Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 156 / SEPTEMBER 1993 / PAGE 18

Test lab. (notebook computers) (includes related articles) (Hardware Review) (Cover Story) (Evaluation)
by Tom Benford

As you make your way through the reviews of this month's notebook computers, paying attention to prices, performance, and important features, the professional in you will doubtless note with approval how well this technology could serve your purposes and make you more productive. Practical, sensible, and well designed, these notebooks could be great for you or your business and could possibly give you just the competitive advantage you've been looking for.

If you're like me, however the kid in you will probably be wowed by the latest innovations in these notebooks, like the builtin bubble-jet printer in the Canon notebook or the ergonomically designed pointing devices and the PCMCIA slots on several of the units we evaluated. Then there are the features that, though not really new, continue to impress because manufacturers keep finding ways to make them better and less expensive - features like hard drives, color displays, and power management.

For this Test Lab, we asked for 486 notebooks with 4MB of RAM and hard drives of at least 80MB. As you'll see when you peruse our grid of features, these notebooks have 486 chips from four different manufacturers (Cyrix, IBM, Intel, and Texas Instruments), and their speeds range from 25 MHz all the way up to 50 MHz. We could have tested notebooks with 8MB of RAM, but since most come standard with 4MB, and since we felt most COMPUTE readers would go with 4MB, that was our choice. As for the hard drives, we had no trouble at all coming up with large ones. In fact, the smallest ones were 120MB, and a couple of notebooks sported 200MB drives, more than enough space to take care of business on the road.

It's a sign of Windows' acceptance, I think, that every notebook we tested came with Windows and a pointing device of some kind. Micro Electronics even calls its computer the WinBook. So if you want to do Windows on the road, these notebooks are ready.

It's also worth noting that the manufacturers of these notebooks have put a premium on expandability. Now upgrading memory, adding communications hardware, and hooking up to a network are easier than ever. Docking stations, expansion boxes, and port replicators have helped; I think that PCMCIA slots and cards will help even more while eliminating much of the bulk and complication of earlier solutions.

To see how these notebooks performed, look to the bar graphs with benchmark data. There you'll find not only performance ratings based upon the Norton Indexes but also real-world test data involving a word processor, a database, and more. We had planned a test involving Windows spreadsheet calculations; however, we had to scrap it, since all of these 486 notebooks were able to perform complex numerical spreadsheet calculations so quickly that performance differences were negligible. In addition to the application benchmark data, you'll find the results of our battery depletion test.

If you compute on the road and want information about the latest and greatest in notebook technology, read on. Test Lab has reviews, benchmark data, and feature information you can use.



Looking for a high-performance color notebook with a genuine 25-MHz Intel 486SL CPU? Then you'll want to learn more about AST's PoweExec 4/25SL ColorPlus notebook computer.

AST offers the PowerExec 4/25SL with three different displays. The 4/25SL Color version features a passive matrix col LCD screen, a 25-degree horizontal viewing angle, and a lower cost than the 4/25SL ColorPlus, which comes equipped with an active matrix color display that affords a 70-degree viewing angle and brighter, more vibrant colors. AST's monochrome version of this notebook, called simply the 4/25SL, can display 64 shades of gray with a 45-degree viewing angle. Both of the color models have 9.5-inch (diagonally measured) displays and can support 256 simultaneous colors at 640 x 480 resolution. Externally connected monitors can display 800 x 600 resolution with 256 colors, and you can use the external monitor simultaneously with the notebook's LCD.

AST provides plenty of power management support in the 4/25SL ColorPlus, and computing sessions well in excess of four hours were common during mY review of the unit. With all of the power management options turned off, the nicad battery will still provide in excess of two hours of continuous use before you need to recharge it. This great charge life is attributable to AST's 3.3-volt low-power memory designed specifically for its notebooks (5 volts is the usual current drain in conventional designs).

A medium and charcoal gray color scheme gives the 4/25SL ColorPlus a smart, businesslike appearance. With this notebook, AST includes a nifty detachable miniature trackball, which snaps on the front of the machine just below the space bar. The manufacturer has positioned the two buttons on either side of the ball; I found this pointing device to be exceptionally well designed and easy to use. It gets its power from a dedicated port concealed behind a spring-loaded panel, and the connection is made automatically when you snap the trackball on the notebook.

The keyboard has all of the features serious users will favor: dimpled F and J keys, good key spacing, contoured key tops, a dedicated inverted-T cursor control pad, an embedded numeric keypad, and a light, crisp touch. AST provides a row of LEDs with icons under them to help you keep up with power, battery status, hard and floppy drive activity, and lock key status.

The 4/25SL ColorPlus provides two Type 11 PCMCIA expansion slots for adding options, and you can expand the standard memory configuration of 4MB up to 32MB, using the two user-accessible memory sockets. Since the i486SL CPU has an internal math coprocessor and 8K of internal cache memory, it's unlikely that you'll outgrow the power this book can provide, especially with additional RAM installed in it.

The PowerExec 4/25SL ColorPlus is bound to appeal to the discriminating user who wants a superior color notebook.


Canon has taken portability a step further with its printerequipped, 486-based NoteJet 486 Model 2.

The NoteJet has a Canon Bubble Jet printer integrated right into the case of the computer, making this truly a portable office that will fit easily into a briefcase. The printer is functionally identical to the Canon BJ-130e in that it uses a head configuration with 64 nozzles and provides a maximum print resolution of 360 x 360 dots per inch with a maximum print speed of 116 characters per second, Because it also emulates the IBM ProPrinter X24E and the Epson LQ-510, you have real printing versatility. An automatic sheet feeder capable of holding ten sheets at a time is also built into the printer portion of the NoteJet, and the Bubble Jet ink cartridge yields approximately 100,000 characters before it requires replacement.

The heart of the NoteJet, a Texas instruments 486SLC CPU running at 25 MHz, endows the machine with respectable performance while maintaining a miserly current draw from the machine's nicad battery

A Cyrix CX83S87 25-MHz math coprocessor can be installed as an option should your work require enhanced math coprocessing, and you can expand the NoteJet's standard RAM configuration of 4MB to 6MB, 8MB, or 12MB with the optional SIMM board that mounts in a single available SIMM slot. You can easily install either of these upgrade options, since both the math coprocessor socket and the SIMM socket are accessible via a snap-off cover on the bottom of the machine. This is a nice touch Canon added here, since installing such upgrades on other notebook computers usually requires disassembly of the computer by a technician. For adding other options, you have two PCMCIA card slots behind another snap-off panel on the left side of the NoteJet.

A wand-style pointing device provided with the NoteJet plugs into the machine's mouse-or-keypad port. Although Canon calls it a trackball, that name doesn't conjure an accurate mental picture of what it really looks like. A palmsize unit, the device connects to the machine's port via a 24-inch cable. You use your thumb to control a marble-size ball while your index and ring fingers activate the dual buttons at the front of the unit, mounted one on top of the other. At first this configuration seems awkward, especially if you're accustomed to a desktop mouse or a large-ball device, but you get used to it after a short while. if there's one weak spot in an otherwise excellent machine, I think it's this pointing device. Of course, you can always substitute another pointing device more to your liking.

The LCD screen displays 16 levels of gray at 640 x 480 resolution, and you can plug an external SVGA monitor into the notebook via the 15-pin D connector located at the rear of the unit.

The Canon NoteJet 486 is a very good Windows-ready computer for people on the go who want to have a printer available whenever - and wherever - they compute.



A truly compact notebook PC that has a good assortment of standard features, Epson's ActionNote 4SLC/25 is convenient to tote, provides good performance, and is easy on the wallet.

With a textured, charcoal gray case, the stylish ActionNote is the thinnest notebook covered here, measuring just a tad over 1.5 inches thick with its lid closed. It has a footprint just slightly larger than a sheet of letter paper, measuring 8.7 x 11 inches; and with a weight of only 5.5 pounds with its rechargeable nicad battery installed, it's certainly no burden to take along with you.

A Logitech TrackMan trackball, included as standard equipment with the ActionNote, plugs into a mouse-or-keyboard port on the left side of the machine. You also get a good-quality compartmented carrying case as part of the standard package, along with a mouse-or-keyboard adapter for the machine's PS/2-style port.

The standard 4MB of RAM will meet the computing needs of many of COMPUTE's readers; if necessary, however, you can expand the memory to 8MB. The ActionNote includes 256K of video RAM and uses a paper-white, two-film CCFT (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Tube) backlit monochrome LCD which measures a generous ten inches diagonally The LCD is capable of displaying 64 levels of gray at 320 x 200 resolution and 32 levels of gray at 640 x 480, Slider controls allow you to adjust the display's brightness and contrast, and a 15-pin D connector lets you attach an external monitor (simultaneous display of both the LCD and CRT is supported).

The Cyrix 486SLC CPU at the heart of the ActionNote runs at 25 MHz. To add number-crunching muscle for handling more demanding applications, you can add an optional Cyrix CX387SLC or Intel 387SX numeric coprocessor.

The keyboard features a erately light touch and short key travel, along with a very nice feel. Bumps on the F and J keys confirm home row position, and an inverted-T cursor control pad makes moving around the screen easy. Epson also provides an embedded numeric keypad.

The review unit came equipped with a 120MB hard drive, although you can order the ActionNote with an 80MB drive. You can also install an optional internal 2400/9600 fax/modem (Epson installed one on the review machine). WinFax Lite and BitCom come preloaded on ActionNote configurations ordered with the modem installed.

A row of LEDS with illuminated icons below them lets you know the status of the power, the battery charge, AC power (whether it's being used), and floppy and hard drive activity, as well as whether the caps, scroll, or numeric locks are in effect.

With prices ranging from about $1,399 for the base model to $1,649 for the configuration as reviewed, the ActionNote provides a way to get 486 processing muscle without breaking the bank.


IBM packs a lot of computing punch into its ThinkPad 720C. For starters, it has the biggest, brightest color LCD I've seen on any notebook to date, and its IBM 486SLC2 CPU runs at a brisk 50 MHz. If I've piqued your interest already, read on. You'll find that there are lots of other desirable features in this take-it-with-you color notebook from Big Blue.

The ThinkPad's case features squared edges and sharp corners; no frills or nonfunctional embellishments are to be found. That isn't to say it's unattractive, however. Quite the opposite is true. The case is molded in a handsome matte black plastic, which resists fingerprints well (but tends to show dust and dirt). The overall appearance of the machine tells you it's a serious device that's ready to do business.

Lifting the ThinkPad's lid exposes the 10.5-inch TFT (Thin Film Transistor) 4096-color LCD, which is a joy to view. The LCD screen can display VGA at 640 x 480 resolution. Slider controls at the right side of the LCD adjust brightness and contrast, although I found the display to provide excellent viewing, even in bright light, without my having to change the settings.

Below the display a bank of LED indicators keeps tabs on the system's status. They show the status of the speaker, AC adapter, power, battery, hard disk, and floppy disk, as well as the caps, scroll, and numeric locks.

I found the ThinkPad's keyboard well laid out with regard to key spacing and key-top contour; raised dots on the F and J keys confirm home row position for touch-typists, and there's a separate inverted-T cursor control keypad, as well as an embedded numeric keypad.

Just above the B key, nestled between the bottoms of the G and H keys, is the ThinkPad's pointing device, an elevated red button that looks like a pencil eraser with a case of sunburn. Below the space bar, at the edge of the case, are two flat keys, each about one inch long; these correspond to the control buttons on a standard mouse.

While the idea of an integrated pointing device is good, I personally didn't care for the "eraserball" built into the keyboard. For my taste (and touch), it was too sensitive, and having the action buttons separate resulted in awkward operation. Suffice it to say that I found this setup anything but intuitive. I used the embedded pointing device throughout the review to give it a fair shake, but I must admit I was happy to get back to my desktop PC with a trusty old Microsoft mouse attached to it.

The Thinkpad 720C comes equipped with a 50-MHz IBM 486SLC2 CPU, a 180MB hard drive, and 4MB of RAM as its standard configuration. Two PCMCIA slots are also provided to accommodate any expansion options you may desire. For power users, this machine is a great choice.



Designed specifically with the Windows user in mind, the WinBook from Micro Electronics comes with plenty of desirable standard features that are frequently extra-cost options with other notebook computers.

Notebook describes the WinBook well, since it occupies about the same amount of space as an average three-ring binder and weighs in at a trim and easy-to-tote 5.4 pounds with its rechargeable nickel-metalhydride (NiMH) battery installed.

The WinBook's standard configuration includes 4MB of RAM, a 120MB hard drive, a 2400-bps modem and 9600-bps send/4800-bps receive fax. For adding options, there's a Type II PCMCIA slot, an increasingly pervasive feature in this latest generation of notebooks.

For its CPU, our review WinBook uses a 33-MHz Cyrix CX486SLC rather than an Intel chip. Described in the WinBook's manual as an "enhanced version of the 80386 CPU," the Cyrix chip "includes a built-in 1Kbyte cache to increase the speed of data access."

The overall design of the machine is quite good, and it's evident that plenty of thought went into the placement of various system components. For example, a trackball is built into the WinBook; the manufacturer places this pointing device conveniently between the two wrist-support pads below the keyboard. About the size of a marble or gum ball, the trackball is flanked by its two buttons. While the trackball eliminates the need for an external mouse, you can still use one if you want.

Controls for adjusting the brightness and contrast of the LCD are also conveniently located - at the right side of the screen, along with LED indicators for power, floppy drive activity, hard disk activity, suspend mode, and the status of the Num Lock, Scroll Lock, and Caps Lock keys The WinBook has an easy-to-look-at teninch display; the 512K of video memory allows 640 x 480 resolution for the internal screen and 1024 x 768 resolution for an external monitor.

Need expansion capabilities? You can upgrade from the WinBook's standard 120MB hard drive to a 250MB drive, add a math coprocessor, or buy a docking station for desktop use; a 160- pin connector on the WinBook accommodates the docking station

The WinBook has agood assortment of power-saving features which, according to the manufacturer, will extend battery life to maximum of four hours I found the machine to be faster and more responsive with all of the power-saving functions deactivated (this brought battery life down to about 1 1/2-21/4 hours between charges).

While the WinBook as reviewed is a good value at $1,699, if that's more than your wallet can handle, Micro Electronics is also offering a 25-MHz entry-level model of the WinBook, which has an 80MB hard drive and 2MB of RAM without the fax/modem for only $1,499. In either version, the WinBook is an attractive machine, especially if you want to take your Windows applications on the road.



This color notebook offers good looks and sizzling performance. NEC offers the Ultralite Versa series of notebooks in several models: 20-MHz models are available with either color or monochrome displays, while the 25-MHz models are available with both monochrome and color displays and with and without pen capabilities. The review unit is a 25-MHz modei based on the Intel 80486SL CPU and equipped with an active matrix TFT color LCD screen measuring 9.45 inches diagonally. A real treat for the eyes, it can display 256 colors at 640 x 480 resolution (800 x 600 resolution with 256 colors and 1024 x 768 resolution with 16 colors are supported via externally connected monitors).

One of the truly outstanding features of the Ultralite Versa 25C - its local-bus video - accounts for its blistering performance with graphics-related applications such as CAD and Video for Windows. This machine is no slouch when it comes to nongraphical chores such as database and word-processing work, either.

Ergonomic design and aesthetic appeal are obvious concerns, and the Ultralite Versa 25C triumphs in both areas. NEC uses an attractive medium gray matte-finish plastic that hides fingerprints and resists scuffing well. A single slider control next to the screen adjusts the brightness of the color display. Rather than the usual array of LEDs commonly used for system status messaging, the Ultralite Versa 25C uses an LCD window which employs icons to convey system information. The usual items - including floppy and hard drive activity, power, power source, and battery conditionare all indicated, in addition t caps and numeric locks.

I liked the keyboard action key placement, although I found the space bar to be considerably shorter than it is on other notebook keyboards, measuring 3.75 inches. While this wasn't a problem for me, some users with big hands or wide thumbs may not find it to their liking. However, other features, such as a dedicated cursor keypad, an embedded numeric keypad, and 12 function keys more than make up for the short space bar. Of course, you can always plug a full-size keyboard into the dedicated socket provided for it at the rear of the machine.

The package includes a Microsoft Ballpoint mouse, which plugs directly into the dedicated mouse port (also at the rear). For adding options, the UltraLite Versa 25C also has one Type III PC-MCIA slot, which can accommodate one Type Ill PCMCIA card or two Type 11 cards.

NEC has done a nice job of combining form and function in an attractive notebook with a superb color display.




Samsung shows lots of ingenuity and some novel design concepts in its NoteMaster 486SLC Model S3800 notebook.

This trim notebook has tasteful styling and a dark, charcoal gray, nonglossy finish which hides fingerprints and light scuffs well. Lifting the lid of the unit reveals a ten-inch monochrome LCD capable of producing 64 levels of gray to produce 640 x 480 VGA resolution.

The Notemaster has 256K of video RAM and allows you to run its display and an external SVGAmonitor simultaneously. While the display is certainly large enough, it isn't one of the best monochrome screens I've seen. With the brightness and contrast adjusted for comfortable viewing, I could see several of the LCD's "pathways" (intersecting lines in the display's background), and uneven image density across the screen was also noticeable. The shortcomings of this display aren't serious enough for it to be considered defective, but it did have a wearying effect on my eyes after only briet stints of looking at it

The high-density floppy drive resides at the right side ot the machine near the front, while the removable 2.5-inch hard drive resides just behind it, also on the right side. Yes, you read that correctly - the hard drive is removable on the NoteMaster, and that is its most unique feature. The advantages of a removable hard drive are many; for example, if you need additional storage, you can easily upgrade to a higher-capacity (120MB) drive.

Using Samsung's DriveMaster expansion kit, you can use the NoteMaster's hard drive on your desktop PC to make data transfer between systems easy; you can keep your data secure by taking the drive with you when you leave the off ice, or multiple users of the same Notemaster can have their own individual hard disks. There are plenty of other instances as well in which the removable drive would be a highly desirable feature.

Samsung provides 2MB of RAM and an 80MB hard drive as standard equipment on the NoteMaster. The review unit came equipped with 4MB of RAM as requested, and it also sported the optional 120MB hard drive.

The CPU for the Notemaster is the Cyrix 486SLC running at 25 MHz. You can add an optional Intel 80387SX coprocessor to give the machine enhanced math-calculating power; Samsung makes the installation easy by providing access to a socket beneath a snap-off plastic cover on the bottom of the case.

You can also easily install an optional fax/modem yourself. To expand the computer's memory, you'll use proprietary memory modules that simply snap into a compartment adjacent to the modem space. RAM can be expanded to a maximum of 8MB. No PCMCIA slots are provided.

The Notemaster 486SLC Model S3800 is a good choice if you like the convenience of a removable hard drive, especially if you'll be using it with an external monitor most of the time.


4000 WINSX/25


If you're interested in adding some color to your portable computing, backed by 486 processing power, then you may want to consider the TravelMate 4000 WinSX/25 Color notebook from Texas instruments. This is the newest addition to TI's highly successful TravelMate 4000 series of 486 notebook computers.

The WinSX/25's 9.4-inch (diagonally measured) color LCD screen delivers 256 colors simultaneously at normal 640 x 480 VGA resolution and is supported with 512K of video RAM. You can plug in an external Super VGA monitor and find support for the following modes: 640 x 480 resolution with 256 colors, 800 x 600 with 256 colors, 1024 x 768 with 16 colors. Simultaneous display of both the LCD screen and a monitor is also possible.

The WinSX/25's keyboard features a nice touch with moderately light action and nicely contoured key tops. Raised dots on the F and J keys help you find the home row, and there's an embedded numeric keypad and a separate inverted-T cursor control keypad. A color-coordinated Microsoft BallPoint mouse included with the WinSX/25 attaches to the QuickPort on the machine's right side.

Molded in two tones of gray, the WinSX/25 is a tastefully styled machine that does a good job of combining form and function. Dual slider controls for adjusting the color LCD's brightness and contrast come in handy, as some adjustment is frequently required when ambient light conditions change or when you switch from one application to another. I noticed some of the LCD's "pathways" visible in back of the video image when the brightness of the display was turned up all the way, and color saturation wasn't perfectly even across the full width of the screen (these are characteristics of passive matrix color displays).

The standard configuration includes 4MB of RAM, which you can increase to a maximum of 20MB. A 120MB hard drive and a front-mounted 1.44MB floppy drive also come standard. One of the upgrade options, a 14,400- bps V.32bis modem with 9600- bps send-and-receive fax capability, plugs into an internal slot provided on all of the TravelMate notebook models.

A proprietary expansion bus built into the rear of the machine lets you connect additional external peripherals; when not in use, this bus is concealed from view by a snap-off panel door. All of the I/ O connectors (serial, paraliel, mouse, and external video ports) reside on the left side of the notebook beneath a drop-down panel.

The WinSX/25's Drop N'Go software utility is particularly useful, permitting accelerated access to your applications and thus saving both time and battery life. With all of TI's power-saving features enabled, battery life can exceed four hours, depending on the type of computing you're doing. Even with all of the power management features turned off, the machine regularly delivered average work times of two hours or more during my review before I had to recharge.

The CPU is a 486SX running at 25 MHz. DOS 5 and Windows 3.1 come preloaded on the WinSX/ 25, so you're ready to start doing useful work as soon as you turn the power on. Check it out.


With its great assortment of desirable features, Toshiba's T4500C is another example of state-of-the-art technology in a 486-based color notebook computer.

The T4500C provides a bright and colorful 8.5-inch TFT active matrix color display for working with Windows or DOS applications. Surprisingly, Toshiba provides no discrete controls for adjusting the brightness or contrast of the display, This didn't prove to be troublesome, however, as the display was sharp and easily visible even in bright light, requiring only a slight movement of the lid backward or forward to change the viewing angle for optimum visibility. The built-in display can provide VGA 640 x 480 resolution with 256 colors, while connecting an external SVGA monitor enables the T4500C to produce 800 x 600 and 1024 x 768 resolutions.

Like manufacturers of some other top-of-the-line color notebooks covered here, Toshiba has forsaken the traditional LED status indicators in favor of an LCD window, which is separated into four "panes." In addition to providing information about hard and floppy disk activity, lock key status, and more, the window also provides a countdown clock, which gives you a realtime indication of how much operating time remains under current load conditions before the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) battery pack requires recharging.

The power-saving options are well thought-out and easily accessed via the machine's setup menus. As with other notebooks, the power-saving features cause some delays in the responsiveness of the T4500C, such as when the hard drive "goes to sleep" and takes a second or two to wake up again when file I/O operations are required.

A Ballpoint mouse attaches via the machine's QuickPort. Although indeed a Microsoft BallPoint, it's molded in the same light, bone gray color as the T4500C and bears the Toshiba logo instead of the Microsoft name on its top (the underside identifies it as a Microsoft product, however).

Toshiba provides a single PCMCIA slot beneath a cover on the left side of the T4500C, and a similarly concealed cavity on the right side of the machine accepts a dedicated modem unit. The unit's 1.44MB floppy drive resides at the front of the machine toward the right side. All of the I/O ports (single serial, parallel, mouse, keyboard, and SVGA video) are hidden behind a dropdown door at the rear, and a proprietary connector for mating the T4500C with a desktop docking bay is concealed behind another panel next to the I/O bank.

The T4500C is a respectable performer with a terrific color display, a comfortable keyboard, great styling, and excellent expansion possibilities. It makes a great choice if you're looking a color 486-based notebook.



Its bone white case and bold, vertical lines accented by embossed-square designs around the case perimeter make the Z-Note 425Lnc Model 200 a good-looker with lots of great features that become apparent when you open this notebook and turn it on.

Like other Z-Notes in the Zenith line, the 425Lnc has an LCD status panel which provides information about system status using icons rather than mere LEDs. The display takes the form of a four-panel LCD "window" in which graphical indicators signify the status of AC power operation, standby mode, battery power operation, hard drive activity, floppy drive activity, port replicator attachment, external CRT enablement, modem enablement, LAN controller enablement, and speaker enablement, as well as whether the Num Lock, Caps Lock, Pad Lock, and Scroll Lock keys are active. As you can see, this LCD window provides a wealth of information about which features are enabled or currently in use.

A single indicator, located in the center of the machine just below the display screen, shows power status with the lid closed; this LED changes color according to the current power/battery conditions.

The 425Lnc uses an Intel 80486SL CPU running at 25 MHz as the source of its computing power and comes with 4MB of RAM as the standard complement; for those who need more oomph, the RAM can be expanded up to 28MB. No PCMCIA slots are provided on the 425Lnc.

A few words about the 425Lnc's comfortable keyboard are in order here, since it is one of the best keyboards I've come across on a notebook or laptop PC. The key tops themselves are gently contoured with softly rounded edges that fit the fingertips well. The action is firm, not "mushy," and fast touch-typists will find it a joy to use. The embedded numeric keypad and dedicated cursor direction keys complement the alphanumeric keys, and the F and J keys have raised dots on them for confirming home row position.

Data input doesn't end with the keyboard, however, and Zenith covered that end well by providing a Logitech Trackman pointing device, which conveniently clips onto either side of the 425Lnc. The notebook also comes equipped with a dedicated PS/2 mouse port, which accepts the plug from the Trackman's cable to make using Windows and ot - er GUI-based applications efficient. The TrackMan's color perfectly matches that of the 425Lnc, and the turquoise-colored trackball "works" with the blue-green color of the Zenith logo on the notebook.

Color plays a big part in the 425Lnc, since it comes equipped with a TFT active matrix color display, which measures almost 8.5 inches diagonally. The display is clear and bright, providing 640 x 480 VGA resolution internally; if you plug an external SVGA monitor into the 425Lnc, you can use resolutions of 800 x 600 with 256 colors or 1024 x 768 with 16 colors, While not the largest color LCD I've seen, the 425Lnc's is certainly one of the best.

The Z-Note 425Lnc is a good choice for discriminating users who don't mind spending a bit more for a color notebook that performs well.



Want to get the most out of your laptop or notebook? Today's portable computers are great, but if you're like most people who compute on the go, you need accessorbs. Luckily, MicroComputer Accessories has assembled a compact kit of ten essentials for laptop and notebook users.

The kit has a suggested retail price of $29.95 and includes a flatribbon parallet cable for connecting your portable to a borrowed printer; a 12-foot telephone cord, a modular Y adapter, arid a male-to-male connector for connecting your modem; a combination Phillips-flat blade screwdriver; an illuminated magnifying glass; reusable cable ties; two sizes of removable white labels; five strips of clear tape for affixing your business card to all your hardware; and a reference card with phone numbers for common E-mail and online services, All this fds neatly in a 7- x 8-inch nylon pouch (with room left over),

For more information contact MicroComputer Accessories at 9920 La Cienega Boulevard, Inglewood, Cafifornia 90308-7032, or call (800) 521 - 8270 or (310) 645-9400.


The Graphics Generation Test times the load of a complex color graphic file with thousands of unique elements, using AutoCAD's 3-D Concepts software. Since these elements must be calculated on the fly, this test is particularly indicative of the system's floating-point calculation capabilities and video speed.

The CAD Rotation Test times how long it takes to rotate and regenerate a CAD drawing with 57,657 elements in it. Since these operations are intensely numerical in nature, this test provides additional information about the system's ability to process floating-point calculations in realtime. Th'is test was used in place of a spreadsheet calculation test, since all of these 486 notebooks were able to perform complex numerical spreadsheet calculations so quickly that performance differences were negligible.


For all their power and convenience, notebooks can leave you frustrated when it comes to entering numeric data quickly and accurately. One solution is to attach a portable numeric keypad, such as those offered by Genovation and CNF.

The 17-key Micropad from Genovation is modeled after the numeric pad of the familiar enhanced AT keyboard. It attaches to your computer via a pass-through parallel interface, and there are serial- and keyboard-port versions as well. A fivefoot cable is available with Micropad, and additional options include a form-fitting polyskin cover and 17 key tops with clear, removable lenses. The Micropad sells for about $95.

The Numeric Keypads from CNF also feature 17 keys, and they have a rated reliability of at least 10 million keystrokes between failures. These units plug into your PS/2 (mini DIN) port and include a two-foot cable, allowing them to be positioned on either the left or right side of most notebooks. The Numeric Keypads range in price from $69 to $99

To receive more information about the Micropad, contact Genovation by calling (800) 822-4333 or by writing to 17741 Mitchell North, irvine, California 92714.


With computer products changing more rapidly than ever and with options more plentiful than ever, computer prices can be a tricky business, indeed.

It pays to keep the following points in mind:

Street and direct prices can be considerably lower than list prices. Shopping around helps you find the best price.

Because computer technology evolves rapidly, a product may have changed by the time our review sees print. A manufacturer may decide to change the software or the hard drive, for example.

Because consumers are more sophisticated than ever about what they want in computer products and because manufacturers have responded with more options and configurations than ever, one computer model may be subject to dozens of variations, each with a slightly different price.

At COMPUTE, we make every effort to verify prices and differentiate between the price for a review configuration and the price for a standard configuration, It's still a good idea, however, to call the manufacturer or vendor to make sure that the configuration you want matches the price you have in mind.