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September 1999


MiTAC

Industrial Corp.
42001 Christy St.
Fremont, CA 94538
Ph: 800-648-2295
Fx: 510-656-2669
Web site: www.mitacinds.com

Price: $1,681

RATINGS (0–5)
Installation: 5
Documentation: N/A
Features: 4.75
GUI: 5
Overall: A


The importance of industrial computers to the CTI industry cannot be emphasized enough. CTI applications require more reliability than regular desktop PCs can provide. Imagine your 24-hour call center with 100 agents sitting in their chairs twiddling their thumbs due to a failure in one of the CTI systems? While the costs associated with industrial computers are higher than regular PC servers, the return on investment (ROI) factor has to be considered. If a critical server goes down, valuable time and money are lost. Industrial computers help to minimize these risks, and more than pay for the extra costs associated with them. 

MiTAC Industrial Corporation addresses the industrial computer market with several products. TMC Labs examined MiTAC’s MCH-502 industrial computer, which is a 19" rackmount chassis with a unique built-in 10.4", flat-panel video display. The MCH-502 comes in various configuration flavors, including 14-slot ISA or 13-slot PCI to configurable 13-slot PICMG (7 ISA, 4 PCI, 2 PICMG slots); 14-slot PICMG (8 ISA, 4 PCI, 2 PICMG slots); or 14-slot PICMG (6 ISA, 7 PCI, 2 PICMG slots). The MCH-502 also comes in a passive backplane or motherboard configuration. We were sent the 8 ISA-, 2 PICMG-, 4 PCI-slot version with a passive backplane, along with a Pentium II, 333 MHz processor, and 64 MB of RAM.

INSTALLATION
Installing the MiTAC MCH-502 was a no-brainer. We wanted to see the “guts” of the MCH-502, so we unscrewed four screws holding the top lid on. After removing the top lid, we were impressed by the very clean design of the internal backplane and components. Since the model shipped to us did not come with a CD-ROM, we installed a CD-ROM into one of the available drive bays. We also added a network card along with some telephony cards we happened to be testing at that particular time. With eight ISA slots and four PCI slots available, we figured we’d make the most of them! As an added caveat, we also upgraded the memory, since one of the CTI products we were concurrently testing required 256 MB of RAM. After upgrading the RAM, we overwrote the original operating system — preinstalled Windows 95 — with Windows NT 4.0 Workstation. We didn’t encounter any problems with the installation, and the performance was very good.

FEATURES

  • Passive or active matrix, color, 10.4" LCD display;
  • Various 13-slot and 14-slot configurations;
  • Five disk drive bays (three accessible from the front panel);
  • Dual cooling fans with filters;
  • 19" rackmount or desktop chassis configurations;
  • Standard 300W-AC power supply, or optional, hot-swappable, redundant 230W-AC, 24V-DC, or 48V-DC power supplies;
  • Optional touch-screen LCD display;
  • Supports both Pentium II & III processors;
  • Lockable power and reset switches; and
  • Lockable keyboard port.

OPERATIONAL TESTING
One of the first features we noticed when we turned on the MCH-502 was that the unit had its own built-in LCD display. We were able manage the MCH-502 without even hooking up an external computer monitor. However, we did hook up an external 17" monitor just to see if both the LCD display and the monitor would work at the same time, which they did. Nor-mally, a hardware product doesn’t receive a graphical user interface (GUI) rating. On the other hand, most hardware products don’t have an embedded LCD display! As such, we gave the MiTAC MCH-502 a GUI rating of 5 for the useful LCD display.

We liked the lockable front-door panel, which hides an AT keyboard connector, power-on switch, dual reset swit-ches, and dual hard disk drive/power LED indicators. Locking the power switch and reset switches, as well as the keyboard port, has obvious security advantages. Another feature we liked is the adjustable hold-down clamps that help eliminate jarring and vibrations for the internal peripheral cards.

Coincidentally, CC&T Technologies, who make a WAN “cloud emulator,” sent us a competing industrial computer — which looked nearly identical to the MiTAC machine. At first glance, we thought it was a MiTAC product. Unfortunately, this competing product didn’t have hold-down clamps, as we soon discovered. When we turned on this industrial computer, which came pre-installed with Linux, the network card didn’t function properly. We soon discovered, after taking the machine apart, that the network card wasn’t seated all the way into the PCI slot. (Look for the review of this WAN emulator in the August issue of Internet Telephony´┐Ż.)

As previously mentioned, we installed Windows NT Workstation on the MiTAC server, since we were going to test other CTI products on this machine. When we attempted to upgrade the video drivers, we encountered some difficulty. First, we had no idea what kind of video card it was. Even taking the video card out and looking at the chipset only gave us the manufacturer’s name, but not the model. After searching the manufacturer’s Web site to no avail, we called MiTAC and asked them the exact model of the video card. We returned to the Web site and downloaded the latest video drivers and attempted to install them. When we went into display properties to modify the screen resolution, the slider bar would display “1 by 765435 pixels,” which was pretty freaky. We attempted several times to get the display drivers working, but after several attempts and several reboots, we were forced to switch back to VGA mode (640x480).

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Our only complaint with the system was trying to upgrade the video drivers. We were never able to successfully get the drivers installed so we could bump up the screen resolution. However, with only 1 MB of onboard memory on the video card, 800x600 may be the highest resolution. As such, we’d like to see an optional video card upgrade to support more colors and a higher resolution. We would also like to see MiTAC sell their system with Windows NT Workstation (or Server) pre-installed as an option, as well as a pre-installed network card as an option.

CONCLUSION
We were pleased with the interior design and layout, the nifty (and useful) color LCD display, as well as the expandability of the MCH-502. VARs, integrators, and developers will be very pleased with the 13- or 14-slot chassis available with MiTAC’s MCH-502. This product is ideal for high-end Internet telephony gateways requiring a high-port density, which the MCH-502 can provide. Overall, the MiTAC industrial computer exceeded TMC Labs’ stringent requirements for a good industrial computer product, and we would highly recommend it. 







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