Net PCs are scaled-down machines that derive most of their power from a central server. They don’t contain CD-ROMs or disk drives, and their hard drives are meant to be used as a local memory cache. The server performs most of the work such as storing data and processing applications. As a result, Net PCs are relatively easy to install and manage, which may keep you total cost of ownership (TCO) down. If you’re considering Net PCs for your computing needs, here are a few models you’ll want to check out.

Gateway e1000N

Processor: Intel Pentium 200 MHz

Hard Drive: 2 gigabyte Ultra ATA

RAM: 32 MB, expandable to 256 MB

Cache: Integrated 256KB

Graphics: Integrated ATI PCI graphics accelerator with 2MB DRAM (dynamic RAM)

Slots: two 32-bit PCI

Operating System: Windows 95

Warranty: 3-year limited, upgradeable

List Price: $1079 (sources from Gateway indicated that by the time you read this, the price will have plunged below $1,000)

800.846.4208

http://www.gateway.com

Compaq Deskpro 4000N

Processor: Intel Pentium 166, 200, or 233 MHz

Hard Drive: 1.6 or 2.1 gigabyte EIDE

RAM: 32 MB, expandable to 256 MB

Cache: 256 KB level 2 (resides on a separate chip from the microprocessor)

Graphics: enhanced 64-bit integrated

Slots: one PCI

Operating System: Windows NT 4.0

Warranty: 3-year limited, upgradeable

List Price: $1,039 (for 166 MHz processor)

800.888.0396

http://www.compaq.com

Hewlett-Packard Net Vectra

Processor: Intel Pentium 166 or 200 MHz

Hard Drive: 1.6 gigabyte Ultra ATA

RAM: 16 or 32 MB, expandable to 192 MB

Cache: 256 KB

Graphics: 64-bit integrated

Slots: two PCI

Operating System: Windows NT 4.0

Warranty: 3-year limited, upgradeable

List Price: $1,286 (for 166 MHz processor)

800.752.0900

http://www.hp.com

56K Modems: Ditch that download downtime!

If your schools rely on dial-up access to the internet, a high-speed modem is a great investment. These are some of your best 56K options. Keep in mind, though, that 56K refers to download (receiving) speeds only, so they’re not ideal for two-way, data-intensive applications. If you plan on videoconferencing or exchanging large files back and forth, you might prefer ISDN technology.

Diamond SupraExpress

Protocol: K56Flex

Type: external/internal

Price: $140/$120

800.727.8772

http://www.diamondmm.com

The SupraExpress is easy to install, easy to use, and offers a great software package. The internal speaker model received PC Magazine’s Editors’ Choice award.

Motorola ModemSurfr 56K

Protocol: K56Flex

Type: External/internal

Price: about $100

800.426.6336

http://www.mot.com

ZDNet called the ModemSurfr “a solid performer.” It comes with toll free tech support, caller ID support, and a 5-year warranty.

IBM 56K Modem Internet Kit

Protocol: x2

Type: External/internal

Price: $179

800.426.2968

http://www.pc.ibm.com

The IBM 56K received PCComputing’s top honors among 56K modems. IBM says it’s also the only model that comes with 24-hour toll free tech support.

Cardinal Connecta 56K

Protocol: x2

Type: External/internal

Price: $199/$179 ($159 for Windows model)

800.947.0808

http://www.cardtech.com

Like the ModemSurfr, the Connecta 56K comes with a 5-year warranty and toll free tech support. Both ZDNet and PCComputing rate it highly in performance tests.