NEC PowerMate ML450 review

£999
Price when reviewed

NEC’s PowerMate ML450 takes a different tack to most of the PCs here. The familiar compact microATX case hides a 3.4GHz Intel Pentium D 945 – still a dual-core CPU, but older technology than the Core 2 Duos elsewhere.

This left the ML450 at the bottom of the 2D benchmark scores. At 1.02, it has a level of power you’d be delighted with in a business PC (and that’s primarily where the ML450 is aimed), but these days, as proven by Chillblast and PC Nextday, a Core 2 Duo delivers more.

However, NEC has a secret weapon: the MultiSync LCD2170NX display. At 21.3in, it’s the largest here (bar Vantage’s 32in LCD TV), with the same 4:3 1,600 x 1,200 resolution as PC Nextday’s AOC monitor. But it’s much better than the AOC; apart from better height adjustment and a two-port USB hub, it has amazing viewing angles and punchy, vibrant colours. Plus, being bigger with the same resolution makes it more comfortable to use. The only downside is the response time: despite a claimed 8ms, we saw some smearing in games.

However, the PowerMate isn’t meant for gaming: in the PCI Express 16x slot sits a Radeon X1600 XT graphics card. It isn’t particularly powerful and trails the field with 21fps in Far Cry and 18fps in Call of Duty 2 at 1,280 x 1,024.

Fortunately, there’s a long warranty. Not only is the ML450 covered for three years on-site, but you get next-business-day response too.

There’s 1GB of 533MHz memory installed, even though the motherboard supports 667MHz. FireWire isn’t natively supported, but NEC has installed a PCI FireWire card, driving two ports directly as well as the media card reader’s FireWire port. The latter is a more useful inclusion on card readers, since most PCs already have two USBs at the front.

The 200GB of hard disk space looks stingy next to the other systems’ 300GB+, while the PSU is a weedy 250W unit and there are no bundled speakers.

Ultimately, NEC’s ML450 has a great screen and easily the best warranty, and would suit a home office or a photo-editing enthusiast. But placed next to the more powerful competitors, it’s hard to recommend.

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