NeXTWORLD's rating system for Intel-based hardware incorporates the quantitative performance benchmarks we introduced last issue with qualitative evaluations of system design, NEXTSTEP orientation, support, and value. Each month, we will provide capsule Box Score reviews of significant Intel-based computers that are configured to run NEXTSTEP.
The cube rating is derived from a formula that multiplies a score in each category by the weighting for that category. This score is parallel to our normal rating system: three cubes for a good, solid machine that does the job, up to five for spectacular, best-of-breed hardware, and down to one for a poor product or zero for unacceptable defects.
A NeXTstation Turbo Color (NsTC), which had a slower processor and higher price than equivalent Intel systems but excelled in overall integration, would rate about 3.5 cubes. Note that the ratings are not static: As Intel-based hardware standards evolve and pricing changes, we will update the system to reflect market conditions.
Performance is rated on a sliding scale depending on the class of ma-chine. Developer systems, which are heavily loaded with memory and disk, must run faster than user systems to receive an equivalent score. There will be a third scale to account for configurations specific to notebook computers. Therefore, our ratings should not be used to compare machines across classes.
Here are the factors we consider in each rating category:
Performance. Our MIPS and disk benchmarks measure the raw performance of the machine.
Speed in real-world applications is measured by the Webster and Compile benchmarks, as appropriate for the machine we are reviewing.
Video. The speed and quality of the graphics subsystem are extremely important in a NEXTSTEP system. To measure speed, we include our DRAM-to-VRAM (DÐV) and VRAM-to-VRAM (VÐV) benchmarks here. The potential quality of the graphics are rated by resolution and maximum VRAM. The actual quality of the screen image is judged on color, crispness, and overall stability.
System design. Intel machines are often viewed as commodities, but myriad component choices and engineering decisions seriously impact performance and productivity. We look at the quality of the keyboard and mouse, the overall quality of engineering and construction, and the choice of bus and hard drive. Other categories include processor upgradability, ease of service, footprint, and noise level.
NEXTSTEP orientation. Though legions of Intel-based machines will work with NEXTSTEP, we believe that users are better off with a NeXT-savvy vendor that can answer their questions and guarantee full compatibility. This category also measures ease of NEXTSTEP installation.
Support. Factors include warranty, documentation, guarantee, and availability of phone support.
Value. This subjective factor involves a judgment of the performance, quality, and components of a system, related to its price.
Data General NsTC MIPS 40 23 V-V 0.44 1.00 D-V 0.70 1.00 Disk 1800 1600 Webster 46 46 Compile 44 65
Data General, 3400 Computer Dr., Westboro, MA 01580.
800/343-8842 (U.S.); 33/1/22.214.171.124 (Europe); 65/258/99.77 (Asia/Pacific).
Configuration DX2/66; 20MB RAM; 200MB IDE drive; 1120-by-832 16-bit Wingine graphics; 4 ISA slots
Epson NsTC MIPS 26 23 V-V 1.5 1.00 D-V 0.94 1.00 Disk 1070 1600 Webster 74 46
Epson America, 20770 Madrona Ave., Torrance, CA 90503.