capsule review

Cisnet NASCAR PC

At a Glance
  • Cisnet Nascar PC

    PCWorld Rating

    Kids and die-hard Nascar fans should enjoy this inexpensive, themed--but otherwise typical--value PC.

Cisnet NASCAR PC
Photograph: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

Are you constantly looking for the fast groove, worrying about stray tire marbles, or fantasizing about snug restrictor plates? If so, you're a NASCAR fan. (Or, at least, I hope you are.) And if you're one of those fans who can never get enough NASCAR, Cisnet (a subsidiary of ZT Group) has a PC for you.

The $868 NASCAR PC never lets racing fans forget their favorite sport. Checkered flags painted on the black minitower case--as well as on the 17-inch Cisnet NCA-701 flat-panel display, the keyboard, and the mouse--definitely catch the eye. Open Windows XP, and you'll see customized NASCAR icons and even a customized Start button. Special offers to NASCAR PC owners include a 30-day free trial to NASCAR.com's Trackpass and Raceday Scanner services, which offer tons of real-time and on-demand racing info and let you listen to live radio communications between racers and the pit on race days.

Ironically, the NASCAR PC itself isn't a particularly high-powered racing machine. Under the hood you'll find a 2-GHz Athlon 64 3200+ CPU and 512MB of RAM, which together helped produce a WorldBench 5 score of 83, about what we'd expect from a similarly configured value PC. (Cisnet does not offer a choice of CPUs with this machine.) And although the system has plenty of horsepower for listening online to live races or performing common computing tasks, it isn't well suited to demanding games; the integrated Radeon Xpress 200 graphics chip, which piggybacks on the system RAM instead of supplying its own memory, posted some of the lowest frame-rate scores we've seen on our Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament tests.

However, you could substantially improve graphics performance by adding a good graphics card to the open x16 PCI Express slot and more RAM to the two open RAM slots. You can also add an x1 PCI Express card and one more hard drive to the system. The expansion slots are very easy to access, but getting to the RAM slots or hard-drive bays requires removing the DVD drive.

The system's dual-layer DVD±RW drive and four-in-one media card reader fill the only externally accessible drive bays, so to make copies of DVDs or CDs you'll first have to write disc images to the 200GB hard drive. Two USB ports, a headphone jack, and a microphone jack on the front of the system are complemented by four more USB ports, a FireWire port, and something you don't always find on a value system with integrated graphics: a DVI port.

The flat-panel display showed crisp-looking text, even with tiny, 6.8-point type. The decent setup poster provides clear guidance, but the sparse user manual offers no more than a cursory look at basic PC use and troubleshooting.

Kids and die-hard NASCAR fans should enjoy this racing-themed but undistinguished $800 value PC.

Kirk Steers

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Kids and die-hard Nascar fans should enjoy this inexpensive, themed--but otherwise typical--value PC.

    Pros

    • Nascar lovers will love this themed PC

    Cons

    • Pretty standard fare under the hood
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