Summary: What happens when you combine a Pentium 4 3.2GHz Extreme Edition processor with an ASUS P4C800-E Deluxe, RADEON 9800 XT, and, get this, a 30" TFT/LCD screen all into one aluminum chassis? Hy-Tek's Tek Panel 300 of course! This $8K system is one serious workhorse and looks good as well. In fact, the Tek Panel 300 is featured on NBC's new reality TV show The Apprentice. Find out what makes this high-end system tick in our latest article!
One of our mottos here at FiringSquad is "if you can build it, why buy it?" Custom computers have been preferred by enthusiasts, not only do you have the ability to create the most powerful system possible, but also the nicest looking systems tend to be custom designs. This is why you wonít find too many system reviews at FiringSquad. Well, we found a system that might change all that.
The Tek Panel 300 is not just a repackaging of off-the-shelf parts behind a fancy faceplate. Even at first glance it reinforces that this isnít just another computer system. Built around a 30 inch LCD panel, the Tek Panel 300 also includes the fastest motherboard, CPU, and video card on the market. This is all integrated into a streamlined, one-piece unit that can be wall mounted or self-standing -- we got all that just from the press materials.
The real question that we were challenged to discover would be if we could even build a similar system. The quick answer is no. The Tek Panel 300 includes so much custom fabrication that no enthusiast without access to aluminum fabrication facilities can replicate what Tek Panel has done. That fact alone makes this system stand out among all the other premium computer systems.
Hy-Tek, which makes the Tek Panel has already gathered a growing list of awards since the Tek Panelís introduction at CES. They initially targeted the system at the most expensive computer market, the gaming system. Once they established that they could compete with the fastest systems on the market, Tek Panelís market grew to include corporate America and the living room. For one system to be so at ease in all of these markets means that Hy-Tek really held nothing back with the Tek Panel.
First letís go over what really makes up the Tek Panel 300.
SIDEBAR: HyTek Manufacturing
Tek Panel 300
Base price: $6495.00
As tested: $7749.24
Weight: 42 pounds
The stand-out feature of the Tek Panel is the 30 inch 1280x768 LCD panel. Sure, weíve seen 30Ē screens before, but none like this one. Instead of just using any old 30 inch LCD, the Tek Panel includes the best one on the market. With a viewing angle of 176 degrees, it is unmatched. We have always been weary of marketing specifications, but this screen maintains its contrast and brightness even at extreme viewing angles. This is because it uses a LG/Philips LCD with S-IPS technology.
Super In-Plane Switching
S-IPS is a specific flavor of LCD technology that keeps the liquid crystal molecules in the plane of the display at all times. This is more expensive than competing LCD design methods, but ensures that light passing through the display at an angle and directly have the same effect.
A brightness of 450cd/m2 might not seem like much, but we found it amazingly bright -- bright enough to be used in a sunny room and much brighter than a direct view CRT. In truth, the screen can induce some eye strain and fatigue if you are using it to surf the web in a dark room. The white background of most websites really lights up the room. One advantage of a fixed pixel display is that the image remains absolutely stable without any jitter that can be seen with CRTs when changing between high brightness or contrast scenes due to strain on the power supply. In simple terms, this means an even sharper picture.
Overall Screen Impressions
The TekPanel is among the best 30" LCD displays on the market, but one disadvantage of this image quality is that DVDs can look unimpressive, especially if you have been surfing the web or watching HD sources. This screen resolves every pixel on the DVD source, including the compression artifacts. With a 1280x768 screen, it can show HD 720p sources with ease. Text is remarkable easy to read on this monitor, even from 10 feet away.
Plasma versus LCD
The biggest competitor to large LCD screens are plasma screens. Plasma monitors have better color rendition, a very fast response time, and larger sizes, however there are burn-in issues as well as limited real-world contrast. Even a flagship 60" Plasma screen typically has a peak brightness of only 250cd/m2 and in a full white screen, plasma screens can drop to less than 50 cd/m2. Thus, the rated contrast ratio of several thousand to one of many Plasma screens is largely marketing.
Hy-tek created a custom powder coated aluminum case for this system. This isnít your standard plastic bezel around the screen. The front, sides, and rear of the system are all thick aluminum sheets held together by hex screws. There is zero flex in the chassis. Instead of having a separate box for the computer, Hy-Tek integrated the system components into the same chassis as the display Ė capable of supporting a hot P4 EE and All-in-Wonder Radeon safely no less. There was evidently a lot of pre-planning that went into the design as the CPU heatsink fits flush against the back of the case. This allows the CPU to draw fresh air from outside the case to cool it. No fancy ducting needed.
Our system was equipped with the Asus P4C800-E Deluxe 875 motherboard. This is Asusí top of the line Intel 875 motherboard. You might find other boards that may overclock better, but few that are more stable. It could use a few BIOS tweaks though, ours came with USB 2.0 full speed instead of high speed, so you would be getting 11Mb/s instead of 480Mb/s, thatís more than a little difference. It is possible that as a review unit, a previous reviewer accidentally changed that value.
Hy-Tek included an Intel 3.2Ghz Pentium 4 EE. Laugh as you may about how extreme this CPU may or may not be, but it is still one of the fastest Intel desktop chips on the market. If you think it is overkill, keep in mind that it's just barely above the minimum requirement to play Windows Media HD 1080p sources. You don't have a fast computer unless you can play 1080p WMV-HD. Before you send off that email saying that the monitor only supports 720p and that the CPU is overkill, Microsoft recommends that owners of 720p displays use 1080p WMV-HD sources when available due to the increased bitrate.
Seagate 160GB SATA HD. It isnít the fastest, but it does the job and is quiet.
Hy-Tek included the ATI Radeon 9800 XT, still one of the fastest cards on the market, pending any new announcements by nVidia in April. You can also order the Tek Panel with an All-in-Wonder card, which would add TV capability to this screen, something we would recommend. A HDTV option is also in the pipeline, as soon as ATI starts to ship its HDTV solution.
Well, for such a sleek system, a slot loading drive like a Mac might have been just the icing on the cake. But a standard drive that is mounted on the left side of the system will have to do.
Soundblaster Audigy 2ZS. The Audigy 2 is the fastest sound card we have ever tested, and Hytek's use of the Audigy2 was a no-brainer decision. It also adds an additional Firewire port to the system.
One comment we did have is that Hy-Tek should update the manual with more detail on connecting a Tek Panel to a variety of audio sources. We'd expect a substantial number of Tek Panel owners to prefer to connect their system to their home theater system via the SPDIF output. It will be important for the manual to go over the procedure to set up the digital out on the Audigy2 ZS, and how to disable the software Dolby/DTS decoding to allow a straight bitstream output.
Hy-tek bundles a generic wireless keyboard and mouse. With such a high-end system, we would have expected the best technology such as a Logitech Bluetooth wireless system, but fortunately you can always add that on later.
With looks like this, who cares whatís underneath the surface? If the Tek Panel were a sluggish performer we wouldnít have minded, but Hy-Tek would have. This shows that they too share the same enthusiast spirit of not settling for a substandard system. There are cheaper components that could have been used, but they chose the best. With a 3D Mark 2003 score of 6616, this is at the top of the pack. You already know the performance of a P4 3.2 EE and Radeon 9800 XT, so there's not much to comment on.
A computer is much more than numbers though. The Tek Panel really is a system that can be a centerpiece to an office or living room. NBCís show The Apprentice, features Tek Panels. If itís good enough for the Trump, it should be good enough for you.
Hereís what we would change with the system if we were on the design team:
There really isnít any competition to the Tek Panel. Nobody else makes a one-piece computer and 30 inch LCD with future HDTV capability.
Tek Panel: The ultimate high-end PC
Of all the products Iíve seen, the Tek Panel is the one product that really shouts quality. Hy-Tek has built a no compromise system that impresses both in looks and performance, showing that it is possible to combine beauty and brains, at least with computers. What stands out over and over with this system is the custom integration. Everything fits perfectly and where it should. The system includes the latest in performance hardware and the best LCD technology on the market.
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