Dell 2.53GHz Precision Workstation 340
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And, speaking of cards, included inside is a 1394 board, with two 1394 inputs available on the back of the computer. Although I'm not complaining too much about this, I figured that by now, 1394 might be starting to appear on the motherboard, freeing up a slot inside. I think it's about time we saw this on all computers, and not just 1394 I/O on the motherboard, but USB 2.0, too. Who will be the first to include both without hogging slots? It would also be nice to have access to a 1394 and/or USB 2.0 jack or two from the front of the computer, as well.

I was impressed with the two hard disks Dell included in the machine, 120GB and a 40GB 7200 RPM disks, both connected via ATA-100. I ran a disk speed benchmark on both, and discovered that the 120GB disk is capable of reading and writing at exactly 40MB per second, a respectable speed, especially for a single disk. The 40 GB disk was close to that speed, sporting a 40MBps read and a 35MBps write speed.

Also inside the machine I noticed a couple of 256MB RDRAM sticks, but note here that Dell hasn't included the faster PC1066 RDRAM, sticking with the slower-but-no-slouch PC800s instead. The faster PC1066 parts are a better match for the super-quick 533MHz front-side bus on this machine, but PC1066 RDRAM isn't officially supported by Intel yet for its new 850E chipset that's used on this motherboard. Expect to see this change very soon, but until then, you'll get PC800 RDRAM from Dell.
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Which brings up another desirable feature of this computer, its 533 MHz front side bus, which is actually a quad-pumped 133 MHz front-side bus. What does all this mean? Faster performance, that's what. And that is the best part of all. It made me eager to run a few benchmarks on this baby and see if it could beat our Mac dual G4 machine, or even the current speed champ, the Dual Athlon 2000+MP machine we tested not long ago from BOXX and Sonic Foundry.

That said, I fired up the machine once more to put it through its paces, and installed Photoshop 7 and Adobe After Effects 5.5 onto the included Windows XP Professional operating system. Just how fast is it? This machine is really, really fast. We tested the speed of this machine using our Photoshop and After Effects benchmarks we've been using on a few other machines we've tested here, and this box could hold its own, even against dual-processor Athlon machines. It managed to slam-dunk the Mac dual G4 on all ten of our benchmarks, and even beat the dual-proc Athlon in a few of the tests. Take a look at this separate article I wrote by clicking here, and you'll see a benchmark shootout between this machine, the dual Athlon MP2000+ and the Mac dual 1GHz G4.

To sum up, the Dell Precision Workstation 340 is a great, fast, quiet and stable machine at a hard-to-beat price. As we tested it, the machine itself lists for $2875 plus shipping, and that includes 512 MB of RAM, a great graphics card, two hard disks with a total of 160GB of storage, and Dell's 3-year next-day warranty. For another $3200, you can equip it with two flat panel displays and go to town with an excellent machine for digital video editing. And, it's much faster than the Mac dual G4, so much so that even before I ran any benchmarks on the machine I could already tell it was going to smoke the comparatively slow Mac. And, it was hard to tell the difference in speed between this Dell machine and the Dual Athlon 2000+ that still reigns as the fastest we've tested here overall. So if you're looking for a super-fast content creation PC at a reasonable price, this is one of the best computers I've seen, and I would highly recommend it.

Charlie White, your humble storytellerCharlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist for the past eight years, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor and shot-calling PBS TV director with 28 years broadcast experience. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at [email protected].

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