Sharp PC-6220. (notebook computer) (evaluation)
by Bruce M. Bowden
Sharp's PC-6220 is a compact and, on the whole, well-designed computer for its small size (11 x 8 x 1.5 inches). This 80C286 notebook computer runs at 12MHz and comes equipped with a full megabyte of memory. Its durable exterior and light weight (4.4 pounds without the optional floppy drive) should make this machine an attractive option in the world of portable computing.
Frequent travelers will appreciate not having to carry around any more pounds than necessary. Once you've loaded your hard drive with the software you use, you don't really need to lug the optional 3 1/2-inch plug-in floppy drive. If you don't care to invest in the external drive, a ROM version of Traveling Software's LapLink software and the supplied cables will let you make transfers between this notebook and your desktop computer. Laplink works fine, though, and in no time I was transferring my favorite word processor, graphics, entertainment, and other software to the 6220's hard drive.
The system's port covers must be detached and stand a good chance of getting lost (a storage hatch for these little guys would be a nice feature). And the screencover is stiff and difficult to place at just the right angle. It would've helped if a demonstration program or at least some modest utilities had been included either in ROM or on the 20MB hard drive. When you consider the power that has been packed into such a small package, however, a lot can be forgiven.
Though the 6220 is as powerful as a desktop AT, it shares with many other notebooks the limitations of a 20MB hard drive. There are limitations on the number of powerful applications you can use. For instance, Microsoft C 6.0 with all the associated utilities takes up at least 3MB of storage, as does GeoWorks Ensemble, while WordPerfect 5.1 and Windows 3.0 take at least 6MB each.
An informal test of processing speed, using a few of my own calculation-intensive routines and comparing completion time on other AT-compatibles, showed that the 6220 compared remarkably well. If you add a coprocessor in the notebook's 80C287 socket, you can expect even better performance. You have the option of increasing the system memory, which will also boost performance. Memory can be increased to two or three megabytes through the purchase of optional 1MB RAM cards.
You can set the liquid crystal display for CGA, EGA, and MDA emulation, as well as the default VGA. And a Hercules option exists for an external monitor. The 6220 does a pretty good job of displaying graphic images in 16 shades of gray. I tested several compatible images with the same resolution and found reasonable faithfulness. The next test involved running a few graphic-intensive games. Games, as programmers and game players were early to discover, challenge computer abilities like no other software. In fact, the games I tried worked surprisingly well. The persistent problem with any LCD screen continues to be the slow liquid crystal response times--if the image on the screen is changing rapidly, there's a blurred, shadowy effect because liquid crystals, rather than being strictly on or off, show an obvious range of activation. An optional adapter for CRT output, to either a multisync or VGA monitor, makes the 6220 more convenient for desktop use. The same is true of the separately sold numeric keypad and expansion unit. The expansion box will provide power and peripheral connectivity while furnishing two expansion slots.
The nickel-cadmium battery supplied with the 6220, after its initial two-hour charge and with only limited hard drive access, goes for about an hour and a half before a warning beeper informs you that there's only about ten minutes of power remaining. If you don't save what must be saved within that ten minutes, it will be lost. The AC adapter, included, either doesn't recharge the battery when the computer is being used or does so very slowly. Either way, if you need to get the 6220 back on the road again soon, you must switch it off and wait for the battery to recharge. An optional battery pack, which plugs into the back of the unit, is available, and according to the manufacturer, it will extend battery-usage time an additional three hours.
I also experienced difficulty installing the battery pack, a problem which I attribute to the machine's overall compact design--sometimes a little extra space is welcome. Because the battery slot is barely larger than the battery, the connector wires can easily get in the way during battery insertion. I orked and worked to get the battery pack neatly seated without deforming the case or mashing the wires; every possible permutation was (gingerly) tried. At last I had the battery and the wires in place, but the battery cover remained misshapen on the underside of the unit throughout the review process.
Except for its hefty price tag, I would n9ot hesitate to recommend Sharp's PC-6220 notebook computer. In two weeks of heavy use, it performed flawlessly. And what liberty when your AT is no more difficult to lug about than a common book!