Hyundai Super-386SE. (microcomputer) (evaluation)
by Tony Roberts
The Hyundai Super-386SE appears to be perfectly cut out for general office or home office use. Though it's not a top-of-the-line corporate screamer, it has plenty of ability to handle a variety of computing tasks. The Super-386SE is a serviceable low-end entry into the world of 386 computing.
The machine I tested -- configured with 2MB RAM, a VGA monitor, a Conner 40MB hard drive, and a 1.2MB 5 1/4-inch floppy drive -- should be able to handle just about anything a home/office generalist needs it to do. The system includes one parallel and two serial ports and a disk drive interface built into the motherboard. No disk controller board is required unless you plan to add a second hard disk. The system is set up to accommodate a second floppy disk drive without additional hardware.
This small-footprint system (15.9 x 15.2 x 6 inches) includes five expansion slots (four 16-bit and one 8-bit), allows for up to 8MB of memory on the motherboard using 256K or 1MB SIMMs, and includes a socket for a math coprocessor. The video adapter occupies one of the system's five slots. Although the system seems to invite expansion, it comes with a 130-watt power supply, which probably would need upgrading before you could load the Super-386SE to the hilt.
The generic Super VGA card can handle resolutions up to 1024 x 768, and the Hyundai 14-inch color VGA monitor has a dot pitch of .28. The video card includes an automatic monitor detection feature allowing it to configure itself for the monitor in use without operator intervention.
The Super-386SE uses a Phoenix BIOS and a chip set by Headland. BIOS and video ROM can be copied into shadow RAM if the extra 384K if the first megabyte of system RAM is configured as EMS memory. This arrangement improves system performance by copying often-used BIOS code from ROM to faster RAM. If you don't opt for ROM shadowing, the extra 384K can be configured as extended memory.
The Hyundai Super-386SE was a snap to set up right out of the boxes. The monitor power cable plugs into the power supply rather than a wall outlet, making switched operation of the whole system possible. The machine came with DOS 4.01 and a full set of documentation for MS-DOS and GW-BASIC as well as a system User's Guide and small manuals for the monitor and video adapter.
The User's Guide provides adequate technical information on the machine and an ample number of illustrated tips on adding additional disk drives and memory. Digging through the User's Guide is somewhat difficult, though, as it includes introductory tutorials on MS-DOS and GW-BASIC intermixed with the technical data.
Among the disks in the DOS package is a utilities disk that includes diagnostic programs used to check the health of system components. Although DOS 4.01 came with the system, I quickly upgraded to MS-DOS 5.0 without difficulty. Other software including word processors, Windows applications, a wide variety of commercial utility packages, and a host of games ran without problem. One game, a 256-color version of popular graphic adventure game, failed to run, however, owing to a memory shortage on the video adapter, which sported only 256K of video memory. The adapter needs at least 512K to display more than 16 colors at resolutions of 640 x 480 or 800 x 600, or more than 4 colors at 1024 x 768.
Software performance was typical for a 16-MHz 386SX. The Super-386SE offers a significant performance improvement over a 286 system in graphics environments such as Windows or when running a large database application or spreadsheet. Nevertheless, if you know going in that you'll spend a majority of your computing time with graphics-intensive programs, huge spreadsheets, or databases, or if you intend to make frequent use of the 386's multitasking capabilities, consider a machine with a little more speed and power.
As with many of today's machines, the inside of the Hyundai is simple and clean-looking. The motherboard, though small, contains more components than motherboards of days past. Hyundai positioned the expansion slots at the rear left of the machine and the SIMM memory sockets to the right of the card slots. These memory sockets are easily accessible as long as the card cage isn't full. The User's Guide provides information on inserting and removing the memory modules, but the illustrations in the guide are a bit confusing since their orientation is the opposite of that of the actual memory sockets. In our system, all eight banks were filled with 256K SIMMs for a total of two megabytes. Expanding memory would require removing the 256K SIMMs and replacing them with either four or eight 1MB SIMMs.
Operating seeds of the Hyundai Super-386SE are 8 MHz and 16 MHz. Select your preferred boot-up speed via the setup routine and store it in CMOS memory. You can charge the clock speed by pressing the Ctrl-Alt-Plus or Ctrl-Alt-Minus key combinations. Front panel LEDs indicate the current system speed setting. The Hyundai also includes a hard disk activity LED, which confirms that the nearly silent Conner hard drive is accessing information.
Other front panel controls include a push-botton on/off switch and a reset button. The 2 1/4-inch speaker on this model has the normal tinny qualities we've grown accustomed to in the sound systems on DOS systems, but the Hyundai's design introduces an additional level of irritation. When playing notes of certain frequencies, the speaker's vibrations induce rattles and vibrations elsewhere in the system -- specifically in one component of the on/off switch.
While the Hyundai's power supply is at the system's rear, the on/off switch is on the front panel. A small tube connects the two. It is this lightweight metal tube that rattles disturbingly when the speaker plays certain notes. This feature is most noticeable and annoying during gameplay where soundtracks set off this sympathetic vibration with alarming frequency.
All in all, this computer system has what it takes to be a competent general-purpose workstation.