Addtech Research Slim-Pro MB-2500 SX. (portable computer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Bruce M. Bowden
The Slim-Pro MB-2500 SX computer is a little marvel with big ambitions--which it seems to achieve with elegance and grace. There are three key factors that the buyer of this computer will likely be considering: size, cost, and expandability.
The size, while perhaps not of principal interest, is the first thing you notice about it. The case dimensions are approximately 11-1/2 inches wide, 10-1/2 inches deep, and 2-1/4 inches high--small enough to fit in a largish briefcase. The size makes it convenient for travel, and at about eight pounds it's relatively lightweight. Add to the transportability factor the power supply, which is external. The 45-watt, 110/250-volt power supply is about 3 x 6 x 1-1/2 inches and weighs about a pound. It gets quite warm during operation of the computer, but this doesn't seem to be a problem. Even when not traveling, the small footprint of this machine is a blessing to those of us hard-pressed for desk space.
Essentially, this is a do-it-yourself, as-much-as-you-like computer with levels of pricing depending on how well you want it equipped. Its most uncultivated configuration is ideal for the hobbyist or meticulous individual who wants to selectively purchase as many system parts as possible. With a suggested retail price of $395, it consists of an 80386 microprocessor running at 16/20/25 MHz (turbo mode) and 8/10/12-1/2 MHz (nonturbo mode), standard memory (with support for up to 16MB of expansion in a SIMM module), the case, and the power supply. There's no video card or keyboard, but a keyboard is optional. The keyboard connector is IBM standard, like every other significant part of the Slim-Pro. Beyond this basic configuration, more features can be ordered, still at very reasonable prices. The next price plateau ($565), buys a unit with 1MB RAM, a high-density 3-1/2-inch floppy drive, and a VGA card. For a little more ($705), the unit comes with 4MB of RAM, a high-density 3-1/2-inch floppy drive, and a Super VGA card. Of course, with a unit designed for the IBM standard like this one, you have the advantage of purchasing and installing your own boards, equipment, and chips.
The Slim-Pro's standard I/O includes two serial 9-pin RS-232 ports and one parallel port. Additionally, there are two add-on slots for display adapters, LAN cards, or other add-on cards. Turbo mode can be activated by software or by a turbo-speed depressible button on the front of the unit. There are front-set LED indicator lights for power, turbo speed, hard drive access and LAN operation.
My review unit came with the optional 81-key keyboard; its layout is reminiscent of that of a laptop. I like to rest a keyboard on my lap, and I found the smaller size (about 11-1/2 x 6 x 1-1/2 inches) inconvenient for that purpose. Also, the lack of specific noncursor navigation keys (Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End) which can be reached without depressing a special function key first is annoying. But such sacrifices are acceptable when the focus is transportability. Less acceptable aspects of this keyboard remain, however. I'm used to finding my Ctrl key on the lower left of the keyboard, but, on this machine, that's the location of the special function key for accessing operations that normally appear as separate keys on a 101-key keyboard (the navigation keys and keypad). The cursor keys are there, but not in the familiar inverted-T arrangement--another nuisance. Still, those are relatively minor details.
The thin user's manual is packed with information--providing all you need to know about the computer, its peripherals, and the extensive system software customization possible. It's small, however, as I said, leaving little room for the sort of carefully developed explanations that would make it easier for nontechnical people to understand.
In other words, the Slim-Pro MB-2500 SX computer doesn't come without flaws, but it's still a worthwhile machine. It's a highly portable computer that can be adapted to suit your needs.