NEC may not quite share the same spotlight as Dell when it comes to business machines, but it's been doing solid business all these years, and the latest PowerMate shows that it has enough to give the other big guns something to think about.

Based on a slew of new technologies from Intel and coming preinstalled with Windows Vista, is this the perfect upgrade to your existing stock? Well, potentially - if your needs have developed with the times.

Apart from the centrally located power button, the facia boasts a pair of USB ports and the standard microphone and headphone jacks. The rear of the PC has the usual gamut of standard connectors and ports, including four USB ports, making for a generous total of six.

NEC is pitching this PC as the next level in platform manageability - a bold claim, but one that does have some backing thanks to Intel's vPro technology.

This is a broad range of technologies that enable admins to remotely access the PC over the network to perform everything from system diagnostics to waking the machine from a sleep state to install patches. It's a powerful set of tools that could mean that less time is spent at the end users' PCs solving trivial problems, because so much can be handled remotely.

To a certain degree, we're still waiting on software that can exercise all of the features of vPro, but with compatible back-end systems. Components such as AMT (Active Management Technology) enable the creation of hardware and software filters that can alert the IT team to problems.

The ability to quarantine infected machines on the network, thus stopping malicious code spreading, is clearly going to be a boon, as is the ability to remotely boot machines and update them.

Such an environment does sound like a step towards an IT nirvana, but in order to create such a setup, you're going to need to replace all of your corporate machines, and this is where the problem of cost comes in - this is far from the cheapest box money can buy.

It is, however, far more powerful than your average corporate machine, packing components that system builders would normally eye up for more versatile entertainment PCs.

Impressively specified

At the core of the system is one of Intel's current wunderkind, the Core 2 Duo E6600, which packs 4MB of L2 cache and enough raw grunt from its two cores to handle anything a professional gamer would want, let alone an office worker. Surprisingly, given the cutting edge core, this machine only has 1GB of RAM, which isn't enough for a Vista machine, where 2GB has quickly become the norm even for laptops.

Despite this, the ML460 Pro manages to trundle along in a convincing way, thanks in no small part to the speedy 160GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 hard drive. Indeed, as an overall user experience, the PowerMate puts on an impressive show, with surprisingly smooth handling of Microsoft's demanding new OS.

The system wakes from its default sleep mode quickly, and thanks to the dual-core processor handles multitasking with consummate ease. Our only complaint on this front is that it's very loud when you first turn it on.

Unfortunately, the specification is a little less exciting on the graphics front. As with any integrated graphics solution, the Intel GMA 3000 chip inside PowerMate isn't going to set the 3D world alight. A 3Dmark 2006 score of 223 makes this an unsuitable machine for playing games, which will be applauded by IT departments. You can configure it to share 256MB of system memory if needed, although the tangible benefits from doing so are questionable.

All of this rolls in at £700, which is too much for most offices, especially when it offers more power than is needed. You can specify a less powerful core, which will appeal if your needs aren't so extreme - NEC will ship the box with chips as low as the Intel Celeron D 352. In the mid-range, you can pick up largely the same specification, but with an E6300 CPU and 512MB of RAM, for just under £500, which strikes us as a much sweeter price point.