Smith Corona Acer PC 110/286. (Evaluation)
by Joyce Sides
Although Tandy introduced ROM-based applications in personal computers early on, the concept remains fairly fresh. When the Smith Corona Acer PC 110/286 boots up, it offers you instant access to Smith Corona Word Processing 6.0 and a Desktop Reference with a spelling checker, thesaurus, calculator/converters, calendar/scheduler, and other interesting features. Still other menu options include a DOS shell and system hardware information. All these ROM-resident applications obviate the need to swap disks back and forth in the disk drive. ROM-based programs also run faster than their floppy versions since they access memory and not a comparatively slow disk drive.
>From box to desktop, this machine's trouble-free. The Getting Started user's guide provides easy-to-understand text and clear illustrations.
Sometimes small footprint systems run hot because of a lack of ventilation, but the Acer Pc 110's case offers adequate ventilation along both sides. The fan runs so quietly you'll hardly notice its presence.
After almost standing on my head to get inside the unit (I finally read the appropriate section in the manual to find out how to remove the system case. It's embarrassingly simple once you know the trick.), I found that the layout offers easy access to the two open 16-bit expansion slots and the memory chips. Expansion from the standards 640K to 2MB won't prove difficult.
This sytem doesn't include a hard drive, but you can add one later since the motherboard comes with a hard drive controller. The on/off and reset buttons are conveniently located on the front of the system.
The flicker-free 14-inch high-resolution VGA monitor causes little eystrain and comes with a removable tilt-and-swivel base. All monitor controls reside near the front of the unit. Users who like the solid click of a typewriter will ike this 101-key AT-style keyboard with its row of function keys located along the top.
The Acer PC 110/286 ran all the games and applications I tried. I felt limited in the type of applications I could run because the system doesn't have a hard drive. Programs such as Lotus 1-2-3, Express Publisher, and Avagio take up as many as four or five disks, and disk swaps won't do for anyone who expects PCs to make life easier, not more tedious. The optional hard drive, in spite of the clever ROM-resident software, is actually a must. i would suggest that a user who already knows how to use DOS commands and how to run applications move up to the Acer PC 120, since it comes with a 40MB hard drive.
Of the ROM-based applications, the word processor proves most useful. Although not Microsoft Word by a longshot, this Acer homebody sports blazing fast access to the online dictionary and thesaurus, prints evenlopes and labels, performs address merges, and has all the basic text-manipulation features anyone could want. Multipage documents, however, can cause a few problems since this word processor lacks automatic pagination. Once a document runs longer than one page, you must use the Alt-F9 command to reformat and place end-of-page markers--not hard, just inconvenient.
The word processing User's Guide offers clear illustrations and easy-to-understand text. In fact, it holds your hand. The table of contents is well developed and accurate, and the index is adequate. There's even a chapter on Problem-Solving Tips that includes two toll-free technical support numbers.
An on-disk tutorial explains computer basics to novice users. This nuts-and-bolts how-to provides you with graphic descriptions of the parts of a computer, information on how to care for your system and disks, and tips on putting your computer to work. You'll find out more about MS-DOS by learning some DOS terms and commands and also by learning how to use the DOS shell provided with the system.
With helpful and friendly personnel, the toll-free customer service and technical support numbers can put your system back online when you encounter problems you can't fix youself. Even with a one-year limited warrantly, you can receive on-site service for major problems. That service covers the 48 contiguous United States, Puerto Rico, Hawaii (Oahu), and major Canadian cities.
Not the most inexpensive unit at $1,299, the Acer ranks near the top when you want a cooperative and ready-to-go machine. If this were a cake mix, you'd just add water. Of course, experienced users should probably look elsewhere for the system of their dreams, but beginners might give the Acer some of the attention it deserves.