Jan 1996 First Impressions

AppleVision 1710AV

Multimedia MacMonitor

by: Hailey Lynne McKeefry

The split between the Apple Macintosh and the Windows PC has traditionally been as stringently observed as the separation between church and state. The walls separating the two are breaking down, but they aren't rubble yet. I found that while the Apple Vision 1710AV multimedia monitor had the traditionally high price tag of Macintosh products, it lacked the ease-of-use of a VGA monitor.

First, the unit requires an adapter (included) so that it can plug into a Windows PC. Second, there is no Windows version of the AppleVision utilities. On-screen controls allowed the adjustment of geometry, brightness, contrast and color temperature. However, I was repeatedly unable to get the pincushioning and convergence exactly right.

On the bright side, the AppleVision's flat screen, combined with an antiglare coating, made it very easy on my eyes. The 17-inch Trinitron CRT provides a healthy 16.1-inch diagonal viewable image and a 0.26mm stripe pitch. For PCs, it supports resolutions from 640x480 to 1280x1024. You can use an ergonomic 75Hz refresh rate at any of those resolutions.

A set of stereo speakers mounted at the unit's bottom provides good-quality sound, while a directional microphone sits embedded at the top of the monitor. These features add some size to the unit, which measures 19.7 by 15.8 by 17.6 inches and weighs 60 pounds.

--Info File--
AppleVision 1710AV
Apple Computer
800-538-9696, 408-996-1010

Robotech Cobra XLT P133 Multimedia System

Jazzy 133 for After-5 Fun

by: Philip Albinus

Now's your chance to get off the couch and become a bona fide PC potato. The Robotech Cobra XLT is a fast and furious 133MHz Pentium system that offers more video thrills than a Schwarzenegger action flick.

The Robotech Cobra XLT isn't just a speedy PC; it's a home entertainment system. Though it lacks a modem and network card, there's video galore. The Robotech Cobra ships with the Jazz Multimedia Jakarta MPEG Video Graphics Accelerator card with 2MB of DRAM. The unit also features the Jazz

Multimedia Port of Entry card, a cable-ready tuner that puts your TV and Sega, Nintendo and 3DO games within Windows. You can also watch videotapes from your VCR or camcorder. Unfortunately, Jazz Multimedia was still finishing its 32-bit drivers at presstime, so portions of our video testing were incomplete.

You will certainly need full-blown sound to accompany all this flashy video. The Robotech Cobra ships with a Sound Blaster-compatible Cobra Wave Table audio card that delivers 16-bit sound. The unit also offers a pair of Yamaha YST-M10 powered monitor speakers.

The PC came installed with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and MS-DOS 6.22, and was loaded with 16MB of RAM and a 1GB hard drive. Installing Windows 95 was a breeze from the Panasonic quad-speed CD-ROM drive. A Robotech spokesman said the company will be shipping Cobras with Win95 installed by the time you read this.

The system's monitor is its only drawback. The 17-inch screen has a 0.26mm dot pitch, but its performance was only adequate. This PC has spectacular multimedia peripherals; it deserves an equally impressive monitor.

The Cobra scored 243MIPS and 76MFLOPS on our WINDOWS Magazine Wintune 95 benchmark tests, about average for a 133MHz Pentium. Its video score of 2.4Mpixels per second and uncached hard-drive data transfer rate of 3.4MB were disappointing, however. It posted equally lackluster times of 88 seconds to complete our Word 7.0 macro and 62 seconds for the Excel macro. But if it's wall-to-wall video goodies you want, the Robotech Cobra can flex plenty of multimedia muscle.

--Info File--
Robotech Cobra XLT P133 Multimedia System
800-533-0633, 801-565-0645

Packard Bell Multimedia Corner Computer

Angular PC Is a Niche Product

by: Cynthia Morgan

You know PCs have become household appliances when space-saving designer models come along. The Packard Bell Multimedia Corner PC is just that, with dual drive sections that split off at 90-degree angles to fit a desktop corner.

A 133MHz Pentium system with 16MB of EDO RAM, 1.6GB hard disk and PCI video with 1MB of video RAM, the Corner PC is also a home entertainment center. Packard Bell uses all three ISA slots and fills them with a combo voice mail/14.4Kbps modem/sound card, an FM radio adapter and PBTV4, an integrated cable-TV card. An included remote control handily doubles as a mouse. Packard Bell gets high marks for its user-friendly welcoming tutorial, built around a family living room metaphor.

As with a TV, you don't ever want to remove the cover. Packard Bell takes seven pages to explain how to remove it, and it's not easy, especially since it's partially wired to the chassis.

Unfortunately, the Corner PC scores on the low end for a 133MHz system. WINDOWS Magazine's Wintune benchmarks rated the processor at 230MIPS, with on-target 77MFLOPS for floating point but a disappointing video score at 4.3Mpixels per second. Uncached disk operation transfers data at 3MB per second.

At $3,398, the Corner PC is a full-featured value for the casual home user. For faster performance and do-it-yourself serviceability, however, you might want to look elsewhere.

--Info File--
Packard BellMultimedia Corner Computer
Including 15-inch monitor, $3,398 (street)
Packard Bell Electronics
800-733-5858, 818-865-1555

Zenith Z-Station GT 590MM

Lots of Vroom, Little Room

by: Cynthia Morgan

Zenith Data Systems is known for stuffing everything possible onto its motherboards. So I was surprised to find that the company's design philosophy had taken a different tack with its new Z-Station GT 590MM. Instead of cramming the motherboard to the gills, this multimedia desktop fills all three ISA slots with network, sound and modem cards, so don't plan on adding more.

The Hayes Accura 144B fax modem, Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16 and SMC network card leave just two PCI slots free. Of course, with 16MB of RAM, a 256KB level 2 cache, a 1.2GB EIDE hard drive, a quad-speed Toshiba IDE CD-ROM and built-in S3 Trio 32-bit PCI graphics adapter with 2MB of video memory, you won't lack for much. Moving sound and communications off the motherboard eases future upgrading.

However, tech support may call this desktop a service headache, despite the fact that internal components are easy to find. Although it's wider than most slimline desktop PCs--17 instead of the usual 14 to 16 inches--there's not much room inside. You'll probably need to remove cards and/or drives to make hardware changes. The four filled SIMM sockets crowd out a possible fourth ISA slot, and drive bays restrict one ISA and one PCI slot to short-length cards.

WINDOWS Magazine's Wintune benchmarks clocked this CPU doing 164MIPS, while floating-point operations moved along at 52MFLOPS, a little higher than average for a 90MHz Pentium. The unit showed lackluster hard-drive performance, though with a 1.8MB-per-second uncached data-transfer rate. Video was also middling, at 6.7Mpixels per second.

The GT 590MM's start-up screens offer extensive system and support information, but the manual is sometimes confusing when it comes to installing Windows 95 drivers. The price includes sound, support and modem utilities, plus Internet software and a copy of Symantec's Norton Navigator and Norton Antivirus for Windows 95.

If you're more interested in using a PC than in tinkering inside its case, you'll find the Z-Station GT 590MM is a solid performer.

--Info File--
Zenith Z-StationGT 590MM
$3,383; with 15-inch monitor, $3,822
Zenith Data Systems
800-533-0331, 708-808-5000

Maximus P-133

Mini Tower of Power

by: David Gabel

Maybe I've just become a jaded New Yorker. I approach each review I undertake with skepticism. I did not think, for example, that I was going to like the Maximus P-133 desktop system.

I was wrong.

I tested this computer in my office, which is jam-packed with review products, and was therefore happy for the space-saving mini-tower construction. The included 15-inch MAG InnoVision monitor is similarly space-efficient, while maintaining picture clarity and good color. It took about 2 hours for me to get the computer unpacked and set up.

The P-133 performs. The low-level Wintune 95 benchmarks gave me 243MIPS, disk speed of 3.4MB per second (uncached) and video speed (from an ATI PCI video card) of 7.5Mpixels per second. You won't catch this PC napping. The Microsoft Word 7.0 macro ran in 18 seconds, while the Excel 7.0 macro executed in 13 seconds.

I do have some minor quibbles with this system: The case is secured by Phillips-head screws, which are less convenient than the thumbscrews that some companies are using. I didn't like the Chicony keyboard, which had little tactical or audible feedback. In addition, printer and comm ports are supplied on an expansion card, leaving only one ISA slot free. And if you need to install more than a network interface card, it has to be PCI.

But I can live with those. My initial misgivings proved unfounded; this is a nice machine.

--Info File--
Maximus P-133
Maximus Computers
800-888-MAXI, 818-305-5925

Collabra Share 2.0

Enterprise Wise

by: Jeffrey Sloman

Groupware is a product category that has taken time to come of age. The long maturation is due mostly to pioneer products that were too big for all but the largest organizations. But thanks to groupware applications like Collabra Share 2.0, you don't have to be a Fortune 500 company to reap the productivity benefits that enhanced communications promises.

Collabra÷ offers two versions of Share, a workgroup edition that makes files on a central server sharable and a full-fledged client/server edition. The client/server version is more appropriate for larger installations that require a multiple-site setup.

Installing Share is straightforward, but you should first read the manual's excellent section on planning. For a multiple-site configuration, you designate one site as the initial installation site before you add the other locations using the Setup program's connect option. A network installation takes about 10 minutes.

Once that's done, workstation software is installed from the server by network users or the system administrator. You can install the client programs on local drives or run them from the server. Installing the client software from the network is a snap.

Share provides threaded discussions within forums--similar to the participant areas offered by commercial online services. Each forum focuses on a specific topic, and threading keeps the topic's messages and replies logically connected.

Compared with simple mailing-list discussions, which tend to be serial, the threaded-message approach can handle nonlinear interchanges adeptly. If an interesting--but tangential--discussion arises from the main topic, it can be continued without disrupting the original direction. And because everyone in a forum can see all of the messages, it's easier for participants to keep track of what's going on.

Share's forums are, in turn, organized into libraries. This hierarchical structure makes it easy to perform global actions on large sets of topics and messages. For example, if you want to search for items that contain a particular word or phrase, you can apply the search to an entire library rather than having to search each forum separately.

A Share forum can have a designated moderator, who reviews and approves documents submitted to the forum before making them available to the rest of the group. The moderator can thus help keep discussions to the point or defuse potentially controversial topics. Another option allows anonymous contributions, which is ideal for encouraging people to engage freely in discussions of sensitive topics.

For the system administrator, Share offers excellent enterprise features. The program's user list--called the Registry--is based on your e-mail system's user list, so it's easy to maintain. Share works with MAPI or VIM mail systems such as Microsoft Mail, Exchange, Novell Groupwise and Lotus cc: Mail. Mail Agent, an add-on product, allows the transfer of forum traffic to a simple e-mail address.

Share is also highly configurable. You can choose to let all users have access to the administrator's tools, or you can implement stringent security policies. The system administrator can select the level of control appropriate to the organization. The client/ server version offers full forum replication across multiple sites. A scheduling function facilitates the process.

Collabra Share 2.0 is a great solution for e-mail users who want to step up to groupware. It offers the advantages of solid groupware features without the hassles of more complex systems, and its scalability means that you're unlikely to outgrow it.

--Info File--
Collabra Share 2.0
Server (NT), $995; Workgroup Edition100-user license, $6,995; Client/Server Edition 100-user license, $9,995.
In Brief: Share uses your installed VIM or MAPI e-mail system to create a groupware environment.
Platforms: Windows 95,3.x, NT
Disk Space: Server, 7MB; Client, 780KB
RAM: Client, 1MB
800-474-7427, 415-940-6400

OnTime Enterprise for NetWare 3.0

Well-Appointed Scheduler

by: Jeffery Sloman

OnTime has been around since the days DOS outdueled Windows in the software wars. The newest version, which I tested in beta, faces stiff competition from a much-improved Microsoft Schedule+. But OnTime's maturity shows, and it could become the standard against which other scheduling programs are measured.

OnTime's strength is its true client/server architecture, which offers enterprise-worthy features that can't be matched by peer-to-peer products. This architecture enhances OnTime's performance, and the program's functionality--including single-point multiserver configuration--makes administration much easier. OnTime Enterprise for NetWare 3.0 runs on a NetWare file server and takes full advantage of the existing network user database to make adding new users a snap.

The program uses Novell's industry-standard, high-performance Btrieve record manager to maintain its database. The shipping version of the server product will be NetWare 4.x-certified, but my tests were conducted under NetWare 3.11.

Installation of the server software is complex but not particularly difficult, thanks to the included installation checklist. If you haven't run client/server applications on your NetWare server before, you should pay particular attention to the section in the manual that details file versions. It's important that your NetWare system is up-to-date. The OnTime package includes a NetWare Btrieve update disk.

Most of this version's enhancements are on the client side. OnTime Enterprise manages to strike a balance between adding new features and maintaining ease of use. For example, the new client interface eliminates many dialog boxes by offering in-place editing for appointments.

You can select time periods directly on the grids that are used to show appointments. The dialog box for editing appointments and tasks is now non-modal--that is, it no longer changes depending upon whether you are the person who created the appointment or a proposed attendee.

All appointment and task activities are in a single, tabbed dialog, and you can open more than one calendar at a time.

OnTime Enterprise's interface was quite complete in the beta software, although some of its underpinnings were still under construction. The shipping product will offer Windows 95 support for the client. Campbell Services says the final product will let an administrator designate a resource--such as a conference room--as an entity that can be scheduled. Also promised are new security features that will, for example, allow certain users to view the details of a calendar but not to modify anything.

OnTime's new interface makes it much easier to use. For example, everything related to an appointment can be set in one place. First, you set a date by picking it directly from a calendar. VCR-like controls make finding a particular month quick and easy. The time and duration of the appointment can be set using a timeline control. You can then assign a priority to the appointment and add a reminder alarm.

Appointments can be displayed in three views: daily, weekly or monthly. You can edit an appointment from any of these views. All three views have some nice components, including a status bar that displays current date and time, and the number of outstanding appointments that others have scheduled for you. To the right, a three-month calendar provides easy access to future or past dates. The daily and weekly views also have to-do lists with prioritization and completion check boxes.

Current OnTime users will be pleased with this excellent upgrade. If you're shopping for a true enterprisewide group-scheduling package, OnTime Enterprise merits your attention.

--Info File--
OnTime Enterprise for NetWare 3.0
3 users, $427; 10 users, $994; 100 users, $5,616
In Brief: The newest version of OnTime offers usability improvements for this mature group scheduling product.
Platforms: Server, NetWare 4.x, 3.11; client, Windows 95, 3.1
Campbell Services
800-559-5955, 810-559-5955