- ✓Choice of chassis
- ✓Runs relatively quiet
- ✓Analogue and digital video outputs
- ✓Quad-core CPU support
- ✓System recovery software
- ✕Other vendors offer similar value for money
If you work in a large company, you probably won’t be buying a computer yourself — you’ll have an IT department to do the dirty work. Nevertheless, it's useful to understand what's being bought and why, so you can keep up with the technology trends helping to drive your company forward.
Corporate workhorse PCs don't need fancy graphics and audio cards, or even RAID drives. What's required is a system offering excellent value and reliable support — all modern PCs offer more than enough performance for the word processing, spreadsheet and internet/email work that occupy the vast majority of employees' time.
NEC's PowerMate VL370 is pitched squarely at the corporate market. This desktop PC is relatively flexible in terms of configuration and also reasonably upgradeable, should your needs change. It comes with a choice of three different chassis (micro-tower, small desktop and small form factor) for easy integration into your working environment; the tool-less chassis is also simple to recycle.
The PowerMate VL370 is dressed in a sober black-and-silver livery suitable for the workplace. Not only is the system well built and robust, but it's quiet in operation at 21dB, making it well suited to open-plan offices or classrooms. NEC has managed to subdue noise levels thanks to the use of a BTX-format motherboard, which allows better air-flow, improved thermal dissipation and lower power consumption.
The machine can be specified with a dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 processor, supported by AMD’s RS690G chipset. Alternatively, you can opt for a Sempron 3600+ (and above) or an Athlon 3800+ (and above). NEC has also recently added quad-core AMD processors to the line-up, making for a very flexible platform.
Other core hardware essentials include 512MB to 4GB of either 667MHz or 800MHz DDR2 memory (two or four DIMM slots are available, depending on the chassis), as well as 80GB to 250GB of SATA-2 (7,200rpm) hard disk space configured as either RAID 0/1. This new NEC system also introduces ATI’s X1250 graphics chip with up to 256MB of shared memory, offering 33 per cent more memory than its VL360 predecessor. Also present as standard is a DVD-ROM drive, although if you have the need you can upgrade to either a DVD/CD-RW combo drive or dual-layer (DVD+R9) unit. Connectivity is basic: 10/100Mbps networking, parallel and PS/2 ports, and six USB 2.0 ports. Neither Wi-Fi, Bluetooth nor Gigabit Ethernet are available as integrated features.
Expandability is reasonable thanks to two PCI slots, plus single PCI Express x4 and PCI Express x16 slots. An advantage worth noting is that the PowerMate VL370 supports the use of two displays without the need to add a second video card, thanks to the presence of both analogue (VGA) and digital (DVI-D) ports.
No business PC should ship without tools to protect your data. Although the PowerMate VL370 doesn’t include a fingerprint reader keyboard, password manager or encryption tools, it does come with NEC Instant Recovery, a system maintenance utility. Simply pressing F11 as the system boots up allows you to recover from a fatal crash in under 10 minutes. A user-friendly interface requires only a few clicks to recover the whole partition. The program is also relatively flexible, allowing you to choose between the standard Windows recovery tool, partial recovery (which keeps all your data) or complete recovery (which restores the initial HDD preload).
The typical business PC is used for word processing, spreadsheet number crunching, slideshow creation and lots of email and internet browsing — nothing that’s very demanding of a modern desktop computer. NEC has lots of experience in selling to businesses, and its PowerMate VL370 is a solid and reasonably-priced system.