Hardware reviews

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Indy Lifestyle Online
AST markets its Advantage 829 as the "ultimate games machine". Certainly, anyone spending this sort of money - AST's recommended retail price is almost pounds 2,800 - should expect quite a lot of computer.

For a home computer, the specification is generous. The machine comes with 16mb RAM, a 2 gigabyte hard disk, a three-disk, six-speed CD Rom auto-changer and a built-in 28,800 modem. It also has a 200 MHz Pentium, Intel's fastest chip. There is a 15-inch monitor, and a reasonable selection of software. Oddly, for a games machine, no joystick is included.

Setting the computer up is easy, and Windows 95 recognises all the necessary hardware. However, a fair number of games, such as Ocean's EF2000 flight simulator, still run best under DOS, which can make life a bit awkward. To change between the three CD-Roms, for example, you have to go into Windows 95 and then out again.

Performance is as should be expected for a 200Mhz machine: fast. It handles games graphics and multimedia clips smoothly. The computer's built-in video supports MPeg for Video CD playback, although the video is not the latest technology and could stop you using the latest games.

For now, 200Mhz Pentium chips are expensive, and AST's pricing reflects this. Also, a 200MHz computer is not twice as fast as a Pentium 100 machine, because of bottlenecks between the processor and the rest of the system. If you need maximum speed, however, the AST will not disappoint you. Real power users, though, should think about adding more memory to make the most of the chip.

The AST Advantage 829 costs pounds 2,799, including VAT. AST can be contacted on 0990 611611.

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