Kris System 386SX-2. (computer) (evaluation)
by Eddie Huffman
Try this at home. Pop any tape into your VCR. If your machine has a Pause/Slow key, run the tape in slow motion. Remember how that looks. Resume normal speed; then, while the tape's still playing, hold down the Fast Forward buttong for a quick scan in fast motion. Remember how that looks. Got it?
Good, because now you know how I felt going from my trusty old IBM XT-compatible personal computer with its 8086-type microprocessor to KRIS System's 386X-2, a PC with an 80386 microprocessor running at 20 MHz. Besides taking me from a Model T crawl to a Porsche sprint, the KRIS System 38SX-2 and the accompanying PMV14VC Super VGA monitor also proved to be generally well designed, easy to set up, and agreeable to use.
After opening the boxes and separating the PC and monitor from their packaging, I had the system up and running in only about five minutes. This desktop computer comes equipped with a base perfect for setting it up out of the way on the floor, freeing up desk space. Its two floppy disk drives -- a 1.2MB 5 1/4-inch and a 1.44MB 3 1/2-inch -- are positioned accordingly, with the slots horizontal when the KRIS System 38SX-2 stands vertically on its base.
The monitor, printer, and other peripherals plug into the back of the computer. However, the keyboard does, too -- a configuration I found to be a drawback. Because the front of the machine must face you to provide access to the floppy drives and Turbo, Power, and Reset buttons, having the keyboard plug in at the rear necessisitates an overlong stretch of its cord. As a result, I had a little trouble keeping the keyboard on my desktop.
Aside from the less-than-elegant cord stretching, though, the keyboard is perfectly acceptable, with keys neither too crowded nor too scattered. The 12 function keys are arrayed in one horizontal row across the top, with the basic letter keyboard gravitating to the lower left corner. I found it a little awkward doing most of my typing toward one end of the keyboard but that's certainly not a major gripe. There are two sets of Ctrl and Alt keys -- one on either side of the space bar. The number keypad lies at the far right, with four distinct arrow keys and the other directional keys -- such as Home and End -- situated between the letter and number keyboards. The keys responded well, clicking audibly, although they weren't quite as crisp as I'd like them to be.
I made no special adjustments for any software I tried with the KRIS System 38SX-2. It handled my word processor, business ledger, and a couple of complex adventure games equally well.
Although the computer can handle an EGA or VGA monitor, the PMV14VC Super VGA monitor is a particularly good one, offering crisper lines and more vivid, lifelike colors than my standard VGA monitor. Making its good display better takes only the adjustment of a couple of perfectly accessible knobs located just under and to the side of the monitor's lower right corner. Unfortunately, the PMV14VC Super VGA's one obvious flaw couldn't be ignored: The pronounced frame surrounding the recessed screen casts an arch-shaped shadow across the top of the screen, lapping over any display and detracting from an otherwise excellent picture.
As for the inner workings of the computer, a quick glance inside the case revealed the KRIS System 38SX-2 to be a well-designed machine. The removal of four readily accessible screws at the back of the machine allows the sturdy case to slide off easily, and the vertical design of the KRIS System 38SX-2 makes for easy access to the disk drives and motherboard from two directions. Given the machine's deep, relatively open setup, you should have few problems adding new cards in expansion slots or installing additional memory chips. Before opening the case, however, I noticed that the fan operated at average-to-above-average loudness.
The exterior proved less acceptable. A plastic overlay marking the Turbo and Reset buttons was loose, flaring out to give the machine a somewhat cheaper feel; the flaw was basically inconsequential, yet hard not to notice. In addition, the round, white Turbo and Reset buttons are identical and side by side, making an accidential reset virtually inevitable at some point. The buttons should have been given distinct designs and separated. A larger round white button nearby controls the power, but its size and placement are distinct enough not to cause confusion when your fingers fumble around under your desk in search of the correct button. The arrangement of the floppy drives is more satisfactory, with the 5 1/4-inch drive placed above the 3 1/2-inch drive at the top of the PC's face. A row of small lights indicates whether turbo has been engaged, the presence of a high-density disk, and activity by the hard drive.
Whatever they're doing, chances are the KRIS System 38SX-2 and accompanying PMV14VC Super VGA monitor are doing it well. Solid and fast, this machine offers exhilarating computing to anyone accustomed to older models.