DataStor. (486-based microcomputer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by J. Blake Lambert
If you're still struggling along in Windows with a 386 standard-bus machine, you may wonder if a 486 VESA system might help. The answer is definitely. Compared with a 386-40 8MB ISA machine, the DataStor 486 DX2-66 ran four times faster in a benchmark that was designed to predict PC performance with word-processing, spreadsheet, and draw and paint programs.
This DataStor system has 8MB of RAM (eight 1MB x 9 SIMMs) that are expandable to 32MB, a 245MB 15-ms Maxtor hard drive, a sound card, a CD-ROM drive, two VESA local-bus slots (one free), four 16-bit slots (three free), 5 1/4- and 3 1/2-inch floppy drives, and 256K of cache memory. It uses the AMI BIOS.
The Toshiba XM-3401B internal dual-spin SCSI-11 CD-ROM drive, both single- and multisession Photo CD-compatible, is plenty fast, but it requires disk caddies--perhaps more reliable but less convenient. Its front panel includes a headphone jack, volume control, busy light, and eject button.
Supplying the video is an STB PowerGraph VL-24 S3-based VESA Windows accelerator card with 1MB of RAM. It's quick and steady, supporting 1024 x 768 256-color 70-Hz noninterlaced mode for reduced flicker and image bounce. Maximum resolution is 1280 x 1024 with 16 colors, the greatest color depth is 16.7 million at 640 x 480, and the highest test resolution is 132 x 50 at 16 colors.
The 14-inch nonglare Super VGA Philips monitor with 0.28-mm dot pitch is capable of a wide range of non-interlaced and interlaced modes. Not only do you have the usual controls, but you can also patch the output of your sound card into the back of the monitor and conveniently use the headphone jack and volume control on the monitor's front panel. (Headphones and cables are included.)
The system's Sound Galaxy NX Pro 16 stereo sound card, with standard ports and a SCSI CD-ROM drive interface, supports Sound Blaster Pro II, Ad Lib, Windows Sound System, COVOX Speech Thing, and Disney Sound Source. Digital playback and FM synthesized sounds are good, and you can also upgrade to 16-bit PCM wave-table synthesis for sampled instrument sounds.
Sound software includes utilities for mixing sound, playing audio CDs, playing MIDI/WAV/VOC files, and converting text to speech; a Windows OLE utility for creating voice annotations; and a Windows audio program that works somewhat like a home stereo.
A great 101-key tactileclick keyboard and a Logitech serial mouse round out this DataStor system nicely. Two serial ports, one 9-pin and one 25-pin (neither has a 16550 buffered UART); a parallel port; and a game port are all drawn off the motherboard.
There are three 5 1/4-inch and two 3 1/2-inch bays and a 230-watt power supply. Access to the inside of the computer is easy, layout is uncluttered, and the processor and SIMM sockets are easy to reach.
Laser Resources' CD-ROM Library for DOS, bundled with the 486-66, includes Software Toolworks' Multimedia Encyclopedia 5.0, World Atlas 3.0, U.S. Atlas 3.0, and Reference Library (which includes a spelling checker, thesaurus, dictionary, quotations source, concise writing guide, and more). And you get a pretty decent assortment of DOS games with this system: Chessmaster 2100, Beyond the Black Hole, Lucas Arts' Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, Life & Death (a medical game), Gin King, Cribbage King, Backgammon, Robot Tank, Loopz, and Puzzle Gallery at the Carnival.
DataStor supplies and installs both DOS and Windows and also includes HSC InterActive, a multimedia-authoring system.
If you're thinking of upgrading and can't spring for a Pentium, a 486-66 VESA system with at least 8MB of RAM might be a good choice. DataStor certainly makes a nice one.
Data Storage Marketing
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