Laser Pal 286. (evaluation)
by Joyce Sides
800 N. Church St
Lake Zurich, IL ON47
CpU Typg. 80286; CPU Speed: 12 MHz
Conventional Memory: 640K; Extended
Ports: 2 serial, 1 parallel, 1 mouse, 1 game
Drives: 5 1/4-inch 1.2MB floppy, 3 1/2-inch
1.44MB floppy, 42MB hard
Video Modes: text, CGA, EGA, VGA
List Price: $1,995.00
Street Price: 1,416.58*
I shamefully admit that my first impression of this small-footprint system was less than favorable. I never thought a machine this small could ever compete with the 386SX I use every day at work.
Surprised that I had the system up and running in less than ten minutes, I decided to keep an open mind. (I recommend that amateurs follow the instructions in the Quick Start Guide or watch the installation videotape provided before they hook up any cables.)
As I found out and as the name implies, the Pal is user-friendly. The 40MB hard drive formatted with DOS 4.01 comes installed with GeoWorks Ensemble and Prodigy. A few nonessential but appreciated extras include a 2400-baud Hayes-compatible modem, a high-resolution VGA monitor with a tilt-swivel stand, and a 15-pin game port.
Additional hardware includes dual disk drives, IMB of memory, a parallel port, a Microsoft-compatible mouse, and an enhanced keyboard with 102 keys-firm but not stiff. That adds up to a lot of punch for a computer that measures no more than 14 inches square and 5 inches high.
You can easily expand the Pal's memory to four megabytes if the one megabyte of installed RAM isn't enough. The hardware reference guide discusses the type of RAM you should purchase, and it gives complete instructions on where and how to install the RAM modules.
There's no math coprocessor, but one can easily be installed in the available socket. Installation instructions are in the hardware reference. The four AA alkaline batteries are easily accessible when it's time to replace them. Of the four horizontally placed card slots, two are open for simple installation of any additional cards.
The system runs at either 8 or 12 MHz, and you can set the speed easily with the turbo button. The current speed appears in an LCD display located on the front of the system above the turbo key. The reset button and the keyboard lock key are also easily accessible on the front of the system.
Hardware isn't the only surprise included with the Pal. A free month's service is offered for Prodigy, a well-known online service. The Prodigy software, a hardware reference book, an MS-DOS manual, and a GeoWorks Ensemble manual are also included.
If the Pal has an Achilles heel, it's the cooling system. The cooling vents are located on the top rear of the CPU box. If you place the monitor on top of the unit and cover the cooling vents, you risk overheating the system. Since the monitor's base is almost as large as the computer, it would be easy for this to go unnoticed.
It's true that a single computer can't be all things to all people, but if if you're looking for a reliable and full-featured system, the LASER Pal 286 can fill the bill. As a matter of fact, I keep hinting to my superiors that I'd like to keep the Pal for all the hard work I do around here, but I don't think they're getting the message.
COMPUTE Application Indexes
Since the Test Lab section is designed to give you the best information about how systems will perform when you take them home or to your office, we performed a set of tests involving commonly used applications.
The timings indicate how long it took a particular computer to reindex a database, sort a database, perform a search and replace in a word processor, and recalculate a spreadsheet.