Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 7 / JULY 1985 / PAGE 25

Kaypro 286i; the first PC AT compatible. (evaluation) Russ Lockwood.

Kaypro 286i

Hardware Profile

Name: Kaypro 286i Type: Desktop computer CPU: 16-bit 80286, 6 MHz.

RAM: 512K (addresses up to 15Mb) Keyboard: Detachable, 84 keys, slant adjustable

Display: 80 X 25 characters; 320 X 200 pixels (four colors) Disk Drives: Two 1.2Mb, 5.25 floppy drives

Ports: One RS-232C serial and two parallel; NTSC and RGB on graphics board

Dimensions: System unit: 20.7 X 15.3 X 6.4 ; Keyboard: 17.7 X 7.7 X 1.7 ; Display: 15.2 X 13.7 X 12.5

Operating System: MS-DOS Documentation: Bound applications guides

Summary: The first delivered IBM PC AT compatible offers excellent performance. The lower price and extras that IBM left out provide a big inducement to MIS/DP managers and upscale professionals

Price: 512K, graphics board, and two floppy drives $4500; RGB color monitor adds $595

Manufacturer: Kaypro 533 Stevens Ave. Solana Beach, CA92075 (619) 481-4356

When IBM introduced the PC back in August of 1981, the company whipped the personal computer industry into a frenzy. Demand, and hence sales, spread like fall-out after a nuclear explosion as the market went 8088 and MS-DOS mad. PC clones, followed closely by third-party peripherals, burst on the market with equal fury. Even though 90% of IBM's revenue still came from mainframe and minicomputer sales, the PC held the spotlight.

Three years later, after the ho-hum XT and ill-fated PCjr, IBM introduced the powerful AT (a full review appears in the December 1984 issue). As the first sales figures trickle in, it appears that demand for the AT is soaring. Hard disk failures aside, the AT looks like another big winner for IBM.

Which brings us to the current case of market deja vu. Industry observers expect a dozen AT clones to appear before 1985 closes. So far, four companies have announced them: Kaypro, Texas Instruments, Compaq, and Tiger. Ironically, Kaypro, one of the last to introduce a PC compatible, is the first to deliver an AT compatible--the 286i.

i, i, Sir

The "i' stands for impressive. The dark gray exterior, not to mention the large footprint of the system unit, make it look imposing. Indeed, it consumes desk space, but the speed and power of the machine more than compensate for the size.

Like the AT, the 286i consists of three components: a display, a detachable keyboard, and a system unit housing the cpu, disk drives, and electronic wonders of the system.

The heart of the 286i is the 80286 microprocessor operating at 6MHz. This speed demon is supposed to run three times faster than an IBM PC. A comparison of the results of Ahl's Simple Benchmark (see July 1984 for a full explanation) in Figure 1 confirms this. It even runs a bit faster than the IBM PC AT. And for those with real number crunching needs, the computer supports an 80287 numeric co-processor.

The 286i comes with 512K RAM on the motherboard, expandable to 640K (the limit recognized by MS-DOS). The chip itself can address 15Mb, but the RAM actually installed in the machine depends on your use of expansion boards. Although equipped with eight internal expansion slots, the machine uses one for the disk drive controller, one for the video and parallel port, and one more for a serial port and second parallel port. In general, any expansion board that works in the IBM PC AT should also work with the Kaypro 286i.

Two 1.2Mb, 5.25 floppy disk drives are standard, compared to the single drive offered by IMB. These 96 tracks per inch (tpi), high-density drives can read regular 48tpi, 360K disks, so your old IBM PC software can be used on the 286i. Kaypro leaves space in the system unit and provides ribbon cables on the drive controller board for installation of an internal Winchester hard disk drive. Several third-party manufacturers offer such drives, which range in size from 20Mb on up.

Like the AT, Kaypro eliminates DIP switches on the motherboard in favor of a software program. Kaypro also includes a security lock and key to keep unauthorized people from using the system.

All the good things we said about the detachable, slant-adjustable keyboard on the AT come back to please us on the Kaypro. This includes improved layout; enlarged Shift and Enter keys; some use of English labels; Enter key on the numeric keypad; LEDs for the Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock keys; and a generous length of coiled cord to connect the keyboard to the system unit.

The tactile and aural feedback are more subdued than either the PC or AT keyboard. The touch is softer, and the key clicks are fainter.

The 286i does not come with a monitor, although Kaypro does sell a 13 RGB color monitor in the same dark gray color scheme. This made-in-Japan monitor performs admirably and certainly passed our monitor torture test (see February 1985 issue for details of the test).

Character resolution is 25 rows of 80 characters, and graphics resolution is standard IBM 640 X 200 pixels using high resolution graphics (black and white) and 320 X 200 pixels using medium resolution graphis (four colors). The dot pitch is 0.4 mm.

Software Included

Kaypro bundles an incredible amount of software with the 286i--all of it from MicroPro International. This full-scale package consists of the WordStar word processor, InfoStar~atabase management system and report generator, MailMerge, and CalcStar spreadsheet--all under the StarBurst program umbrella. Also included is a version of GW-Basic that emulates BasicA.

Thus, everything you need to set up a productive computer system comes right out of the box with one exception: MS-DOS. At this time, Microsoft has not yet released MS-DOS 3.0. You must buy PC-DOS 3.0 (which works quite well on the 286i) from IBM.

Of course, the real test of the Kaypro is whether it will run off-the-shelf IBM software. Heading the list is Lotus 1-2-3, which also happens to be the de facto standard of IBM PC compatibility. The 286i ran version 1A at lightning speed with absolutely no problems. The other paragon of PC compatibility, Microsoft Flight Simulator, did not fare so well. Our copy, version 1.05, booted correctly. However, while you could select the preliminary system parameters and hear the engine, the plane did not fly. Kaypro points out that Flight Simulator does not run on the IBM PC AT either--a fact duly reported in our review of the AT.

Other business, education, and entertainment programs ran without error; our tests indicate that the 286i runs much of the PC software. Be forewarned that many programs are speeded up, however. In most cases, this is an advantage, but sometimes the speed disrupts program timing.

Thus, we must repeat our standard caveat: try the software before you buy the hardware. If the bundled software is all you need, then have no fear. But if you intend to use your own software, take a copy to your dealer and test it. This simple step may save a great deal of post-purchase frustration.


Kaypro, long a los-cost leader with protables, is now aiming at the price-conscious professional.

The base model with 512K RAM, two 1.2Mb floppy drives, one serial and two parallel ports, and graphics board costs $4500. The RGB monitor retails for $595.

Indeed, ATtractive

Give Kaypro credit for providing an excellent IBM PC AT compatible. It offers speed, PC software compatibility, a good keyboard layout, and bundled software at a truly competitive price.

Table: Figure 1. Benchmark Test Results.

Products: Kaypro 286i (Microcomputer)