Different Strokes

by Holly Aguirre

Brio BA200
Rating 90

Gatetway GP7 600
Rating 85

For this month’s buyers guide we asked some of the major computer vendors what machines they would recommend for a small business with 10 to 100 users on a LAN needing to buy a bunch of machines. Two of the vendors, Gateway and Hewlett Packard, came back to us with two very different recommendations. Gateway suggested the $1,399 GP7 600, and the HP offered up the $499 Brio BA200. We pitted these two machines against each other to see how their performances stacked up.

While the performance of the Brio BA200 was somewhat lackluster, it can make a good choice for businesses with basic needs and small budgets. For users looking for more performance, HP offers additional models with faster processors, the Brio BA400 and BA600 models.

The Gateway GP7 600 offers all of the bells and whistles one would expect from a high-end business machine. Its performance shined, but the price may be a bit high for a small business machine.

The HP Brio’s performance was up to par. The 500MHz Celeron PC did an adequate job of downloading software and processing other tasks. The BA200 included an internal 56Kbps modem, but no Ethernet. We had an Ethernet card swapped in for $35 to meet our networking needs. The Brio does pack 64MB of RAM, a 4.2GB HD, and comes with a 40X CD-ROM drive, but no monitor. Adding a 17-inch monitor cost $249.

The addition of the Brio Internet Center beefs up this budget-class machine. Employees can set up an Instant Online Office from HotOffice and connect via a private intranet with colleagues and clients from any browser. Brio customers can also access HP’s online help desk system, which provides access to a broad range of information and support. HP includes a one-year onsite warranty and one year of free 24/7 phone support. All of this combined makes for a comparable system, but it’s lean compared to the Gateway.

The Gateway GP7 600 is a 600MHz Pentium machine with 64MB of memory. It includes a 17-inch monitor, a 10/100 Ethernet Adapter, a 40X CD-ROM drive, and comes with Microsoft Office 2000 and Norton Anti-Virus software. The system is truly plug and play. Within five minutes we were quickly downloading programs such as Corel WordPerfect. The machine is a bit noisy, making loud crunching sounds even when nothing is being downloaded.

Gateway’s customers can access eSource, a full-featured, personalized site for regular customers. The site automatically reflects special discounts, shipping and handling arrangements, and billing preferences. Gateway also includes a three-year limited parts and labor warranty, with one year onsite service, and limited hardware and software support for the life of the system.

Overall, we think that the Gateway will stand the test of time over the HP unit. While it does cost almost three times as much, it offers more processing power and is a more complete
system. However, those with tight budgets and basic productivity needs will do fine with the HP machine.

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