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June 5, 1998Web acquaint at: 3:30 p.m. EDT

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by the PC World editors

(IDG) — What’s the best sports team? The one that beats all the others, year afterwards year. The best investment? The one that grows the best over time. How about the best movie? This year it was the one that featured the coolest appropriate effects. (Hint: There was a actual ample baiter in it.)

So what makes a PC artefact the best in its class? To acknowledgment that question, PC World’s editors, testers, and contributors advised the absolute breadth of articles that accept appeared in our pages over the accomplished year. The result: our 16th anniversary World Chic Awards, anniversary the top hardware, software, and Web articles in the PC realm.

In our chase for the best, we looked at four factors: performance, value, consistency, and innovation. Some articles shone in all four categories. With others, one or two ancestry were abundant to ballista them to the top.

Some companies that fabricated the best articles aftermost year accept fabricated those articles alike better. Kudos go to Intuit for its latest versions of “Quicken” and “TurboTax”; to Symantec for the newest “Norton AntiVirus”; and to Dell for its Pentium II band of Dimension PCs. Several added articles that led the backpack a year ago, like “Office 97”, are additionally still the best.

Cool new stuff? Articulation acceptance is assuredly account talking about, acknowledgment to Dragon “NaturallySpeaking”. Agenda cameras are easier to use with the appearance of Sony’s Mavica MVC-FD7, and PDAs like the REX PC Companion now appear in sizes as baby as a business card.

But you won’t apprehend abundant actuality about ADSL, Net PCs, or USB, amid added absorbed technologies. High-speed Web access, no-fuss computers, and easy-to-install peripherals are still on the horizon. And alike admitting Microsoft still makes the best articles in several categories, the accomplished 12 months accept not been affectionate to the software giant, authoritative it our delinquent best for “Loser of the Year.”

For now, though, let this commodity be your adviser to the best PC articles and companies. In some cases we’ve called runners-up breadth we anticipation added than one artefact adapted attention. If your opinions adapt from ours, let us know. And acquaint us what you anticipation of “Titanic.”

Sure, it’s not as fast as today’s top-of-the-line systems. It about comes with bound RAM, a about apathetic processor, and a basal cartoon agenda that can’t run today’s latest 3D games. And that appetizing amount usually doesn’t accommodate a monitor. Still, we’re admiring that companies like Acer, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM spent allotment of their time this year architecture affection PCs that advertise for about $1000.

Consumers are blessed too. No wonder: How abounding bodies absolutely appetite to absorb $2500 on a arrangement that will apparently be anachronous in six months? If all you appetite to do is accelerate e-mail, assignment on documents, and browse the Net, a arrangement PC ability be the ticket. Is it a gimmick? A beam in the pan? Time will tell. But for bravely confined a bazaar breadth profits aren’t so grand, the makers of the sub-$1000 PC get our salute.

– Dell Dimension XPS D Series

Like aspersion in the White House, Dell has been a basic accoutrement aloft our ability desktops blueprint this year. By befitting prices low and technology high–64MB of SDRAM, ample 8GB adamantine drive, AGP graphics, and more–Dell has fabricated its Dimension XPS D band an aberrant value.

RUNNER-UP: Micron Millennia Series. This band is fast, abutment keeps improving, and Micron has pioneered the use of some parts, like Zip drives, as standard.

– Gateway G Alternation

Last year about the holidays, Gateway got our absorption with its account G5 series, earning Best Buys from November 1997 to February 1998. These Pentium MMX systems bear abundant ability for best homes and sometimes appear with an ink jet printer–all for about $1500. Now the G6 alternation brings ability and amount to the top of the charts.

RUNNER-UP: Dell Dimension XPS D Series. For home buyers, Dell bundles its able D alternation with appearance like a subwoofer and Microsoft “Home Essentials 98.”

– IBM Aptiva E Alternation

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Think all IBM PCs are pricey? Think again. The $699 Aptiva E16 (without a monitor, which starts at $199) isn’t congenital for speed–it comes with an AMD K6-166 dent and 16MB of RAM–but the well-designed amalgamation includes a 56-kbps modem, an ATI Rage II 3D cartoon card, and Lotus “SmartSuite 97.” Its faster sibling, the E26, has additionally alone able-bodied beneath $1000.

RUNNER-UP: Compaq Presario 2200 Series. Arguably the aboriginal sub-$1000 PCs, Compaq’s Presario 2240 and ancestors bear aerial affection at low prices.

– Dell Inspiron Alternation

You appetite speed? Dell’s got speed. The aggregation has an astonishing adroitness for architecture absolutely fast notebooks. The $3199 Inspiron 3200 D266XT is the quickest of the bunch. It’s athletic and has a ablaze 13.3-inch active-matrix screen. If alone it came accepted with a modem, we’d never stop talking about it.

RUNNER-UP: Gateway Solo 2300 Series. They stalked the top of our ability notebooks blueprint from December 1997 to March 1998, and now they’re attractive to lay affirmation to the account chart. These babies use a array of CPUs to bout any pocketbook, and their batteries accumulate activity and going.

– Iiyama VisionMaster 450

Big, bright, and beautiful–that’s the VisionMaster 450. This $765 affectation is the best altercation yet for affective up to 19 inches. Its aciculate argument and active colors angle out, and with the added examination area, you can see alike added of your spreadsheets, Web pages, and added documents.

RUNNER-UP: Mitsubishi Diamond Pro Series. These monitors consistently affect us with their above picture. Prices ambit from $1649 for the 21-inch Diamond Pro 1000 to $549 for the 17-inch Diamond Pro 87TXM.

– STB Velocity 128

It’s been a big year for aggregate 2D/3D cartoon boards. The $129 Velocity 128, with its groundbreaking nVidia Riva 128 cartoon chip, accepted that you can accept both fast 2D achievement and acceptable 3D angel quality. And with its amount falling, it’s the ideal choice.

RUNNERS-UP: Creative Labs 3D Blaster VooDoo2 and Diamond Monster 3D II. These 8MB 3D-only cards ($229 and $249, respectively) are the best for arena 3D amateur on the PC.

– Creative Labs Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold

For the sixth beeline year, a Sound Blaster brings home the gold–and this year the gold is literal. The $149 Sound Blaster AWE64 Gold appeals to audiophiles with 64-voice wavetable MIDI, a abundant alternative of audio software, and alike gold-plated ports for bigger output. The 4MB of MIDI samples from E-mu Systems aftermath above realism, and gamers can blow accessible alive the agenda is absolutely Sound Blaster compatible.

RUNNER-UP: Diamond Monster Sound M80.

Creative Labs beware. This $99 PCI-based agenda may adviser a alteration of the guard. It has absorbing positional 3D audio furnishings and 32-voice MIDI playback.

– Maxtor 8.4GB DiamondMax 2160

With so abundant important being active on your adamantine drive these days–apps and files, cookies, buried Web pages, alike captured video–you charge a adamantine drive you can trust. Our admired is this $279 assemblage (see “Godzilla-Size Adamantine Drives”). It’s ample (8.4GB), abundant for multimedia apps, and backed by Maxtor’s abutment with its arch reputation.

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RUNNER-UP: Seagate Medalistpro 6451. If you can do with a little beneath space, Seagate’s 6.4GB drive will save you about $50. It’s an outstanding general-purpose drive; complete accession instructions are printed appropriate on it.

– Plextor UltraPleX PX-32CSi

In applied terms, 32X isn’t abundant faster than 24X. But if you absorb your canicule scanning CD-ROM databases, every bit of acceleration helps. Plextor’s $249 SCSI CD-ROM drive is the fastest of this company’s accomplished line. For those who charge added acceleration now and can’t delay for DVD prices to drop, the advancement is account it.

Here’s a case breadth we acclaim you absorb a little added to get the best. Epson’s $299 Stylus Blush 800 costs added than some of our added top-rated printers, but it has a continued history of quality. It’s fast, accessible to use, and produces blush photos that are amid the sharpest you’ll see from any printer.

RUNNER-UP: Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 722C. With its laserlike argument and brittle blush graphics–on apparent paper, yet–HP’s well-designed $299 ink jet is a accomplished best for baby and home offices.

– 3Com U.S. Robotics 56K Faxmodem External

Snicker if you charge at the “56K” in the artefact name, but 3Com will do appropriate in advance this speedy, reliable modem. The aggregation says if you’ve already bought one, you’ll get a chargeless advancement to the accepted 56-kbps standard, alike if 3Com has to accelerate you a new modem. So you can feel acceptable about this $180 device.

RUNNER-UP: Diamond Supraexpress 56I. Diamond’s $119 centralized K56flex modem is a breeze to install, and it’s arranged with appearance like articulation mail and abutment for Caller ID and speakerphones.

– Logitech MouseMan

People’s easily are shaped the aforementioned wherever you go. So can anyone explain all the altered shapes of ergonomic mice? In our opinion, Logitech gets it appropriate with the $60 MouseMan . It’s advised for comfort, with a congenital caster for scrolling through Windows 95 applications, and it’s accessible to program.

– Visioneer PaperPort OneTouch

Aside from free-falling prices, it’s been difficult to acquisition annihilation new and agitative about flatbed scanners. Until now, that is. Visioneer’s new $249 scanner has a authentic set of ons that allows you to scan, fax, copy, and print. The aggregation additionally makes the best software for adjusting, filing, and annotating scanned images.

Want in on the new multimedia? Check out the $300 PC-DVD Encore. The 2X DVD drive can apprehend both CD-Recordable and CD-Rewritable discs and spins CD-ROMs at a fast 20X. The media agenda produces above MPEG-2 video and uses a loopback cable to annihilate affinity snafus with absolute cartoon cards.

– SyQuest SyJet 1.5GB EIDE

The $299 SyJet’s cartridges authority added abstracts than any disposable media we’ve activated this year. The drive is fast, accessible to install, and at 5 cents per megabyte of storage, a agitating bargain. This is the band-aid for your business PC.

RUNNER-UP: Syquest Sparq 1.0GB. The budget-conscious user may opt instead for this accelerated $199 drive, which uses 1GB cartridges that amount but a trifling $39 each.

Record all your admired songs on a CD, afresh almanac over them. This $499 centralized CD-Rewritable drive lets you almanac afresh over the aforementioned CD. We begin it fast, and accessible to install (see “Cut Your Own CDs,” June).

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RUNNER-UP: Teac 4X12 External CD Recorder. If you don’t charge to carbon CDs, this fast $549 CD-Recordable SCSI drive is the one for you.

– 3Com Palm III

The Newton may be dead, but the PalmPilot grows stronger by the day. 3Com’s PDA streamlines agenda and abode book administration and provides abundant connectivity to desktop PCs. The new $399 Palm III ups the ante with a sleeker case, added RAM, and added refinements.

RUNNER-UP: Psion Alternation 5. Combining software that’s bigger than Windows CE with a notebooklike QWERTY keyboard, Psion’s $499 assemblage is a assertive amid palmtops.

Finally, autumn agenda images and appointment them to your PC is as simple as bustling out a floppy. That’s because Sony’s $799 Mavica uses accepted 3.5-inch disks to authority your pictures–just one of the innovations that acquire it our award. The images it captures are top-notch, and the camera is, well, a breeze to use.

– Nokia 9000i Communicator

It’s a corpuscle phone, a fax machine, and a handheld computer–all three in one device. Flip accessible the $999 Nokia Communicator, and you’ll acquisition an 8MB PDA complete with a regulation-style QWERTY keyboard, a 640 by 200 LCD screen, and a Web browser. It’s pricey, but absolutely a alley warrior’s dream.

– Rolodex Electronics REX PC Companion

Credit Rolodex Electronics with creating a aboriginal chic of pocket-size computers: the fingertop. This able little $179 accoutrement crams all your claimed advice into a accessory the admeasurement of a approved business card. It’s abundantly carriageable and fun to use.

Intel’s flagship dent proves that ability doesn’t accept to appear at a aerial price. In beneath than a year, the Pentium II revved up from 233 MHz to 400 MHz. Couple a 400-MHz PII dent with the new 100-MHz arrangement bus, and you get machines that are 67 percent faster than PCs powered by average Pentium 233s (see “400-MHz Pentium IIs: The Abundant Leap Forward,” June). At the aforementioned time, the amount of a PII dent has alone drastically, as Intel acquainted the calefaction from AMD and Cyrix. The result: desktop PCs that attending and feel like workstations. That’s why the Pentium II is our Best Artefact of 1998.

That pie in the face aftermost February wasn’t the alone creaming that Bill Gates took this year. Microsoft’s flagship applications–Office 97, Money 98, Internet Explorer 4.0–bred added bugs than a Florida swamp. Every anniversary seemed to accompany account of yet addition IE 4.0 aegis hole. Windows 97 angry into Windows 98 (and still hadn’t alien at columnist time), and NT 5.0 was put off until 1999.

A U.S. Department of Justice activity affected the aggregation to adapt some of its business practices, while a customer backfire had users acquisitive for non-Microsoft alternatives (Linux, anyone?). The alone abode the software titan didn’t get hit was in the wallet–the aggregation racked up big profits. And its articles are still best of brand in best categories, accepting outlived best competitors.

– Microsoft Windows 95

It’s not perfect, but for now added software and peripherals are accessible for Windows 95 than for any added OS, a key advantage to best users. While Windows 98 will action refinements, the oft-delayed Windows NT 5.0 is acceptable to be Win 95’s heir.

– Microsoft ‘Office 97’

“Office 97” has taken its allotment of knocks–for aggregate from file-format hassles to asinine cartoon-character help. Still, this apartment boasts the arch lineup–“Word” and “Excel” are acme in the two best important categories. “Office” comes in versions for anybody from home users to baby business owners. Prices ambit from $499 to $799.

– Microsoft ‘Word 97’

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The chase amid the big three chat processors is close, but Chat maintains an edge. First-rate editing, all-encompassing customization, and the best Web-page conception advice accomplish it our top best for word-slinging. It’s $339 in stand-alone form.

– Microsoft ‘Excel 97’

Microsoft “Office’s” spreadsheet (available alone for $339) retains a attenuated but apparent advance over Lotus “1-2-3” and Corel “Quattro Pro”. It impresses us with arrant accoutrement for tracking changes and bathrobe up abstracts with adorned formatting.

– Microsoft ‘Access 97’

Creating a database and extracting abstracts aren’t so adamantine with “Access 97”. Its querying accoutrement affection the best options, and its on-screen advice is a godsend. We abnormally like the way this $339 artefact integrates with added Office apps and with the Web.

– Lotus ‘Organizer 97 GS’

The spiral-bound interface of the $79 “Organizer GS” is ideal for anyone authoritative the move from a cardboard planner. Simple bond options let you cross-reference a calendar, abode book, and added data.

RUNNER-UP: “Goldmine 4.0.” Tight-knit teams of salespeople will advance on this $169 acquaintance manager’s forecasting, telemarketing, and activity management.

– Network Associates ‘Nuts & Bolts’

Peter Norton’s acclaimed apparatus kit has met its bout in the $49 “Nuts & Bolts”. Cheaper than Norton “Utilities”, it’s a best set of capital tools, including some that Peter larboard out.

RUNNER-UP: Mijenix “Powerdesk Utilities 98.” A huge advance on Windows’ Explorer, this $40 software has what you charge to administer all your files.

– Symantec Norton AntiVirus 4.0

Okay Peter, angle appreciative again. Your $50 antivirus affairs outperformed all the added bales we activated at award and eliminating viruses. Appliance it is simple, but it comes with acceptable docs anyway.

RUNNER-UP: Inoculan “Antivirus for Windows 95.” Like “Norton AntiVirus 4.0”, this $40 app was a absolute at acclaim out bacilli and has an automatic interface.

– Peachtree ‘Complete Accounting Plus Time and Billing’

One of the best things about Peachtree’s $249 multiuser accounting amalgamation (now adaptation 6.0) is the affluence with which it lets you adapt reports. It additionally wins credibility for its time and announcement modules.

RUNNER-UP: “Quickbooks Pro.” It doesn’t accept all the accoutrement that Peachtree does, but this $199 program, advised for one user, is ideal for a home-based business.

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Admit it. You’ve chuckled at the abstraction of talking to your PC. “Open document, booty a letter, don’t accord me any lip.” And until recently, the badinage was able-bodied deserved. But “NaturallySpeaking” from Dragon Systems has angry articulation acceptance from a antic into a applicable way of interacting with your PC. It uses connected accent acceptance so you can allocution at a accustomed blow instead…of…like…this. We begin the affairs so accurate, appliance it was a bit scary–in a “2001: A Amplitude Odyssey” affectionate of way.

Mind you, an avant-garde apparatus like this isn’t cheap, nor is appliance it a airing in the park. The Deluxe adaptation costs $695. It lets you behest into about any appliance and gives you the best recognition. (More spartan versions amount $109 to $229.) To get it alive its best, you charge absorb time training the software to admit your voice. You may feel a little asinine account belief to your PC, but the affection time you absorb now will beggarly college abundance later.

– Lotus ‘Freelance Cartoon 97’

Whether for transparencies or a Web show, no amalgamation provides added advice (part of SmartSuite, or on its own for $339).

– ‘Visio 5.0’

Drag-and-drop alteration and automatic accoutrement accomplish this do-it-all the best in its class. It’s $149 for the Accepted version.

RUNNER-UP: Micrografx “Graphics Apartment 2.0.” “FlowCharter 7” is a jewel for creating diagrams. The $350 apartment additionally comes with software for the artisan in you, including “Picture Publisher” and “Simply 3D”.

– Adobe ‘PageMaker 6.5’

Adobe “PageMaker” calmly switches amid desktop publishing and online cyberbanking publishing. But accumulate in mind: With a abrupt $550 amount and a steeper acquirements curve, it’s absolutely for pros.

RUNNER-UP: Microsoft “Publisher 98.” It’s aloof $99 and advised so anyone can use it. With wizards to advice you actualize aggregate from business cards to Web pages, “Publisher 98” is best for individuals and baby businesses.

– ‘CorelDraw 8’

Corel’s $480 flagship artefact is abounding with fonts, photos, blow art, 3D cartoon software, a photo editor, and more. Adaptation 8 adds Web features, a added customizable interface, and nice wizards.

RUNNER-UP: Micrografx “Windows Draw 6.0 Premiere Edition Book Studio.” When it comes to bang-for-the-buck, this $50 draw amalgamation has no peer.

– Adobe ‘Photoshop 5.0’

The $699 Photoshop is still the best for authoritative angel magic. It works best on a able PC.

RUNNERS-UP: Adobe “Photodeluxe 2.0” and Micrografx “Photomagic 6.0.”

These powerful, easy-to-use apps amount $49 each.

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Whether or not you’re an artist, the $199 Bryce 3D is an affordable way to actualize astute scenes.

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