Review: Micron Millenia TS2

Background: My first PC … way, way back when was a Zeos. Micron bought Zeos, so my first Pentium box was a Millenia. 233 MHz … ooooo boy. But it was a super reliable machine and always seemed to perform better than it was supposed to. Years later I got a Micron P2.400 which to this day is a capable XP/Linux box. A few years ago I “inherited” a Dell P3.600 when my ate itself and have been using that since. It never had the zippy feel of my Microns, and always had weird hardware issues. So when it came time to finally upgrade, I went back to Micon.

The latest reviews ranked it #2 in speed to comparable boxes from AlienWare. The configuration I got was a 2.53GHz, 80G disk, 512M RAM, GeForce 4 TI4200, DVD-ROM, OfficeXP SBE, WinXP Home … all for around $1600.

And now, the review …

Ordering and Pricing:Ordering is done online, as with most PC makers now. You have fewer options when building a Micron than you would with Dell, but so be it. Pricewise Micron comes out maybe $200 more than a comparable Dell … more so if you factor in all the freebies that Dell piles on (CDRW upgrades, memory upgrades, etc.). But I was sick of my current Dell locking up every 5th time I put in a ZIP disk, so I was willing to pay a little more.

One interesting thing about Microns is that they have on-board NIC’s and Audio. The sound is from the Analog Devices SoundMax chip. After three years of hassling with SoundBlaster driver issues, I was more receptive to a new alternative. Also, the IDE controller supports RAID drive configurations. Pretty impressive.

After placing my order I expected delivery to be close to the day they promised at best. But at 9:30 AM on the date the machine was promised to arrive, the UPS truck showed up. Score another point for Micron.

The Machine: The TS2 comes with 6 USB ports, 2 on the front panel – a nice feature. The usual assortment of drive bays, the external ones up front have a flip-down cover panel to reduce dust.

One gripe I had about the Dell is that the drive bays were the usual nightmare to work on. The Micon has two very clever mechanical designs which make it so easy to be scary. The 5.25 drive bays have these little brackets which slip onto the sides of the drive to be added. There are pegs which insert into the screw holes of the drive. On the outside of these brackets are spring-loaded clips which mate with the bay. So to add a drive, you just fit the brackets to either side and slide it into the bay until you hear a satisfying click.

The 3.5 bays have a special set of screws (included) which then slide into grooves built to fit them. So all you do is add these screws to the far side, slide the drive in, and tighten the screw on the near side and you’re done. Compared to the usual hassles of adding drives, this was a joy.

The fan is reasonably quiet, start button is easy to reach, and overall the unit is well put together. Nothing bounding around inside.

Playing: OK … so how does this machine play? I haven’t run benchmarks as they only tell half the story. I fired up GhostRecon first and set all the sliders to high detail and 1024×768 resolution. Breathtaking. Views pan so fast it’s almost disorienting. Wading into a pile of dead tangos doesn’t phase the Micron in the least – even with shadows on. The Analog Devices sound chip sounds crisper than the SoundBlaster ever did.

Next I fired up Grand Prix Legends. 19 car grid, max detail, all the fancy car and track art. Steady 36 frames even from the back of the pack. None of the weird stutter frames either from D3D … there’s just so much horsepower to use. Cars sound great – again, the Analog Devices chip really renders crisp, clean sound.

Conclusion: All in all this is one awesome machine. I could have saved a couple of hunred bucks with a Dell or Gateway, but it was worth it to get enough speed to last me for 2 or 3 years. There’s bound to be price reductions for the holiday season, so if you’re looking for a cool new PC, I can recommend the Micron whole-heartedly.

Long Term Report – 15.April.2006

Four years later the Micron is still working fine. About a year after buying it the hard drive died, but Micron replaced it free including the overnight shipping of a new unit. I’ve added another 256Mb of memory, a spare hard drive, a DVD-RW drive, and upgraded Windows XP as needed, otherwise the system is the same as when I bought it. I runs all the Adobe/Macromedia software great and still is respectable for the current crop of games. A new video card would probably help for games – allowing them to run at 1280×1024 resultion.