Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 129 / MAY 1991 / PAGE 40

Sanyo MBC-17NB personal computer. (evaluation)
by Robert Bixby

SANYO BUSINESS SYSTEM 51 Joseph St Moonachie, NJ 07074 (800) 524-0048

CpU Type: 802ge; CPU Speed. 12.5 MHz

Conventional MemorY: 640K; Extended

Memory: 384K

Ports: 1 serial, 1 parallel, 1 video

Drives: 3 1/2-inch 1.44MB floppy, 21MB hard

video modes: text, CGA, EGA, VGA

Screen Type: ST backlit LCD

list Price: $2,999.00

Street Price: $1,999.95

It's tiny, it's fast, and it comes with Windows and Works installed on its 20MB hard drive. The backlit screen is bright and clear. What's not to like about the 80286-based Sanyo MBC-17NB notebook computer? (An 80386-based 18NB is slated and will probably be released by the time you see this.)

The list of attractive features is long, including a keyboard that is remarkably comfortable to the fingers and an eight-gray-scale screen that provides a clear, sharp image as long as the "grays" displayed are black and white (more about this later). As shipped, the 17NB is equipped with 1MB of RAM. An optional modem and memory expansion to 5MB are available. The computer and its power supply/recharger fit comfortably in an average-sized briefcase, leaving enough room for a couple of magazines and a legal pad. (Note to inventors: The industry desperately needs a portable computer power source that can fit in a shirt pocket.)

Two important issues for assessing notebook computers are the quality of the screen and the feel of the keyboard. Perfect gray-scale representation might simply be too much to ask of a flat-screen monitor at this stage in the development of display technology. This screen is touted as an eight-gray-scale display, but unless an image contrasts dramatically with the rest of the screen, it fades into the background.

The keyboard is fast and responsive, though the awkward lower-left placement of the Function key (which, for example, turns the up- and down-arrow keys into page-up and -down keys respectively) makes it an easy target for the left hand while typing, resulting in some strange typos until you become accustomed to it.

The batteries last a couple of hours-enough for most purposesand they are compact enough that you could carry a couple of charged-up spares in an overcoat pocket. At a desk, you can use the charger as a power supply, which leads me to one complaint about this machine that would be easy to fix. The power supply/battery charger unit has a three-foot power cord, but the cable from the charger to the computer is only about 18 inches long, which means that the power supply has to sit on the same surface as the computer when it's in use. Sanyo should have provided a long cord to the computer, allowing the transformer to sit on the floor, out of the way.

The low-battery light gives you a little warning when the battery pack is breathing its last, but don't think you have enough time to do one more recalculation on your spreadsheet.

You'd be well advised to save your work immediately, or you'll have an unpleasant surprise.

You might want to know that Sanyo makes the ZEOS and Commodore notebook computers, which are virtually identical to the Sanyo. Whichever you choose, you'll be getting a handy, well-designed computer.

Storage Media Device Tests: Contiguous Read, Fragmented Ready Contiguous Write, Fragmemted Write

Regardless of the speed and computing power of a computer, the storage devices are often a botbeneck. COMPUTE's BenchMark program performs four different tests that can help rate the speed of a drive.

Our tests read and write sectors to the drive with a timer running. That way we know how many sectors have been accessed in a second. The more sectors read or written, the better the performance and the faster your applications will run.

Not only have vie read arid written whole blocks of information from the disk with our contiguous read and write tests, but we've also developed a test that addresses the disk in a fragmented order that's closer to real-life drive performance conditions. Seek time, interleave factor, and other statstics are condensed into four easy-to-understand numbers.