Force Technology F33. (microcomputer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by David Sears
For the same reasons you might choose a convertible over a VW Beetle, you'll choose the Force Technology F33 over most of the vanilla clones in the channel. Bristling computing horsepower, this black beauty could appeal more to self-styled hackers and postmodern lawyers only if the mini-tower came sheathed in hand-tooled black leather.
Even if you have no aspirations to the technoelite, you'll befriend the F33 right out of the box: Windows 3.1, DOS 5.0, and Procomm 2.4.2 already reside on the 130MB Maxtor hard drive. Abundant hard disk space and a good-sized chunk of RAM--4MB--ensure that you can install and run almost any application you desire.
The 14-inch Super VGA monitor supplied with the F33 displays up to 1024 x 768 pixels in noninterlace mode at a fine .28 dot pitch. The Speedstar Super VGA display card will display 32,000 colors onscreen in a resolution of 800 x 600, or 256 at 1024 x 768. The palette ranges to 16.7 million colors, and the card itself packs a megabyte of RAM on board, so you can make full use of VESA drivers for software that requires them--Virtual Laboratories Vistapro, for example. Unless you're using Windows for extensive DTP, you probably won't need an accelerator. The F33 runs graphical environments at a more than acceptable speed, and it will even multitask telecommunications software in the back-ground without appreciable slowdown.
With a 33-MHz 486 at its heart, the motherboard also harbors a 64K cache, five 16-bit expansion slots, and three 8-bit slots; it will accept up to 64MB of RAM in mix-and-match SIMM configurations. The video card and the 2400-bps modem claim two of the expansion slots, but most users probably don't need room for more than six additional cards. You might want to add a CD-ROM drive, though, and to do it, you'll have to remove the Teac 5-1/4-inch drive to mount the CD-ROM internally or buy an external CD-ROM drive instead. If that's the case, consider a mid-tower or even a full-tower chassis, both available from Force Technology. The standard Teac 3-1/2-inch floppy drive should serve you well for the life of the computer. All told, the system performs admirably, clocking in with a respectable Norton index of 50 and a better-than-rated hard drive seek time of 13.96 ms.
The F33 tactile keyboard and the matching black serial mouse give you your choice of input devices, neither of which lacks elegance or precision. The dark olive power button sits well above the smaller black reset and turbo buttons; there's no confusing these.
Besides the one-year parts-and-labor warranty, Force Technology provides outstanding support for its customers. For example, when Lemmings wouldn't run on the test unit, the staff at Force called Psygnosis and Speedstar, the manufacturer of the video display card. Not only did a Speedstar representative call to help, but the Force representatives had more than a few suggestions themselves. That ornery version of Lemmings runs fine now, and no other software gave the F33 the least bit of trouble--even Windows never crashed.
A combination of near-universal compatibility and courteous assistance from Force means a long and congenial partnership between this well-made PC and users looking for a bit of distinction on their desktops.