ITT Xtra; an IBM PC compatible with a few extras. (evaluation) Russ Lockwood.
Like the IBM PC, the Xtra consists of three components: a display, a detachable keyboard, and a system unit housing the cpu, disk drives, and electronic innards of the system. Yet the Xtra lives up to its name, offering a few extra touches to differentiate it from the competition. System Unit
The system unit lacks the sleek lines so prevalent among its competitors. Indeed, it looks rather boxy. However, the purpose of this rather utilitarian design is flexibility. You can place the unit horizontally or, if desk space is tight, vertically.
Inside, the usual 16-bit 8088 microprocessor, 128K RAM (expandable to 256K), and 32K ROM (expandable to 64K) reside on the motherboard. The Xtra supports the 8087 numeric co-processor, and five expansion slots allow you to install memory, graphics, and other expansion boards. A RS-232C serial port, which can handle up to 9600 baud, and a parallel port are included.
The system unit also houses two half-height disk drives. Storage capacity for floppy disks is the standard 360K. For those with larger requirements, an optional 10Mb Winchester hard disk drive is available. Both work flawlessly whether the system unit is horizontal or vertical.
The Xtra goes through a reassuring diagnostic self-test each time you power up the machine. Keyboard
At first glance, the ITT Xtra keyboard looks just like an IBM PC keyboard. However, closer inspection reveals an ergonomic keyboard that corrects most of the problems of the IBM PC keyboard.
The detachable keyboard is connected to the system unit by a six-foot coiled cord. The keyboard is slant adjustable with three height settings--one more than the IBM PC keyboard. The keys are well sculpted, and the touch of the keyboard is fair to good. Keystrokes are very quiet, with little aural feedback.
The Xtra uses a standard QWERTY layout and succeeds in placing the Shift and Return keys in their proper places. ITT replaces IBM's cryptic arrows with word labels and includes green LED lights on the Num Lock and Caps Lock keys. Raised bumps on the J and F keys help touch typists keep their fingers in place.
The numeric keypad doubles for cursor control and includes special cursor keys Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down. ITT places an extra Enter key on the keypad and adds a raised bump on the 5 for fast data entry.
The only nitpicking we could do on the keyboard was a sticking Shift key. Most of the time, it did not bother us. However, from time to time, we found ourselves typing in capital letters--annoying to be sure. No other keys stuck--just that one Shift. Display
The Xtra supports three types of monitors: 14" monochrome (amber), 14" monochrome (green), and 12" RGB color. The monitor mounts on a pedestal that tilts roughly 30 degrees upward and swivels 90 degrees from side to side. This helps position the screen for the most comfortable viewing angle. The pedestal has a knob for adjusting the brightness of the monitor.
Character resolution is 25 rows of 80 characters, with the character set the same as the IBM PC. Character display attributes include normal, blinking, underlined, and half intensity in either normal or reverse video.
The display has a resolution of 640 pixels by 400 pixels using bit mapped high-resolution graphics and 320 pixels by 200 pixels using medium-resolution graphics. Graphics statements and commands are implemented in Microsoft GW Basic, which is a refinement of Microsoft Basic for MS-DOS operating systems that includes special graphics and sound capabilities. Mouse Fever
The Xtra supports a mouse, which plugs into the keyboard port. Both mouse and keyboard can be used at the same time. We did not receive the ITT mouse and so cannot comment on how it or the VisuAll mouse software works with the Xtra. Software
ITT boasts a "growing" library of software available for the Xtra, including ITT WordStar, ITT Multiplan, and ITT Easywriter II. Of course, the main attraction of the Xtra is its compatibility with IBM PC software.
The de facto standard of IBM PC compatibility is running Lotus 1-2-3. The Xtra ran version 1A with no problem, which seems to indicate that it will run just about everything--well, almost. We tried running some Basic programs written for the IBM PC, and the Xtra refused to load them. On the other hand, many business and game programs, such as WordStar from MicroPro, Please from Hayes, and Olympicks from Edupro ran without a hitch. Based on the Lotus 1-2-3 test, we feel confident that the Xtra will run most software. However, if you are uncertain about a particular program, try before you buy. Documentation
give ITT a round of applause for including clear, profusely illustrated documentation with the Xtra. This little extra touch is worth its weight in gold. All manuals are in three-ring loose-leaf binders, which make updates neat and easy to insert.
The User's Guide takes you from setting up, through mastering some of the most commonly used DOS commands, to installing optional equipment yourself. The ITT DOS and Advanced Basic manuals seem to be more than the standard guides issued by the manufacturer, taking the time to explain and give examples to help you understand and use the Xtra. All contain handy quick reference pamphlets. Pricing
ITT offers four configurations of the Xtra.
Model 1 includes 128K RAM, one floppy disk drive, and a monochrome monitor for $2495. Model 2 has 256K, two floppy drives, and a monochrome monitor for $2995. Model 3 provides 256K, one floppy drive, one 10Mb Winchester, and a monochrome monitor for $4995. Model 4 has 640K, one floppy drive, one Winchester, and a monochrome monitor for $5695. In all cases, adding a color monitor adds $500. The Bottom Line
The ITT Xtra is certainly an excellent IBM PC compatible. The modular design offers a great deal of flexibility, and the numerous little extras--tilt/swivel pedestal, ergonomic keyboard, build-in parallel and serial ports, and dynamite documentation--are added bonuses that might well cause you to choose the Xtra over other compatibles. Of course, a competitive price does not hurt either.
The Xtra ran lots of IBM PC software, including Lotus 1-2-3 version 1A. Our advice with the Xtra, as with other compatibles, is to test any software that you require.
All in all, the ITT Xtra compares favorably with the competition. Businesses and professionals on the road to computerization would do well to consider the ITT Xtra.
Products: ITT Xtra (computer)