Gateway 2000 386SX-16. (computer) (evaluation)
by Joyce Sides
Gateway's 2000 396SX-16 offers you plenty of attractive features at a very competitive price. With a 14-inch antiglare Super VGA monitor, 2MB of memory, a 40MB hard drive, five 8- or 16-bit open expansion slots, and more, this computer should appeal in a big way to the average-income consumer.
I needed approximately five minutes to set up this Gateway 2000 system. The 40MB hard drive was already formatted, and Microsoft Windows was installed. I simply checked th user guide for anything unusual, plugged in the appropriate cables and power cord, removed the cardboard insert from the 5 1/4-inch drive, and flipped the switch.
The easy-to-understand Gateway 2000 Complete Systems User's Guide provides you with all the necessary information as well as helpful illustrations and troubleshooting tips. Other documentation includes the MS-DOS Operating System Guide, the Microsoft Windows User's Guide, and an operations manual for the CrystalSCAN 1024 monitor.
The MS-DOS guide is divided into four sections with a table of contents and index for each. The Windows guide is divided into sections for beginning users and advanced users; I like the conversational, nontechnical language that the manual uses.
To check the 2000's compatibility, I ran a variety of applications, including Telix, a shareware telecommunications program; Wing Commander; Express Publisher; XyWrite 3.0; and several other commercial programs. All of these programs ran without a hitch on the Gateway.
Inside the 2000, a riser card vertically houses the open expansion slots. All but the lowest card located next to the power supply unit allow easy access. The system's integrated design--with mouse port, parallel and serial ports, floppy and hard drive controllers, and video adapter as part of the system board--leaves the expansion slots open to other options. Since the video adapter is integrated, however, upgrading the video won't be as easy as changing vide cards. The 2000's adapter is first-rate, though, so this shouldn't be considered much of a negative.
Vents along the lower left side of the unit keep the system's power supply from overheating. After I left the unit on for most of the day, the shell over the power supply unit wasn't even warm.
Easy access to Reset and On/Off buttons is essential, and both these buttons are located on the front of the Gateway 2000. The Turbo button is also located on the front for easy access.
Many computers now use AA alkaline batteries to keep CMOS RAM intact. The Gateway 2000 is no exception. The four AA batteries reside between the power supply unit and the 5 1/4-inch disk drive--definitely close quarters. I wouldn't want to have to hange those batteries.
You might eventually want to make the leap from 16 MHz to 20, and the Gateway 2000 entices you to hit the upgrade path by making the process a simple one. Just remove the CPU module connected to the system board and replace it with a 386SX 20-MHz module. This won't invalidate your warranty.
You can easily access the 2MB of SIMM RAM chips on the motherboard. Two empty RAM sockets are available if you'd like to add more memory in the form of 30-pin SIMM memory modules. RAM prices change constantly, but the price I was quoted for 1MB of RAM was $62.50. So for $125.00, you could add 2MB of RAM for a total of 4MB--not bad.
The first-class monitor that Gateway supplies with the 2000 provides a flicker-free, dark-tinted, antiglare picture tube sure to minimize eye fatigue. The brightness and contrast controls are conveniently located on the front righthand corner of the monitor while the other controls are located on the back of the unit.
The unique AnyKey keyboard supplied with the 2000 is top of the line. You get two sets of function keys as well as Program Macro key, a Repeat Rate key, and a Remap key. With the Program Macro key, you can enter sequences of keystrokes (macros) into a single key. Entering macros on this keyboard can be accomplished in a few seconds, and you no longer have to create script files for your keyboard macro program. Moreover, you can just do away with those memory-consuming macro-generating. TSRs altogether; this hardware solution's the perfect replacement. Want to suspend your macros while you run an application that comes with preassigned Alt-key combinations? Just toggle your macros off with the Suspend Macro key.
You can store your new keyboard configuration to your hard drive with the ANYKEY utility included in the system software; this allows you to have several different keyboard setups on tap. The Repeat Rate key lets you adjust the keyboard's repeat rate, and the Remap key makes tinkering with key assignments fun and quite useful. If you have trouble finding a particular key, for instance, just remap it to a function key that you can easily locate.
The keyboard itself feels slightly mushy, though you still hear a click when the keys are pressed. When I first began my review, I disliked the softness, but the more I typed, the better I liked it. Diehard fans of firm keys can order a standard 101-key keyboard to go with the 2000 at no additional cost.
In comparison to those offered with a lot of other systems, the 2000's one-year limited warranty rates better than some. Gateway offers toll-free customer service and technical support numbers.
A solid system, the standard issue 16-Mhz 2000 won't disappoint most users. Programmers, though, would probably be better off with the 20-Mhz system, since compile time means idle time. From novice user to computing professional, Gateway promises value and service.