Tandy 2810 HD. (laptop computer) (includes related article) (evaluation)
by Tom Netsel
Versatile and packed with features, the Tandy 2810 HD laptop computer offers enough features to meet most of your computing needs, even if you're accustomed to working with a desktop. You get 1MB of RAM (expandable to 5MB), a 20MB hard drive, and a 3 1/2-inch 1.44MB floppy drive. The computer operates at 16 MHz and has a socket for an optional math coprocessor.
The 2810's 84-key keyboard has full 101-key emulation and allows for some customization. If you don't like where the Ctrl and CapsLock keys are located, you have the option of physically reversing their positions. Smartly laid out, the keys have a good solid feel to them.
Other keys on the 2810 initiate battery power conservation. These place the computer in standby mode, toggle the speed between 16 MHz and 8 MHz, disable the speaker, switch from the internal screen to an external monitor, turn off the serial ports, and more.
In most working environments, I never noticed the small amount of noise generated by the 2810's disk drive. On the rare occasions I was able to use the laptop at home in my library-quiet den, I found the noise distracting. No problem; press a key, and the drive shuts off until needed. You can also configure the computer to shut off the drive and/or display after a certain period of inactivity. This saves battery power, too.
The 2810 warns you when the batteries need recharging, giving you ample time to save any work in progress. If they should fail while you're working, however, the Resume feature remembers what's in memory when the machine runs out of power. When you turn the power on again, the program reappears, and you continue where you left off.
To add a printer and a mouse to the 2810, just plug the appropriate cables into the computer's parallel and serial ports. You can just as easily connect a VGA monitor and a full-size external keyboard via the built-in monitor and keyboard ports. This makes the 2810 a convenient backup for your desktop computer.
The 2810's VGA LCD screen with fluorescent backlighting has a three-position brightness switch and a sliding contrast control bar allowing for readability in a wide range of lighting conditions. A key combination lets you further vary the contrast of characters and background; you can even reverse the display entirely.
As with all Tandy computers, the 2810 comes equipped with the DeskMate graphics-oriented interface and application software. These applications include a word processor, drawing program, spreadsheet, calendar, address book, filer, and telecommunications program.
Other manuals should emulate Tandy's User's Guide. Written for the 2810, it isn't meant to cover 57 other models or configurations. The introduction guides you through the basics, explains the different keys and setup options, and explains many useful MS-DOS commands. A separate manual guides you through DeskMate and its applications.
Setting up a new computer is always challenging, but Tandy's manual removes much of the confusion that comes from working with a new system. The manual explains the different parameters and what they do; then it explains your options. For example, the time and date functions are fairly simple to understand, but do you know if you want to enable or disable the serial ports, FDC STandby, Standby Timeout, or VRAM Timeout? After a quick glance through the slim but thorough manual, you'll have no doubt about what these functions do and how you want them configured.
Adding extra memory cards and allocating memory are also carefully explained. The 2810 has 1MB installed with 640K of conventional memory and 384K of extended or shadow RAM. Available slots leave room for an additional 4MB of RAM. Depending on the requirements of the operating system and the software you run, you can configure additional memory either as expanded or extended. Some configurations require minimum allocations for shadow RAM and a software driver installed in a CONFIG.SYS file. Once again, you'll find this information clearly spelled out in the manual.
A solid performer, the Tandy 2810 HD will keep pace with advanced users but, thanks to clear documentation, won't overwhelm a beginner. With 1MB of RAM, a high-density disk drive, a 20MB hard drive, a VGA display, bundled software, and solid workmanship in an attractive package, this laptop is ready to go to work for you in a big way.