Klonimus Notebook AT. (notebook computer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Bruce M. Bowden
The Klonimus notebook computer from QSI is an excellent example of how the portable AT is finally coming of age. To my mind, the principle attributes of a computer (for most applications) are storage capacity and speed--roughly, though not necessarily, in that order.
My review model came equipped with a 60MB hard drive, but QSI offers a wide range of hard drive capacities, from 20MB to 120MB. A minimum of 2MB of RAM can be expanded to 4MB, 6MB, or 8MB. The built-in single 3-1/2-inch floppy drive adds another 1.4MB with each disk you use. The microprocessor is a quick 16- or 20-MHz 80386SX or a 25-MHZ 386SL, depending upon your requirements. (The 386SL microprocessor is faster and uses less power. Consequently, it costs a bit more.)
Following closely behind storage and speed is graphics capability--a realm of personal computing that's taken on a life of its own since the early monochrome text days. Klonimus provides an outstanding VGA display. It isn't color--that's not yet a common feature of the notebooks--but the triple-supertwist illuminated LCD display has true black-on-white contrast. VGA color emulation is done by utilizing 64 shades of gray--a very sharp and adequate emulation in most cases. The maximum screen resolution is 640 x 480 pixels.
For ease of use, the cover upon which the screen is mounted can be tilted by as much as 135 degrees from its closed position, and friction-retarded hinges allow it to be set at any convenient angle within that range. Of course, the backlighting can be timed to go off at a convenient interval and there are brightness and contrast controls. But here's the bonus: If an LCD display isn't to your liking, and there's a VGA monitor available, a handy video port on the side will accept a VGA plug so that you can enjoy complete color capability.
The keyboard is a largely well-designed one with an 83-key format. My standard of good design is how well a small keyboard approximates the omnipresent 101-key variety. One thing that almost always annoys me when using a notebook keyboard is that the placement of keys is so often confused. Distance isn't usually a problem, or even that the numeric keypad is missing--I don't use a keypad much because different software makes different use of it. But I begin throwing fits if the cursor keys aren't to the lower right in an inverted-T formation, or if the Page Up and Page Down keys aren't on top of one another, or if the Esc key isn't in the upper left, and so on. These keys are too frequently used to be placed arbitrarily.
Fortunately, the Klonimus does pretty well in this regard. The inverted-T cursor layout is there, and the Page keys and Esc key are fine. Problems occur when you try to find the Ctrl key on the lower left and you press the Alt key instead (this can be catastrophic with certain software). Then, when you go for the Alt key on the left of the space bar, you find that a special function key for the keypad simulation occupies that spot. But even this doesn't worry me. The reason I'm placid is bonus feature number 2: A standard 101 keyboard can be plugged into the port provided on the right side of the unit. (It's the smaller mini-DIN variety of plug, but an adaptor is included for larger connectors.) When both a keyboard and color VGA monitor are hooked up, you have a nice AT with a very small footprint!
So how small and light is the Klonimus? It's conveniently small: 4 inches high x 12 inches wide x 9-1/4 inches deep. It's also conveniently light at 7 pounds. A not insignificant part of that weight is contributed by the two nickel-cadmium batteries which slide into place below the screen, with an easily accessible slider release for each just in front of them and back from the keyboard. The two batteries combined are estimated to last six hours between recharges, but I've found that something a little over four hours is a more realistic expectation when the computer is regularly used with moderate floppy-drive access.
The power switch, slightly indented on the left side, can be a bit of a problem, since that's where my finger tends to go when I move the unit. Convenience, however, often has its price.
The ports include a 30-pin connector for an expansion pack (providing an external floppy drive and a COM2 port), a 68-pin bus connector for various function packs (modem, fax/modem, fax/scanner, Ethernet pack, and IBM 3270 emulation pack), a parallel printer port (25-pin standard female), and a serial port (9-pin male).
To round off its features, QSI's Klonimus also comes with an attractive and functional travel bag full of compartments for floppies, pens, and papers. Hardly a crucial feature, I know, but a nice touch to accompany a solid machine.