PC Positive 2100-2. (microcomputer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Robert Bixby
The first hurdle that mass-market computer makers face is putting together a computer that does virtually everything for the newcomer at the flick of a switch.
The second hurdle is the fact that a new user becomes an expert so quickly. Sometimes it's only a year before the work that needs doing has outgrown the tool.
Positive clears these hurdles handily with its line of computers. When you get the computer home, unpack it, and attach the monitor, keyboard, and power cables, a flick of the front-panel power switch boots up the machine and takes you right into Windows, where you have instant access to all the tools most people will ever need.
Windows opens with all the program groups tiled. Just by double-clicking on the appropriate icon, you can access Microsoft Works, Win-FAX, and a productivity suite including Quick Troubleshooter, Learning Windows, and Working Smarter These are in addition to the standard collection of Windows utilities and accessories.
PC Positive computers are easy to customize. The drives slide right out, and the memory chips are SIMMs (they snap in). But the most intriguing aspect of these computers is that you can upgrade the CPU. That's right--you can. The CPU (located inside a sheetmetal cage) can be removed and replaced with no more difficulty than changing floppies. You can upgrade your machine from a 386 to a 486 in five seconds or less. The expansion bus is a standard 16-bit AT-style bus. As long as that remains standard, the PC Positive won't become obsolete.
If you opt to install the CD-ROM, you'll also receive Software Toolworks World Atlas, Software Toolworks Illustrated Encyclopedia, Software Toolworks CD Game Pack II (ten games including chess, checkers, backgammon, cribbage, and gin), and Mammals. These are all DOS-based programs, although the encyclopedia and Mammals are multimedia to a limited degree, providing sound and still pictures.
There are three basic ranges of PC Positive computers. The 1100-2 ($1,300) features 4MB RAM, a 105MB hard disk, 5 1/4- and 3 1/2-inch drives, and a 9600-/2400-bps fax/modem. The PC 2100-2 ($1,800) features 8MB RAM, a 170MB hard disk, and a 9600-/2400-bps fax/modem. All of the configurations feature Super VGA (1024 x 768 resolution monitor and 512K card), 101-key keyboard, Logitech serial mouse, and six available expansion slots. The PC 3000-2 ($1,900) features 4MB RAM, a 105MB hard disk, an installed sound card, and a CD-ROM drive for MPC operation.
When you've selected your basic computer configuration, you then choose the processor that will drive it. Prices are subject to change, but to give an idea of the relative prices, as this is being written, the processors cost $199 for a 386SX-25, $249 for a 386SX-25 with a 32K cache, $599 for a 386DX-40, $499 for a 486SX-25, $999 for a 486DX-33, and $1,499 for a 486DX-50. If you decide to upgrade, Positive has a trade-in policy. Adding an internal CD-ROM drive to the system adds only $450 to the price.
PC Positives are marketed through warehouse clubs. If a machine that matches your needs is in stock, you can pick it up and walk out with it, or you can order a computer through the club, and it will be delivered to you.
I had some trouble with the computer initially and used the opportunity to check out Positive's technical support. While on the telephone with technical support, I tried several techniques for dealing with the problem, including going through the setup and reformatting the hard drive. Technical support seemed well qualified and helpful, but unfortunately, we were unable to trace the problem. At that point, had I been a consumer, I would've returned the unit for a replacement. Being a tinkerer, however, I decided to dig into the guts of the computer, discovered the problem, and fixed it. Once it was put back in place, the computer performed flawlessly. The hesitation to get the consumer into the computer box is in keeping with the company's overall approach. It would prefer to perform or arrange for technicians to perform any installation or repair inside the computer itself.
All of the software (except that on the CD-ROMs) is preloaded on the hard disk. The setup instructions advise the new user to back up the entire hard disk immediately to prevent data loss. But as a seasoned user, I don't want just the DOS and Windows manuals provided. I want the disks, too.
>From my first introduction to the PC Positive, I saw that it had two definite advantages in the mass market: immediate usability even for novices and instant upgradability when novices become power users. ROBERT BIXBY
PC Positive 2100-2-$1,800 POSITIVE 405 Science Dr. Moorpark, CA 93021 (800) 452-6345
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