NCR 3150. (notebook computer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Clifton Karnes
Two years ago, NCR established itself as an important player in the notebook market with the Safari 3170. This year, it's introduced another major machine - the 3150 notebook.
The 3150 is sleek, light, and fast. It's powered by a 25-MHz 486SX processor, and has a 9.5-inch screen, local-bus video, PCMCIA Type 2 slot, a 1.44MB floppy drive, and external trackball. The 3150 also comes with 4MB of RAM (upgradeable to 20MB), and a removable hard disk of 80-170MB, capacity. Video options include monochrome, passivematrix color, and active-matrix color. The monochrome and passive matrix displays can be upgraded to active matrix.
The review unit I tested featured active-matrix LCD, an 80MB hard disk (too small for a machine of this caliber), and 4MB of RAM.
Looking at the outside of the 3150 you'll find a sturdy, attractive case that's dark brown with putty details. Open the case and you'll see these same colors repeated with turquoise accents on important keys. Status information is provide by small LEDs directly under the display.
The 3170's keyboard is very good for a notebook. The layout is nearly fullsized, with an inverted T to cursor keys. There are also dedicated Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End keys, all of which are a plus.
As I mentioned above, there's a trackball which you can attach to the front of the machine. When I use a trackball, I prefer it to be on the side of the computer, and I found this front position to be awkward.
If you don't want to use the trackball, however, you can configure the cursor keys to do double-duty for mouse movement. I found this arrangement to work very well in Windows, but the key combination you have to use to switch back and forth between cursor and mouse takes some getting used to.
The 3150's active matrix screen is excellent,: It's one of the best color displays I've seen on a notebook. The colors are sharp and saturated, and it's a joy to use.
This machine was built to run Windows and it shows. With the 486 processor and local bus video, Windows really moves. If you're used to laptops being sluggish with Windows, you'll really be surprised with the 3150.
The 3150 can use either nickel hydride (NiMH) or nickel cadmium (NiCAD) batteries. The computer senses which type of battery is attached, and batteries can be changed while the computer is on. Power-saving features are everywhere in this machine, but battery life is still about two hours for the color model.
The cost for the 3150 varies according to the screen and hard disk options, but prices range from $1,995 for the monochrome model with a 80MB hard drive to $3,805 for an active-matrix color model with a 170MB hard drive.
The 3150 is well-deigned, well-built, fast, and stylish. With a removable hard drive, PCMCIA slot, upradeable video, it's also modular and easy to enhance. You may pay more for this machine than a mail-order clone, but it might just be worth the investment.