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Top 15 Desktop PCs

These charts rank computers based on tests conducted by PC World magazine (www.pcworld.com), which publishes results monthly. System configurations listed were the ones tested, though companies may have changed the products. For an explanation of how the magazine tests, please check its Web site.

Power PCs

1. MicronPC Millennia XP+ Xtreme: 1.67GHz Athlon XP 2000+ processor; 120GB hard drive; 19-inch monitor; 128MB GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics; DVD+RW/+R/CD-RW drive. Price when rated: $2,199. Comments: Fast system handles games with aplomb. Has a top-notch monitor and an extensive system manual.

2. IBM NetVista A30P: 2.8-GHz Pentium 4 processor; 120GB hard drive; 17-inch monitor; 128MB GeForce4 Ti 4200; 16X DVD-ROM, 40X/12X/40X CD-RW; Price when rated: $2,713. Comments: Pricey model offers a high-quality CRT monitor. Cramped interior with limited expansion room is not friendly to upgraders.

3. ABS Conquest SP: 2.53GHz Pentium 4 processor; 120GB hard drive; 15-inch LCD monitor; 128MB EVGA E-GeForce4 Ti 4400 graphics; 16X DVD-ROM, 40X/12X/48X CD-RW drives. Price when rated: $2,069. Comments: Basic-looking system combines strong performance and many high-end features. Already-low price drops $230 this month.

4. Gateway 500XL: 2.53GHz Pentium 4 processor; 120GB hard drive; 17-inch LCD monitor; 128MB GeForce4 Ti 4200 graphics; DVD-RAM/-R, 40X/12X/48X CD-RW drives. Price when rated: $1,999. Comments: Snappy silver-and-black system has the speed and storage for moviemaking. LCD monitor showed good colors but smudgy text.

5. Sys Technology Performance 2800: 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor; 80GB hard drive; 18-inch LCD monitor; 64MB Leadtek WinFast A170 DDR T graphics; 16X DVD-ROM, 40X/12X/48X CD-RW drives. Price when rated: $2,815. Comments: The fastest Windows XP system we've tested comes with a sharp-looking LCD monitor and drops $180 this month.

6. NuTrend Giga Color Special: 1.8-GHz Athlon XP 2200+ processor; 120GB hard drive; 19-inch monitor; Asus V8460 Ultra; 16X DVD-ROM, 40X/12X/40X CD-RW. Price when rated: $1,849. Comments: Spacey-green tower PC comes with a high-end speaker set; but performance was only so-so, given its top-of-the-line processor.

7. Polywell Poly 883VR-2200: 1.8-GHz Athlon XP 2200+ processor; 80GB hard drive; 18-inch LCD monitor; 128MB Asus V8460UL; 16X DVD-ROM, 24X/10X/40X CD-RW. Price when rated: $2,150. Comments: We got excellent performance scores from this well-equipped system, which comes $100 cheaper this month.

Value PCs

1. ABS Bravado 2300: 1.6-GHz Athlon XP 1900+ processor; 60GB hard drive; 17-inch monitor; 64MB GeForce4 MX 460; 16X DVD-ROM, 40X/12X/48X CD-RW. Price when rated: $999. Comments: Two-time Best Buy offers a great sound setup. Price drops by $200 this month.

2. Micro Express Micro Flex 1800B: 1.53-GHz Athlon XP 1800+ processor; 60GB hard drive; 17-inch monitor; 64MB Leadtek WinFast GeForce2 Ultra; 16X DVD-ROM, 24X/10X/40X CD-RW. Price when rated: $999. Comments: System achieves its speed in part by using a motherboard with an overclocked CPU as a default setting.

3. Polywell Poly 883VF-2000: 1.67-GHz Athlon XP 2000+ processor; 120GB hard drive; 19-inch monitor; 64MB GeForce4 MX 420; 16X DVD-ROM, 32X/12X/40X CD-RW. Price when rated: $1,199. Comments: Offers zippy performance and a hefty hard drive at an affordable price. Monitor is unexceptional, however.

4. NuTrend Centra 2: 2.26-GHz Pentium 4 processor; 80GB hard drive; 17-inch monitor; 64MB Leadtek WinFast A170 DDR T; 16X DVD-ROM. Price when rated: $1,145. Comments: Low-cost, bare-bones machine wrings impressive performance from a 2.26-GHz processor.

5. Gateway 300S: 1.8-GHz Celeron processor; 40GB hard drive; 15-inch LCD monitor; Integrated Intel 845GL using main memory; 40X/12X/48X CD-RW. Price when rated: $899. Current price: $699. Comments: Bargain, compact system is fine for basics. Now comes with a 15-inch LCD monitor.

6. Sys Technology Performance 2000+: 1.67-GHz Athlon XP 2000+ processor; 60GB hard drive; 19-inch monitor; 64MB Leadtek WinFast A170 DDR T; 40X/12X/48X CD-RW. Price when rated: $1,250. Comments: Fast basic model offers plenty of room for upgrades. Monitor and sound quality were mediocre.

7. Freewaytech Velocity I35: 2A-GHz Pentium 4 processor; 60GB hard drive; 17-inch monitor; 64MB MSI G4MX440-T; 16X DVD-ROM, 40X/12X/48X CD-RW. Price when rated: $1,099. Comments: Inexpensive unit provides plentiful ports, including S/PDIF for attaching digital audio components.

8. Tangent Valera DDR 2000+: 1.67-GHz Athlon 2000+ processor; 80GB hard drive; 19-inch monitor; 64MB MSI G3Ti 200 Pro-VTG; 16X DVD-ROM, 32X/12X/48X CD-RW. Price when rated: $1,499. Comments: A strong performer with video capture and editing software, but no FireWire ports.

Reprinted by permission, PC World magazine, December issue. This chart is available online at www.pcworld.com/reviews/ article/0,aid,106601,00.

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