ALR Evolution IV MPC. (Advanced Logic Research Evolution IV Multimedia Personal Computer) (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Mike Hudnall
ALR's Evolution IV MPC boasts good looks, power, and an attractive price. However, it's the system's expandability, quality, and great software bundle that make it a standout in the crowded MPC market.
Let's start with the basics. The standard Evolution IV MPC package comes with an Intel 486DX/33, 4MB of RAM, and six drive bays (three accessible from the front). The system sports six 16-bit ISA-bus slots, two of which can be used with VL-Bus extensions and one of which can be used with ALR's proprietary local-bus extension. The ZIF socket lets you upgrade the CPU with one of Intel's OverDrive chips (including the 32- or 64-bit P24T version of the Pentium), and you can upgrade memory all the way to 52MB on the motherboard.
My review system was fully decked out with a 240MB Western Digital Caviar drive, a VL-Bus ATI Mach 32 video adapter, 8MB of RAM, and the optional 256K cache, which provides zippy performance even in demanding multimedia applications. It also came with a 3-1/2-inch floppy drive, a Sony CDU 31-A2 CD-ROM drive (the system now ships with a Texel DM-3024 dual-speed drive), a Media Vision Pro AudioSpectrum 16 sound card, and a Labtec microphone. ALR routes the audio board's sound through the PC's speaker (which is very good, as PC speakers go), and you can hook up your own external speakers. I found the system's case solid and accessible.
A standout feature is the TriCombo card, which occupies the proprietary local-bus slot and provides ATI local-bus video, a 256K processor cache, and an Ethernet networking adapter.
While a number of manufacturers--even some of the big names--have had trouble with quality control in the form of faulty motherboards, short-lived hard drives, and similar problems, I encountered no such difficulties with this MPC. The components come from respected, reliable manufacturers, and ALR offers a limited five-year (chassis, motherboard, and power supply)/15-month (labor costs and peripherals) warranty with optional on-site service and available extended-warranty options. While there was a longer-than-usual delay in switching from graphics to text mode on the bundled ALR 14-inch noninterlaced SVGA monitor, that's only a very minor quibble; generally, I found it sharp, stable, and easy to look at. I liked the feel and action of the keyboard, and the two-button mouse worked fine.
Preinstalled on the system are MS-DOS 6, Windows 3.1, WinCIM (for access to CompuServe, if you opt for a modem), and several CD-ROM titles, including Cinemania, Works for Windows, Multimedia Beethoven, Bookshelf for Windows, Kodak Photo CD ACCESS software, and Microsoft's Multimedia Pack 1.0. If you opt for a fax/data modem, you'll also receive Eclipse Fax for Windows. If you'd rather avoid the hassle of installing a number of hardware and software items on your new system, this may be the MPC for you. I thoroughly enjoyed this system and found it ready for the most demanding applications. ALR offers a multitude of system options; contact the company for a system configured to meet your specific needs.