Micro Express MicroFlex 66B
The fastest of the cheap PCs we reviewed, the $999 MicroFlex 66B is a great value. It managed an impressive WorldBench 5 score of 148. The MicroFlex 66B carries a speedy 2.4-GHz Core 2 Duo E6600 processor and 2GB of memory--the only system in our roundup to do so. It also came configured with an ATI Radeon X1600 graphics card. This machine produced the best graphics performance of any cheap PC on our gaming tests, making it a good choice as a versatile, low-cost gaming desktop.
Our only major complaint involves the system's paltry 380-watt power supply, which could become overloaded if you add several hard drives or optical drives.
Dell Dimension C521
The $729 Dell Dimension C521 is skinnier than a typical midsize tower PC. Set up vertically, the well-designed case has a width of just 4.5 inches. Even so, it retains a modicum of expansion room, including three open expansion-card slots (for half-height cards only). Our system included a five-in-one memory card reader.
The C521 configuration that we tested had a 2-GHz Athlon 64 X2 3800+ dual-core processor, 1GB of memory, and an ATI Radeon X1300 graphics card loaded with 256MB of video memory. That combination powered the C521 to a creditable WorldBench 5 score of 95--more than adequate for tasks like word processing, Web browsing, and even video and image editing--and to fair (and playable-quality) results on our gaming graphics tests.