Tandy 3830 SL. (notebook computer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Tom Benford
Tandy was the first large-scale marketer to provide personal computers for the masses nationwide. Over the years Tandy has continued to be an innovator in bringing appealing products to market, and this is evident in its 3830SL notebook computer--a stylish, feature-laden machine with lots of appeal.
An Intel 80386SL microprocessor provides the computing power for the 3830SL running at 25 MHz. The standard RAM configuration is 2MB, and you can expand memory to 8MB. For those heavy applications which require additional computing power, you can install an 80387SX or 80387SL math coprocessor. An 80MB hard drive and a front-mounted high-density floppy drive are also standard equipment on this model.
The 80386SL chip draws less current than an 80386SX CPU running at the same speed, and the SL chip has several power-saving features built into it as well. The 3830SL exemplifies how efficient this technology is, since it regularly yields charge lives of 2 1/2 hours under constant heavy use and in excess of 4 hours under normal use with all the power-saving features enabled.
Physically, the 3830SL is pleasing to the eye, finished in an almost-black gray finish. The unit is very thin (under 1 3/4 inches when closed) and just under six pounds, making it easy to tote under your arm or in a briefcase.
Beneath a drop-down door at the rear of the unit can be found a proprietary expansion bus, a 9-pin serial port, a parallel port, and a 15-pin external VGA port. Mini-DIN jacks are provided for a PS/2 mouse and an extension keyboard at the right side of the machine. The inclusion of the dedicated mouse port is a good feature, although with the 3830SL it isn't really necessary; a PS/2 minitrackball is built into the notebook. The device is located in the center of the machine, just above the keyboard. While this isn't the optimal position for it (a detachable side-mounted device like the Microsoft BallPoint mouse is a better idea), it certainly is convenient to have mouse capability already built in and available every time you use the machine without the need to physically attach a pointing device.
All controls and indicators are flush mounted on the 3830SL, adding to the clean, uncluttered appearance of the machine while preventing accidental disturbances to the control settings.
The keyboard is a joy to use, featuring excellent key spacing and firm action. An inverted-T cursor pad is provided, along with an embedded numeric keypad. All of the 12 function keys occupy the topmost row of this 84-key keyboard, and LED indicators are provided for displaying the condition of the Scroll Lock, Caps Lock, and Num Lock. LEDs are also used to denote hard disk activity, keypad activity, and power or battery status.
As with all of Tandy's products, the documentation is excellent. All of the information is provided in a clear, easy-to-understand manner with generous use of illustrations. The organization of the user's manual and other documentation (reference guide, setup booklet) is also topnotch, so even novice notebook users will feel right at home with the 3830SL in no time at all after reading these publications.
The Tandy 3830SL is an excellent notebook that will serve the needs of most of today's users while still providing plenty of expansion capabilities and options for those of tomorrow.