AST PowerExec. (laptop computer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Troy Tucker
I've always felt that the only fair way to evaluate a laptop is to take it on the road and see how well it performs. I wasn't disappointed with the AST PowerExec.
This handsome little computer has all the features you'd expect in a top-of-the-line desktop, and it makes for a very powerful piece of carry-on luggage. The unit I reviewed, the 3/25SL Model 123/W, came equipped with a 123MB hard drive, a 25-MHz Intel 386SL processor, VGA LCD display, a 2400-bps modem, and a built-in mouse. As for software, it comes with Microsoft Windows 3.1, MS-DOS 5.0, and Smart Help online documentation.
For me, perhaps the best feature of the PowerExec is the built-in mouse. It's comfortably mounted on the computer case just below the space bar and operates in the same fashion as the one on the Apple Powerbook.
The PowerExec's intel microprocessor has a 64K CPU cache and is upgradeable. It's the first laptop in the industry that allows you to upgrade to a high-performance 486, 32-bit processor with 3-volt technology. This feature gives you added power when you need it, conserves battery life, and offers a little insurance in an ever-changing computer market.
AST has included the wonderful new PCMCIA technology in the PowerExec. PCMCIA slots work in much the same way as the ISA slots do in your desktop computer, except that instead of plugging in huge expansion cards, you use credit-card-sized ones.
Besides the two PCMCIA expansion slots, you get plenty of standard ports. There's a serial port; a parallel port; an external VGA video port; an expansion port; and a selectable port for 101-key enhanced keyboard adapter, numeric keypad, or PS/2 mouse.
The PowerExec comes standard with a 9 1/2-inch CCFT side-lit film-compensated triple-supertwist LCD VGA display. It's upgradeable to a passive- or an active-matrix color LCD display.
The PowerExec provides a significantly longer battery life than most laptops on the market. With a single 90-minute charge from the provided PowerCharge, you can use the computer from four to six hours. The nickel metal hydride battery pack, more efficient power supply, low-power components, and host of intelligent power-management features allow the PowerExec to offer exceptionally long battery life.
A powerful multifeatured notebook like the PowerExec just isn't complete without security features. AST provides several. One renders the computer completely useless if stolen. You have the ability to establish two unbreakable passwords, one for the end user and another for an MIS administrator. For added protection, there are no hidden overrides to password protection, and there are no hardware jumpers in the system to disable password protection.
Last, but certainly not least, a computer needs an excellent service program. I believe AST has a good one: AST ExeCare Plus. You get free, 48-hour repair/replace service for the first year; it costs $130 each additional year, Should something happen, all you pay is the Federal Express delivery charges required to get the computer to AST; the return postage is paid by AST
In my opinion, the AST PowerExec has everything you could ask for in a notebook computer, including an attractive list price of $2,795. You get great speed, excellent power management, security, an upgradeable architecture, and great service--and all those advantages are backed by a name that you can trust.