(Editor's Note: The WinMag Box Score rates products on installation, usability, supporting materials, functionality, performance and utility. We use a 5-point scale: 1 poor, 2 fair, 3 good, 4 very good and 5 outstanding. A list of recommended desktop systems is at the end of the Reviews section; in future months, other hardware and software products will be added to the Recommended list.)
Intel Pentium OverDrive Processor
Kiwi OpenNote 180C
Head to Head:
Alps 4X Internal and NEC MultiSpin 4X4 CD-ROM Changers
Dell PowerEdge Web Server
Philips 6X CD-ROM drive and Philips 2X/4X CDR drive
Motorola Lifestyle V.34 28.8
Mag InnoVision DX1795
Toshiba XM-3701 SCSI
Ricoh RDC-1digital camera
Performance Technology Instant Internet 3.0
HP ScanJet 4Si
Canon Notejet IIIcx
Ositech Jack of Diamonds PCMCIA Ethernet/Modem
By Jonathan Blackwood
Remember those old Kodak Instamatic cameras? They were popular because all you had to do to load film was open the case, drop in a film cartridge and close the case. Now Intel brings a similar idea to the process of upgrading your Pentium system. Turn off the machine. Open the case. Release the existing Pentium processor from its ZIF socket by raising its lever latch and carefully removing it. Carefully place the Pentium OverDrive chip into the socket by aligning its notch. Push the lever back into position. Close the case. It's that simple.
The new Pentium OverDrive Processor-and Intel is careful to use the phrase "for upgradable Pentium processor systems"-is a straightforward design. The biggest inherent problem is dealing with voltage differences: The original 60MHz and 66MHz chips were 5-volt designs, while later Pentiums are 3.3-volt chips. Intel solves this problem with a built-in voltage regulator. These early Pentiums also used a different pinout arrangement than later models.
Two Pentium OverDrive models are available now: one for 60MHz and 66MHz systems, the other for 75MHz systems. The first of these, part number PODP5V, uses Intel's familiar clock-doubling technology. Thus, a 60MHz processor upgrades to 120MHz, and a 66MHz chip upgrades to 133MHz. The 3-volt OverDrive uses a 1.67 multiplier. This chip, part number PODP3V125, upgrades a 75MHz processor to 125MHz.
In May, chips will be available to upgrade 90MHz and 100MHz machines to 150MHz and 166MHz clock speeds, respectively; prices will be $499 for the former and $679 for the latter. OverDrive models for 120MHz and 133MHz Pentiums will come later, using a 1.5 multiplier to achieve 180MHz and 200MHz upgrades, respectively. These two chips can also be used to upgrade 150MHz and 166MHz processors, but will yield only a 30 percent increase in integer performance. Intel also intends to release upgrades for 150MHz and 200MHz Pentium Pro chips.
I tested the 125MHz OverDrive chip in a Gateway 2000 machine that I had previously upgraded with a new U.S. Logic motherboard and a Pentium 75 chip. The new motherboard had 16MB of RAM and 256KB of level 2 cache. As you can see from these preliminary tests, the chip did in fact increase processor performance significantly. The increase in performance on our Word and Excel macros was less significant, at roughly 10 percent and 15 percent, respectively. These two macros tend to work the disk and video subsystems more vigorously than the processor, however. Graphics and computational applications, such as Photoshop and AutoCAD, should demonstrate a much greater increase in performance.
Intel points out that on 8MB systems, the biggest increase in performance comes from adding a combination of an extra 8MB of RAM and a Pentium OverDrive. Increasing RAM above 16MB has, at present, minimal impact on business application performance.
The verdict? If you use graphics or image processing applications, you'll probably be happy with the Pentium OverDrive. The upgrade is more difficult to justify if you use your machine for more traditional business applications.
One bright spot is that companies considering the purchase of new Pentium machines can buy less expensive processors now, knowing that they can easily upgrade those machines to faster models down the road.
Tests were performed on a Gateway 2000 system that had previously been upgraded with a U.S. Logic motherboard and a 75MHz Pentium processor.
Without OverDrive (75MHz): 136.67
With OverDrive (125MHz): 221.00
Percent Increase: 61.71%
Without OverDrive (75MHz): 4.63
With OverDrive (125MHz): 5.50
Percent Increase: 18.71%
Disk 1 (MB/sec)
Without OverDrive (75MHz): 0.43
With OverDrive (125MHz): 0.42
Percent Increase: 3.08%
Disk 2 (MB/sec)
Without OverDrive (75MHz): 2.20
With OverDrive (125MHz): 2.20
Percent Increase: 0.00%
Without OverDrive (75MHz): 31
With OverDrive (125MHz): 28
Percent Increase: 9.68%
Without OverDrive (75MHz): 29
With OverDrive (125MHz): 24.7
Percent Increase: 14.94%
Intel PentiumOverDrive Processor
Cons: Performance gains limited by other system components
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.0,3.1x, NT
WinMag Box Score 3.5
By James Alan Miller
The fruits of your labors may taste pretty good with Kiwi's OpenNote 180C notebook, a lightweight portable system with ample upgrade options. You'd be hard-pressed to find a laptop as agreeable to upgrading as this one.
At 5.5 pounds, battery included, the 180C won't weigh you down. The OpenNote's battery life was around 1 hour and 40 minutes with its nickel cadmium batteries in advanced power management mode. Also, a bundled carrying case proved not only convenient but durable.
LED indicators sit between the purple Power and Standby switches. There are LEDs for power, hard disk access, number lock, caps lock, scroll lock and the battery. The Standby switch immediately shuts down the LCD panel and slows down the CPU, powering down and suspending the system. Behind a rear panel sits the external monitor, parallel, serial and external PS/2 keyboard/mouse ports. It comes with Windows 95 preinstalled.
The OpenNote incorporates a Cyrix 5x86 100MHz processor rather than an Intel model. At purchase, you have a choice of several different CPUs. In other WINDOWS Magazine tests of this Cyrix chip, the 5x86 100's benchmark scores fall between those of the Intel 486DX4/100 and 75MHz Pentium. The OpenNote confirmed this by earning a score of 98MIPS on the Wintune CPU test. Due to a possible bug, Wintune may underestimate the speed of the Cyrix processor. Our WinMag benchmark developers are working with Cyrix to resolve this problem. In addition, the 180C earned an uncached throughput score of 1.35MB per second for the hard disk and an extremely low 0.79Mpixels per second for video. Scores on our video-intensive Word and Excel Macros--264 seconds for Word and 73 seconds for Excel--were similarly disappointing. Reasons for this slow performance may be the lack of external cache and the video subsystem's limited abilities.
The 10.4-inch dual scan passive-matrix color display supports a 640x480 resolution at 256 colors. Though the display provides a good image for a dual scan screen, it can't give you the brightness, vivid color and clarity of an active-matrix display. Nevertheless, you can upgrade the screen, along with practically everything else. With the external Super VGA port, the OpenNote's Chips and Technologies video controller can support an external monitor at 800x600 at 256 colors and 1024x768 at 16 colors.
The notebook's other components include a 500MB hard disk, an internal 14.4Kbps fax modem and 16MB of RAM, up-gradable to 32MB. Although an internal modem is a welcome and unique feature in a notebook today, you might be disappointed that it's not a 28.8Kbps model. However, a 28.8 is an option at purchase or as an upgrade. An example of the forethought put into upgrading is that this notebook incorporates a standard 72-pin SIMM memory socket rather than a proprietary one that is found in most laptops. This memory system reduces upgrade costs and increases memory availability when it's time to upgrade. The OpenNote also supports hard disks up to 1.3 gigabytes.
Other features include a 1.44MB floppy disk drive, a Type II PC Card (PCMCIA) slot, 16-bit sound, an internal microphone and a full size 84-key keyboard with an embedded numeric keypad. The keyboard provides adequate feedback, yet is limited in comparison to the keyboards in other similarly designed notebooks. For example, you can't access the BIOS/setup utility or control volume from the keyboard. Also, it offers one Type II slot even though the common industry practice is to include two Type II slots in a single socket so you have the option of installing a Type III card. Though the single built-in speaker won't overwhelm you, the sound system incorporates external speaker and microphone jacks next to the modem connector.
The OpenNote uses a touchpad pointing device, centered directly below the spacebar. This device includes two buttons underneath for right- and left-clicking. You may also click by tapping the touchpad. The touchpad was difficult to use at first, but once I got used to it, I was a big fan. It has no moving parts and it's easy to clean. If you plug in a PS/2 mouse, you can use the mouse and touchpad simultaneously.
The OpenNote 180C video subsystem is limited by today's standards. Nevertheless, the options for future expandability may make the 180C a good bet.
-- Info File --
Kiwi OpenNote 180C
Pros: Touchpad; upgradability
Cons: Performance; no external cache
408-492-9188, fax 408-492-9187
WinMag Box Score: 3
By John Perry
CD-ROM pioneer NEC continues to set trends with its MultiSpin 4X4, a quad-speed CD-ROM changer capable of storing and accessing four CDs. Meanwhile, Alps, famous for its GlidePoint mouse, enters the CD-ROM changer market with the help of its affiliate, Alpine Electronics. Both units work well.
You don't have to be a technician to install and configure these CD-ROM changers. Each unit slid into place like a hand in a warm glove. Configuration was equally smooth. The MultiSpin was a little more cantankerous than the Alps unit, but a quick run-through of the bundled installation video helped me address configuration issues in no time. While the Alps unit doesn't include a video like the MultiSpin, its manual is comprehensive.
The MultiSpin, which measures 1.7 by 5.9 by 8.3 inches, is a tight fit into a standard 5.25-inch drive bay. The Alps model measures only 1.69 by 5.86 by 7.99 inches, and those few fractions of an inch can make a huge difference in terms of ease of installation. Both units come with all the installation trimmings you need, including IDE ribbon, EIDE interface card, internal audio cable and user manuals.
While both drives can hold four discs at a time, their methods are different. The MultiSpin carries each disc separately. Its front panel features four buttons with LEDs to the left of each indicating the current disc. A quick press of the disc's button will quietly eject it halfway out the unit, allowing for easy retrieval, even if you have clumsy fingers like mine.
In contrast, the Alps unit uses a magazine that houses four discs. Each magazine is made up of a shell and four rather flimsy plastic CD trays. Each time you change a CD the entire magazine must be removed, searched through for either an empty tray or unneeded disc, and then replaced. The front panel features CD audio controls, a stop/switch button and an ejection button. The stop/switch and ejection buttons are too close to each other, which was annoying. Switching a CD caused a churning noise inside my PC that reminded me of my noisy first Commodore 64 hard drive.
Since both units are quad speed, they provide similar data-transfer rates of approximately 600KB per second. The Alps unit has the faster access time, 210 milliseconds versus 250ms for the NEC. So on average, you can save 1 second for every 2,500 times you access your Alps unit. That's not a big difference.
The Alps unit also supports a larger range of formats, including CD-ROM XA, CD-DA, CD-I, CD bridge disk (video), CD+ and multisession Photo CD+. The MultiSpin supports CD-ROM XA, multisession Photo CD, CD+ and CD-I. Both support standard CD-ROM formats including mixed mode (data and audio).
Both units can be installed as a single drive or as multiple virtual drives. The Alps standard interface treats the unit as one drive. Shuffling CDs from the physical front panel is analogous to swapping a floppy disk in drive A. This is awkward and often results in the need to eject the magazine or to find the disc you want, if the panel is not in clear view. MultiSpin's four button system avoids this problem. MultiSpin's other great feature is its CD Changer Software Utility, which offers a drop-menu option for CD changes. This utility works whether the unit is treated as one drive or four, making CD shuffling a breeze.
Neither unit shipped with Win95 drivers, though they should be available online, and will be included in the box once they become available. NEC says that updated drivers for Win95 allowing single drive letter operation will be available early this year. However, both units can be made to work with Win95 in 16-bit mode.
The Alps unit has its perks, and the magazine system can be very useful. The MultiSpin 4X4 is tough competition, however. The cantankerous installation is more than offset by the abundance of support material, including a videotape. The front-end design, intuitive interface, the CD Changer Software Utility, and the ease of disc insertion and withdrawal all work together very well. Both products are worth your consideration. The Alps' magazine may help you organize your CD-ROM material, which alone may be worth the price of admission. For my more casual organizational needs, I'd give the nod to the NEC model.
NEC MultiSpin 4X4
Price: $279 (street)
Pros: Design; price
Cons: Tight fit
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
WinMag Box Score 4.0
Alps 4X Internal CD-ROM Changer
Price: $410; with bundled CDs, $430
Pros: Magazine lets you organize libraries by subject
Cons: Magazine cumbersome to load
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
WinMag Box Score 3.5
By Sara G. Stephens
Ever since small businesses started conversing on the Web, one question has persisted: To buy or not to buy? Dell answers the rent vs. buy question for Web sites with its new PowerEdge Web Server, an integrated World Wide Web solution that includes hardware, HTTP server and HTML authoring software.
The PowerEdge Web Server is driven by a 133MHz Pentium, 32MB of RAM, 1MB of video memory, a 1GB SCSI-2 hard disk and a six-speed SCSI CD-ROM drive-server-size solutions on a desktop machine. With Windows NT as its operating system, you needn't even dedicate this unit to the Web; the server integrates just as nicely for "intranet" applications, such as publishing electronic policy manuals.
Netscape Communications Server, which acts as the unit's Web communications server software, comes preinstalled and preconfigured. The server uses Netscape Navigator as its front end, integrating server management tasks seamlessly with your other Web-related work. The Administration Manager exists as a URL that you reach via Navigator and provides links to the Server Manager functions installed on your machine, including transaction logging, access authorization and so on.
Some all-in-one packages on the market accomplish this same end by integrating their bundled packages' browsers, HTML authoring tools and server management utilities in one application. The PowerEdge approach, although not as streamlined as such bundles, benefits from Netscape's sheer elegance.
The PowerEdge also bundles Softquad's HTML authoring tool, HoTMetaL Light 2.0. This was one of the first Web authoring tools marketed, earning it an innovator status among today's authoring products. The app, like other editors on the market, works like a word processor, taking commands from the HTML and packaging them into point-and-click macros that drop from a menu bar or sit behind a button.
Unfortunately, HoTMetaL hasn't yet caught up to WYSIWYG editing. After marking up your Web page, you still have to open the file using a browser to view it as it will appear on the Web. The product creates blind spots for users of such tools as NaviSoft's NaviPress, which displays your edited page as a Web browser would. HoTMetaL also tends to truncate images if your window is not sized properly-a flaw that, while not mission critical, is annoying.
The editor's toolbar is divided into three sections-Standard, Common HTML and Other HTML, organizing what would otherwise be an unwieldy button collection.
Among these automated HTML commands is an Insert Table button that lets you specify the number of rows and columns in your Web table, although you're restricted when it comes to sizing. All tables created in HoTMetaL Light appear in the same width as the document window.
The package offers Netscape extensions to HTML 2.0 and some 3.0 elements. You can, for example, alter fonts and center text. Keep in mind, however, that these elements are not standard, so they won't be viewable by many browsers.
The PowerEdge's ease of use, power and quality give it enough weight to tip any cost-justification scale toward in-house Web solutions.
Dell PowerEdge Web Server
Price: $7,785 (direct)
Pros: NT platform familiar to Windows users
Cons: Web-authoring software
Dell Computer Corp.
WinMag Box Score 3.5
A CD-ROM drive is standard hardware in any new PC these days, or at least it should be. It's foolish to buy a new system without a CD-ROM drive, if not for multimedia applications, then certainly for installing software. Most installation software is now available on CD-ROMs, so you won't have to swap tons of diskettes during the installation. It also eliminates the possibility of getting a bad diskette or inadvertently damaging one yourself. While CD-ROMs are not indestructible, they are much less prone to damage than diskettes, and are not degraded by magnetic fields. Plus, many new programs-Quicken, for example-offer significantly expanded features available only on the CD-ROM version.
But what do you do if you have a fairly new system that has a fairly slow CD-ROM drive-say a Pentium with a 2X drive? Sure, the system is fast enough for multimedia, but that 2X CD-ROM drive leaves something to be desired. With 4X drives as today's standard, you can't go wrong installing one. However, if I were spending my own money, I would opt for a 6X drive, which is 50 percent faster than a 4X and hardly more expensive.
The Philips PCA62CR is one drive I would consider purchasing with my own money. With a price of $199.95, this Philips IDE CD-ROM drive won't break the bank, but it will add plenty of vim and vigor to your multimedia PC. This drive is three times faster than that old 2X drive you are most likely replacing.
The drive's documentation is very good, although you probably won't need it. I installed the drive in a Pentium system running Windows 95. I connected the drive to the unused connector on the motherboard's built-in IDE controller. The computer recognized the drive as soon as I turned it on, and I was able to use it in seconds. Once the drive was up and running, I ran a simple test to see how fast data would transfer.
I copied a 30MB file from a CD-ROM to the hard disk in about 36 seconds. That works out to about 826KB per second, which is close enough to a 6X drive's typical 900KBps transfer rate. If you want a CD-ROM drive that will really make multimedia sizzle, but one that's also reasonably priced, then consider thePhilips PCA62CR.
Maybe you're tired of the CD-ROM selection available at your local software dealer and would like to take a crack at making your own CD-ROMs. Or maybe you have tons of data that is well suited to being stored on a CD-ROM. In either case, you should check out the Philips CDD2000 CD Recorder. This CD-R drive lets you put whatever you want on CD-ROM.
In its infancy, CD-R was not for everyone. Both the drives and the blank discs were costly. Today you can buy a CD-R drive for around $1,000, and a blank disc sells for as little as $7. They are now within the reach of more people. The Philips CDD2000 sells for $1,200, and that includes an Adaptec AHA-1535 SCSI controller card. This Plug-and-Play card is very easy to install in Windows 95.
The installation procedure for the SCSI card went well. Windows 95 easily recognized the card, and the drivers installed properly. The CD-mastering software that came bundled with the drive, WinOnCD ToGo from CeQuadrat, was another story. This software is intended for Windows 3.1x, and it doesn't work smoothly under Win95. I found it didn't always do what I wanted it to do. Sometimes it would say that a recordable blank wasn't a recordable disc. Or, when I'd ask for a directory listing, it would indicate only the first entry. Sometimes the CD drawer would suddenly slide out, then back in for no apparent reason. Despite these problems, I was able to record data onto a CD blank disc. A Win95-specific version of the software should be available by the time you read this.
If you need a really fast CD-ROM drive, though, look elsewhere. The CDD2000 records at 2X speed. This is still fast for a CD recorder, which often records at only 1X speed. Fortunately, playback is at 4X speed-not the fastest player on the market, but more than adequate for today's multimedia.
Minor problems aside, this is one way to make your own CD-ROMs, and a method that's affordable to many users. CD-R drives may soon be standard in new computers. But if you want to take advantage of recordable CDs before then, you should consider this Philips package. Once you own the drive, you'll find it's a fast and easy way to permanently store data. You'll be able to save nearly 700MB of data on discs that cost less than $10.
Philips CDD2000 2X/4X CD
Pros: Can record as well as play CD-ROMs; affordable for CD-R
Cons: More expensive than a play-only drive; software
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
WinMag Box Score 3.0
Philips PCA62CR 6X CD-ROM drive
Pros: Speed; price
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, 3.0
WinMag Box Score 4.0
By Hailey Lynne McKeefry
Conventional wisdom says two out of three ain't bad. Take laser printers. You want speed, quality and a good price, but you'd be lucky to get two out of three. Well, the odds have just gotten better. SOHO and home users can now have all three in a single product. Okidata's OL600e is a delightful, low-cost package for the small and home office. The printer, at $499, provides very acceptable 6-page-per-minute print speeds and firmware-enhanced resolutions for 600 dot-per-inch class output.
Although this isn't "true" 600 dpi output, the results were clear, dark and virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. The small, simple-to-install toner cartridge promises an average life of 2,000 pages at 5 percent density, while the image drum lasts for approximately 20,000 pages. Okidata estimates that this translates to a 1.6 cent per page printing cost.
The unit definitely lived up to the promised 6ppm print speed. On the other hand, I found that there was a noticeable lag between the starting of the print process and delivery of the first page. Although the specs cite a first-copy time of 17 seconds, many of the jobs I printed took from 50 to 90 seconds to start printing.
The OL600e holds 100 A4, letter, executive, A5 or A6 sheets or 50 envelopes in its multi-purpose paper tray. The tray handles paper weights from 16 to 24 pounds, while the manual feed can take 16 to 32 pound weights. You can also get an optional 250-page second tray for volume printing. The paper tray unlocks when you push the tray in slightly, which at first I found less than intuitive. You can use the manual feed for special paper or envelopes, although it slightly crinkled the envelopes I printed.
Installation was a breeze. I connected the bidirectional parallel port, loaded the toner cartridge, installed the drivers and was up and printing in a matter of minutes. The OL600e's Windows 3.1x drivers work well with Windows 95. By the time you read this, Okidata will be providing Win95-specific drivers on its Web site.
The unit doesn't hog desk space, measuring 6.3 by 12.6 by 14.2 inches and weighing 17 pounds. It comes standard with 1MB of memory, expandable to 18MB. Also standard are five typefaces and 44 resident bitmap fonts. Okidata uses Enhanced Memory Management, a data compression technology, to effectively double the RAM.
The OL600e provides good quality results without a high-end price. Although not for the user who wants high-volume printing at a moment's notice, it's hardy enough for the demands of the average user.
The well-made, easy-to-use OL600e is a good 600dpi-class printer for the small or home office.
Pros: Crisp output
Cons: Slow print processing
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
WinMag Box Score 3.0
By Joel T.Patz
Road warriors need modems more than anyone. Motorola's new Lifestyle V.34 28.8 PCMCIA fax modem card offers a 16550 UART connection to provide reliability and speed under Windows 3.1x.
Installing the modem on an Epson ActionNote 880C notebook running Windows 95 was simple-I inserted the PCMCIA card and fired up the system. Windows 95 recognized the modem and prompted me to insert the diskette with the Windows 95 drivers. Unfortunately, despite the help of an excellent technical support staff, I was unable to get applications to recognize the modem unless I first deleted and reinstalled the PCMCIA drivers. Once I rebooted, Windows 95 applications once again could not recognize the modem.
If you're using Windows 3.1x, Motorola also provides Card Wizard and CardSoft Card and Socket Services software.
The QuickLink Mobile communications package from Smith Micro Software is included. Using pull-down menus, dialog boxes and a mouse you can send and receive faxes, include a cover page and maintain a fax phone list. By specifying background operation, you'll be able to send scheduled faxes and receive faxes while the PC is engaged in other operations.
If you use QuickLink's print driver, fax or text files can be printed as quickly as any other application's documents. If you choose, the ModemMonitor will display a window of status lights on screen. Online help is available if you don't recall how a feature works.
The Lifestyle modem performs well on a Windows 3.1x machine, but its Win95 drivers would not work consistently. Expect the drivers to be updated by the time you read this.
Motorola Lifestyle V.34 28.8 PCMCIA modem
Price: $280 (street)
Pros: Works well under Windows 3.1x
Cons: Poor Win95 drivers
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
WinMag Box Score 3.5