DEC 433DX LP. (microcomputer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Joyce Sides
Deciding which computer system to buy can be difficult. In most cases, once a business commits itself to a specific product, it must stick with it. That's one reason DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) has targeted businesses for its new family of PCs. The upgradable DEC 433DX LP, based on Intel's 33-MHz 486DX processor, can be used for demanding desktop business as well as for technical applications.
How difficult is it to set up the DEC 433DX? The system comes with DOS 5.0 and Windows installed. First, I checked the user's guide for anything unusual. Then, I plugged in the appropriate cables and power cord and turned on the system.
The easy-to-understand Getting Started handbook provides all the necessary information, as well as helpful illustrations for inexperienced users. You also get the DEC 300/400 LP Series User's Guide, the MS-DOS 5.0 User's Guide and Reference, and an operations manual for QAPlus, an advanced system diagnostics software package.
I ran a variety of applications to check the system's compatibility, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint for Windows, Picture Wizard, the Windows and DOS versions of Express Publisher, a couple of DOS shareware programs, and several other commercial programs. I found no incompatibilities.
To remove the system cover, I had to unlock the safety lock on the back of the unit with the key provided. The cover is easy to remove. I found it hard to reach the system battery, but it seldom needs replacement, fortunately.
This 33-MHz system includes a DEC two-button mouse, one parallel and two serial ports, two floppy and two hard drive controllers, a Super VGA video adapter integrated with the system board, and three open expansion slots.
Vents along one side of the unit should be adequate to keep the system's power supply from overheating. You'll probably find the fan noise barely noticeable.
Easy access to reset and on/off buttons is essential. You can find both of these buttons on the front of the DEC 433DX.
You can get a 66-MHz upgrade for the DEC 433DX, and it's easily installed thanks to DEC's ZIF (Zero Insertion Force) slot. The 486DX includes a coprocessor in the CPU chip, but DEC accommodates a separate coprocessor to aid the computer in CAD-CAM operations.
It's easy to access the unit's 4MB of SIMM RAM chips. The standard amount of DRAM can be increased to 64MB using the four SIMMs sockets. The DEC 433DX requires SIMMs with an access time of 70 ns or faster.
The price of the DEC 433DX doesn't include a monitor. Several are available, including monochrome or color VGA ranging from the basic 640 x 480 to a multisync 1024 x 768 noninterlaced model.
No surprises come with the DEC 433DX keyboard. It features a standard layout with soft-click keys and function keys along the top.
The one-year on-site warranty is comparable to those found with a lot of other systems and is better than some. The company offers a toll-free customer and technical support hot line and a consulting center.
I found the DEC 433DX to be a solid, dependable, easy-to-use system. Businesses looking for an upgradable, modular (80 percent of the components are common to the other DEC PC family members), and network-ready system would be advised to check this one out.