Sanyo MBC-775; transportable RGB color. (evaluation) Russ Lockwood.
Given the choice, most people select color graphics over monochrome graphics. Color certainly enhances bar graphs and pie charts and brightens up educational and entertainment software. Until recently, however, those for whom transportability was an important factor in their choice of a computer were limited to monochrome displays. The trade-off was clear: pulchritude or portability. But color lovers need trade no longer. Last month we told you about the ISM Express; here we take a close look at the Sanyo MBC-775, a transportable that packs a 9" RGB monitor. Instead of the standard 4.77 MHz 8088 microprocessor found in most IBM PC compatibles, Sanyo uses 8088-2, a turbocharged version operating at a fast 8 MHz. What is the difference in speed? Take a look at the results of Ahl's Simple Benchmark Test. (For a complete description of the test, see the July 1984 issue of Creative Computing.)
the MBC-775 comes with 256K RAM expandable to 640K ROM, and 16K of video RAM. It includes two 360K 5.25" floppy drives, a built-in Centronics parallel port, and two expansion slots. These slots accept third-party expansion boards, but you must use the faster 120 nanosecond (ns) memory chips rather than the standard 200 ns chips.
The MBC-775 supports a numeric co-processor. However, just as you need faster memory chips to work with the faster clock speed of the 8088-2 microprocessor, you must also use the faster 8087-2 numeric co-processor rather than the standard 8087 chip.
The built-in 9" RGB color monitor shows up to 16 colors and provides a fine display. Text resolution is 25 lines of 80 characters, and graphics resolution is 320 X 200 pixels in four colors and 640 X 200 pixesl in two colors (black and white). Sanyo uses the standard 256-character IBM character set.
Sanyo thoughtfully places the on/off switch and the sliding monitor brightness switch on the front of the machine. The keyboard plugs into the front of the unit, providing excellent keyboard mobilit and user comfort.
The keyboard has excellent tactile and aural feedback. It mimics the IBM PC keyboard with two pleasant exceptions. It places LEDs on the Num lock and Caps Lock keys and includes an Enter key on the numeric keypad.
Sanyo bundles MS-DOS 2.11, GW Basic, and three software packages--Easy Writer II word processor system with EasyMailer II mail merge, EasyPlanner spreadsheet, and EasyFiler file management system--with the MBC-775. Thus, the MBC-775 is a functioning system right out of the box. Note that these programs were ported from the Sanyo MBC-550/555 computer. In fact, the "Read This First" section of the User's Guide notes "disk labeled MBC-550 series software can be used on the MBC-775."
Thus, when you talk about software compatibility, you are not really talking about IBM PC compatibility. The Sanyo MBC-775 should run just about everything that runs on the MBC-550 series. But when it comes to IBM PC software, you had best remember our repetitious, but important, line: try out the software you intent to use before you buy the hardware.
The de facto tests of IBM PC compatibility are Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Flight Simulator. The result of our tests was a 50-50 split. Lotus 1-2-3 version 1A ran, but Flight Simulator did not. We then tried a variety of business, education, entertainment, and utility programs, and about half worked and half did not. In some cases, you can hear the programs running, but without video. Save yourself some frustration: try before you buy.
The MBC-775 retails for an attractive $2599 and includes the following: software, 256K RAM, 9" built-in RGB color monitor, graphics board, one parallel port, and two floppy drives.
Color To Go Or Stay?
The Sanyo MBC-775 is a fine computer. It offers a fast microprocessor, features a built-in RGB color monitor, bundles the three major types of software, provides the transportability that many professionals need, and does it all for a very nice price. In short, it is a complete, competitively-priced system.
With all these good points, is there anything bad about the machine? Not really, but you should consider two points before you rush out to buy it.
The first is weight. At 43.1 pounds, carrying the MBC-775 will get you in shape for the world arm wrestling championships, ambidextrous division. We predict that you will be switching carrying arms every 25 yards.
The second is IBM PC compatibility. Our tests indicate that the MBC-775 runs roughly 50% of the off-the-shelf PC software. If you intend the computer as a stand-alone unit with the supplied software, this should not bother you. However, if you intend to exchange data and programs with IBM PC and compatible computers, you should definitely try your software on the MBC-775 before you buy.
If transportable RGB color appeals to you, then by all means take a good look at the MBC-775. It is a solidly constructed, backed by a major manufacturer, and comes with everything you need to get up and running right out of the box.
Products: Sanyo MBC-775 (computer)