despite there being 2GB of 533MHz DDR2 RAM.

The second reason is the TFT: a 17in NEC LC17m. It’s a decent-quality monitor, with accurate colours and good sharpness, but editing photos will be a bit of a squeeze. With only 1,280 x 1,024 pixels to play with and the limited physical size of a 17in panel, it’s the least suited to photo editing here.

The mouse and keyboard are NEC wired models, and for sound you’ll have to rely on the monitor’s integrated speakers. The chassis is a compact microATX model, so it has little room for expansion. The side panel is removable by flipping a lock, and all the PCI slots and drive bays are tool-free. There’s room for a PCI-E 1x card and a PCI card – a FireWire card sits in the other slot. The ML450 runs reasonably quietly (36dBA) until it’s worked hard, at which point it’s difficult to ignore the noise from the CPU cooler and vibrating hard disks.

An ATi Radeon X1300 is a sensible choice for photo editing – 3D power isn’t needed – but, although it offers a DVI output, you’ll need to use the supplied adapter to connect it to the analog TFT. A card reader on the front of the ML450 will read all common media types, and if the 400GB of hard disk space runs low, you can burn photos to DVD using the dual-layer drive.

The three-year on-site warranty is a welcome inclusion but, even at this price, it isn’t enough to make this a bargain photo-editing PC. It’s by no means a bad system, but shows that you’ll need to spend more if you’re serious about photography.

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