Need to use Windows software regularly, but not often enough to justify buying a stand-alone PC? If you're not impressed with the performance of software emulators, Orange Micro's OrangePC 627 card might be just what you need. This minimalist-PC-on-a-PCI-card uses your Mac and peripherals to create a Windows 98 alter ego inside your Mac (it can also run Windows 95 and NT 4.0).
The 627 is not a screamer. Although it ran the Business Winstone 98 benchmark more than twice as fast as the Windows-emulator software we testedInsignia Solutions' SoftWindows 98 5.0.4 and Connectix's Virtual PC 2.1.1 (see Reviews, February 1999)it was less than half as fast as our baseline 300MHz Intel Celeron-based PC (see " No Match for the Real Thing "). That said, the 627 is perfectly adequate for run-of-the-mill productivity tasks such as word processing, although it can be sluggish with state-of-the-art games. And because it's hardware running Windows, the 627 doesn't suffer from the compatibility problems that plague SoftWindows.
As do software emulators, the 627 uses large Mac files as virtual hard disks, allowing you to keep multiple configurations or operating systems handy. You can share data between the Mac and Windows environments via the Clipboard or via shared Mac folders that the PC sees as remote volumes. But although the card can use the Mac's built-in Ethernet hardware, it needs its own IP address. And unless you have two monitors, switching back and forth between the Windows and Mac screens can be cumbersome; you can't run Windows in a window, as you can with an emulator.
The OrangePC 627 uses a 200MHz, MMX-capable IDT WinChip that resides in a ZIF socket, so you can upgrade it to a more capable processor. When we installed a 300MHz AMD K6-2 on the OrangePC, performance increased perceptibly. And the card's RAM is on a single 16MB DIMM that you can replace with a larger DIMM. But adding RAM and using a faster processor won't boost video performance appreciably. Unlike Orange Micro's high-end 660 card, which comes with 4MB of dedicated VRAM, the 627 uses part of its main RAM for video memory.
While the OrangePC 627's performance is lackluster compared with that of a "real" PC, the card is significantly less expensive. If you need something that's faster than an emulator, but will settle for less performance than a contemporary PC can offer, the 627 is a good solution.
RATING: PROS: Faster than emulation; reasonable price/performance ratio; RAM and CPU are upgradable. CONS: Slower than a typical PC; too slow for many PC games. COMPANY: Orange Micro (714/779-2772, http://www.orangemicro.com ). LIST PRICE: $559.
March 1999 page: 53