Mick LockeyArtwork by: Rick Rizner, John GoddardTangent Medallion 4000DAt $2495, the basic-beige Medallion 4000D makes an inexpensive video-capable machine. For starters, our test unit arrived with 160GB of hard drive space on twin 80GB drives attached to an IDE RAID controller–a good setup for disk-intensive work like editing large video files. Three FireWire ports, located on the back of the case, are available to transfer digital video from camcorders. To record your video masterpieces onto discs that play in common DVD players and computer DVD-ROM drives, a DVD-RW/-R drive is included. To author and edit the video, the system comes with a CD containing three basic software titles: CyberLink Power DVD XP 4.0, Sonic MyDVD, and ArcSoft ShowBiz. It also comes ready for high-end graphics tasks, thanks to an MSI G4Ti4600-VTD graphics card that turned in a very healthy 101 frames per second in our Unreal Tournament 2003 tests at 1280 by 1024 resolution and 32-bit color–on a par with the specialized entertainment-oriented systems we tested in the same month.At upgrade or repair time, you’ll need nimble hands to contend with the system’s messy interior. The six free bays (four for removable media drives and two for extra hard drives) provide plenty of options, but you’ll have to push aside cables to get at most of them. Also, a separate and rather large fan mounted on a right side rail must be removed to access the motherboard (most systems place fans in less obstructive areas).
Documentation includes a generic installation manual and several separate component manuals, but little else. The keyboard didn’t feel as sturdy as others we have evaluated, and it sported only a few shortcut keys.With a 2.53-GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB of 266-MHz DDR SDRAM, and Windows XP Professional, the Medallion 4000D clocked a score of 118 on our PC WorldBench 4 tests–certainly not slow, but four points below the average for similarly configured systems.
In image quality tests of the bundled 19-inch shadow-mask Optiquest Q95 monitor, text was reasonably sharp on a newsletter and on a screen with multiple typefaces. Colors looked bold, but facial tones had a dark cast in our test photo. We also noticed geometric distortion (outward bowing) at the screen’s center and side edges that we could not completely correct using the onscreen controls.
The Logitech Z-540 sound system–four speakers and a subwoofer–delivers pleasing sound with clear, crisp notes. Bass levels were satisfying despite the subwoofer’s small size. One speaker contains headphone jacks as well as a dedicated control knob for delivering 4.1-channel surround sound, a nice plus for immersive game play. Though this surround sound wasn’t as distinctive as what we’ve heard on top-end units like the Klipsch ProMedia 5.1, it’s more than suitable for casual game play and listening to MP3 tracks. Music fans with more high-end tastes may appreciate an adapter on the back of the system that provides both optical and coaxial S/PDIF out ports for digital audio. The bracket, which takes up one of the openings for the free PCI slots, also provides the analog line-out jacks for the sound system that shipped with our review unit.
Another adapter provides two USB 2.0 ports, and a third slot is blocked by a cable that connects to the headphone and microphone jacks on the back of the system and then passes into the system via the back plate and through the interior to power front-mounted audio ports. That leaves just two unobstructed PCI slots for expansion.Though it has a few design drawbacks, this Tangent system offers respectable performance and video-friendly features at a reasonable price.
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