(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.)
By James Alan Miller
Consumers on the lookout for a low-priced, solid and dependable 17-inch monitor have limited choices. They're offered either expensive displays with lots of bells and whistles or cheap units without much of anything. MAG InnoVision's DX1795 solves this problem by combining good performance and ergonomics with a reasonable price. The DX1795 is an excellent choice for the value-conscious shopper.
This monitor takes full advantage of the latest Plug-and-Play standards, supporting Windows 95 and VESA's display data channel (DDC1 and DDC2b). To set it up, I plugged in the cables and watched as Windows 95 recognized a compatible monitor and set the display settings accordingly.
A sleek-looking display, the DX1795 conveniently incorporates On Screen Display (OSD) controls. Under the screen are two sets of buttons to access the control menus. You can adjust brightness and contrast as well as pincushion, trapezoid, rotation, and horizontal and vertical position and size. There's a Recall option to reset the factory settings. An impressive Color Manager option lets you choose from three preset color temperatures and adjust red, green and blue video gain. You can then save three user-configured modes. The OSD also informs you of the monitor's current resolution and vertical and horizontal frequencies.
The fine 0.26-millimeter dot pitch contributed to the monitor's exceptional performance. When tested with Sonera Technology's DisplayMate benchmark suite, it performed particularly well on the focus and resolution tests. The monitor also earned good scores for geometry and color reproduction. The only area with subpar results was the appearance of some misconvergence under the horizontal color convergence test. Unfortunately, with no controls for that function, I couldn't compensate for it. Nevertheless, overall performance rated high.
Other features include 13 preset and eight user programmable modes, and scanning frequencies that range from 30kHz to 65kHz horizontal and 50Hz to 120Hz vertical. The DX1795 supports a maximum resolution of 1280x1024 and can handle 1024x768 at the ergonomic refresh rate of 75Hz. The 17-inch CRT has a viewable area of 16 inches, and the unit weighs 50.6 pounds. It complies with the VESA DPMS power management and the strict Swedish MPR II radiation emissions standards. There's a 3-year limited warranty, which you can extend and upgrade through various levels.
The DX1795 separates itself from the competition by finding a balance between price and features. You'll have a mean screen and save money as well.
MAG InnoVision DX1795
Price: $730 (street)
Pros: Focus; resolution;on-screen controls
Cons: Some misconvergence
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x,3.0, NT
WinMag Box Score 3.5
By Marc Spiwak
Most CD-ROM drives today have IDE interfaces, which make them easy to install. However, there are still times when a SCSI drive is preferred, or even necessary, for the additional speed it can provide. The Toshiba XM-3701 is one fast SCSI CD-ROM drive.
The XM-3701 is even faster than many other 6X drives because it's actually a 6.7X drive, and Toshiba claims a maximum transfer rate of about 1000KB (nearly 1MB) per second. (A basic 6X drive transfers data at about 900KB per second.) The XM-3701 also features a speedy average seek time of 120 milliseconds and a 256K data buffer.
Bundled with the drive is a Future Domain TMC1610MEX 16-bit SCSI controller card. The card is not Plug-and-Play compatible, so you must set jumpers to configure it. Worse, the documentation is abysmal, with references to floppy disk-based systems but no mention of Windows.
I tested the drive and its controller card under Windows 95, but after the installation the drive was not recognized. I asked Win95 to look for the new hardware, which it found and set up properly. The drive and the SCSI card performed flawlessly after that.
I devised a simple test to measure the XM-3701's data transfer rate. I timed how long it took to copy a 30MB file from CD to hard disk-about 37 seconds. That breaks down to a transfer rate of about 802KB per second-not the 1000KB I expected, but still well within the 6X window and much faster than a 4X drive. If you're in the market for a fast SCSI CD-ROM drive, the Toshiba XM-3701 won't slow you down.
Toshiba XM-3701 SCSI CD-ROM Drive
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
Toshiba America Information Systems
714-457-0777, fax 714-455-6382
WinMag Box Score 4.0
By Jim Forbes
Professional photography has entered the digital age. Ricoh's RDC-1 color digital camera is one of the best components of a digital darkroom I've seen. It has good optics and an extensive peripheral set that makes it easy to view still and motion images stored in the camera, hear audio clips that accompany those images and transfer that data to your PC. Although the Ricoh RDC-1 is far from inexpensive, this camera's near-professional quality is ideal for serious users.
The RDC-1 includes a self-contained flash unit, autofocus and optimization circuitry, a charge coupled device, SRAM memory card (for storing images) and other circuitry. The camera measures 0.75 by 5.25 by 2.75 inches and, with its three nickel cadmium rechargeable batteries, weighs less than 1 pound.
A Windows application transfers images from the camera to your computer. Both the camera and software I reviewed were prerelease units.
You can transfer the data to your desktop PC via a serial cable or an SRAM card. To use the SRAM card, you must either use a notebook computer as an intermediary or add a PCMCIA dock to your system.
If you're serious about photography, the combination of a digital camera, color ink jet printer and a good image-editing application can virtually eliminate the need to buy film or pay for custom processing. The bonus is that this system can also be used to record video clips and sound.
Setting up the camera, installing its batteries, setting the date and installing software took me only about 30 minutes. Charging the batteries took about 2 hours. Once that was accomplished, using the camera was literally a snap. To get the most out of the RDC-1, though, you should plan on spending some time with the clearly written documentation before you begin.
Ricoh has three SRAM cards available with this camera-in 4MB, 8MB and 24MB sizes. The 8MB card I tested can store a maximum of 162 images taken in the low-resolution mode for this camera and 81 images in the high-resolution mode.
While I'm not ready to fully retire either my trusty Nikon or my venerable Canon, I have to admit that I'm impressed with the optics, image quality, ease of use and power of the Ricoh RDC-1. And, although the price may seem prohibitive, if you're a graphics professional this camera's value will make you say "cheese" and smile.
Pros: Versatility; size; options
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
WinMag Box Score 4.5
By John Perry
Instant Internet is the one-step solution for small businesses looking for Web access. The original version had its problems, most of which were resolved with the release of version 2.0. But speed was still a problem. Not anymore. Version 3.0 with ISDN connectivity makes Instant Internet a fast, affordable solution for small organizations.
Instant Internet converts IPX packets traveling your Novell or PowerLan network to TCP/IP packets that can travel the Web. Performance Technology cuts start-up costs by bundling client applications for all important functions, offering Web access via a dial-up SLIP or PPP account and providing a virtual firewall.
Aside from the new 32-bit Windows socket, the best improvements are in the administrative tools. A graphical interface for access control makes setting up client access restrictions as easy as point and click. And the dynamic monitoring screen allows instant graphical updates of client log-on times and data-transfer quantities.
Performance Technology facilitates setup with its extensive listing of access providers. The ISDN configuration was also easy to establish.
The manual has also been improved. Concise descriptions walk you through the installation while educating you about the plethora of alternative options available for similar setups.
The only serious shortcoming is that, despite complete switch type and protocol support, you can only connect to the Net via sync PPP. Most access providers offer sync PPP connectivity, but it would be nice to see V.120 support as well.
Instant Internet 3.0
Pros: Speed; convenience; completeness
Cons: Lacks V.120 support
Platforms: NetWare, PowerLan, other Windows NOSes
WinMag Box Score 3.5
By Serdar Yegulalp
There's a lot of paper out there-documents that you need to work on electronically, artwork that would look great on your letterhead-but getting it all into your computer is the hard part. Hewlett-Packard's ScanJet 4Si makes it easy to turn paper into digital documents quickly and without much hassle. It works just as well for a single user or shared over a LAN.
The heart of the ScanJet is a black-and-white/gray-scale 300-dot-per-inch, 15-page-per-minute scanner. Hewlett-Packard added powerful networking features and a 50-sheet document feeder, allowing you to transmit scanned documents to specific workstations. If the software's running on the target machine, all you have to do is drop a document into the hopper, choose the computer to send it to and hit a button. For non-network users, there's a SCSI port that lets the scanner work with any HP scanner-compliant software. An internal hard drive stores scanned images before dispatching them to their targets, a boon for high-volume scan jobs.
Installing the scanner and the provided software is easy: Just plug in the power and network cables and run the setup utility. I had the system scanning images and text within 10 minutes. Setting up the ScanJet on a network does require that at least one user have administrative access, to allow the installation of the needed scanner administration utilities. There's also an option that lets the administrator place copies of all scanner software on the network, which makes setting up the ScanJet 4Si on network systems even easier.
The ScanJet comes with Visioneer PaperPort software, a program that uses a desktop metaphor to sort and classify scanned documents. The unit's optical character recognition (OCR) program, export utility (which supports common text or graphics file formats) and document annotation utility are all controlled from the virtual desktop. Omnipage OCR Lite is the built-in OCR engine, and it does an excellent job of converting even documents like low-resolution faxes to text.
Since PaperPort is a 16-bit Windows program, multitasking is slowed down somewhat when it's actively ferrying data. It also bombed under Windows 95 whenever I tried to use the mouse on the menu bar; sticking to key commands kept everything together. HP plans to have updated software by the time you read this.
Documentation for the ScanJet 4Si is excellent--loaded with illustrations and step-by-step information on everything you'll want to do-and HP completes the package with a one-year limited warranty.
HP ScanJet 4Si
Price: $2,995 (Ethernet), $3,199 (token-ring)
Pros: Speed; convenience; setup
Cons: Black and white only; no 32-bit software yet
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT
WinMag Box Score: 4
By Joel T. Patz
The variety of external storage options has recently expanded dramatically. Panasonic's new LF-1000AB PD/CD-ROM Drive is one such option, offering a tray-loaded quad-speed CD-ROM drive and a 650MB single-sided phase change rewritable optical disk cartridge in a single unit.
The external model I tested measures 2.25 by 6.25 by 12.5 inches and connects to your SCSI controller card using a supplied 50-pin cable. An internal half-height model (LF-1004AB) is also available.
The PD function offers an average seek time of 165 milliseconds and a data transfer rate of up to 1141KB per second, with a 256KB buffer. In my tests, however, I found the PD performance significantly slower than that of my hard drive. Copying 1.25MB in 20 files took three seconds on the hard drive, but 25 seconds when writing to the PD cartridge. The unit supports major CD formats including audio CD, Kodak Photo CD multisession and CD-I FMV.
Installation under Windows 95 is a snap. After connecting the unit to your SCSI card and turning it on, Win95 will add two new icons to your My Computer window, one for the CD and one marked as a removable storage device. Installation for Windows 3.1x users employs a special CorelSCSI for PD application that ships with the unit.
One PD cartridge is included, and at 9.2 cents per MB this PD/CD-ROM drive offers economical storage. It serves the purpose, but don't expect blazing performance.
Panasonic LF-1000AB PD/CD-ROM Drive
Price: $499.95 (internal), $649.95 (external)
Pros: Compact dual-function unit
Cons: PD performance
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
Panasonic Communications & Systems Co.
800-742-8086 xPD, 201-348-7000
WinMag Box Score: 3.5
By Jim Forbes
Cross a capable, 90MHz Pentium notebook computer with a color ink jet printer and you get Canon's new NoteJet IIIcx. It even scans!
But that kind of functionality has its price. The NoteJet IIIcx measures approximately 3.25 by 14 by 12 inches and weighs (with charger, ink jet printer, ink reservoirs and scan heads) nearly 10 pounds.
The NoteJet IIIcx includes a full-size notebook keyboard, a pointing stick device located in the middle of the keyboard and a short palm rest. The controls are situated conveniently on the case's front and sides. The active-matrix, 11.8-inch color screen serves up crisp images and vivid colors. The notebook also has two Type II PCMCIA slots.
The unit I tested had an 810MB hard disk, an internal 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, 1MB of video memory and 8MB of RAM, 16-bit stereo sound and an infrared transceiver. I got from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours' use between charges when using the scanner and printer extensively. The recharge time with the unit turned off was about 2 hours; with the unit turned on, it was about 5 hours.
The NoteJet's IIIcx high-resolution (360x360dpi) printer can produce color or monochrome documents. Remove the print head and replace it with the scan head, and you're ready to scan.
The results of our Wintune 95 tests were as follows: 162.66MIPS, an average 1.13MB-per-second uncached throughput for its hard disk and an average 5.36Mpixel-per-second video throughput. The NoteJet executed our Excel 7.0 and Word 7.0 macros in 24.3 and 81 seconds, respectively.
-- Info File --
Canon NoteJet IIIcx
Pros: Functionality; portability
Cons: Weight; battery life
Canon Computer Systems
WinMag Box Score: 4.5
By JoelT. Patz
Polaroid redefines the term "photocopying" as-copying photos. The PhotoPad, a new scanner from Polaroid, lets you scan color photos and add the resulting digital images to business applications. For example, an insurance claims adjuster can take a snapshot of the damage done to a car and include it in a report. Or you can add images to a Web page or newsletter in just minutes.
The scanner connects to your parallel port via a provided 6-foot cable with a pass-through connector so you can still use your printer. There's a Quick Start card that explains how to install the program, and the user guide takes a closer look at the PhotoPad's control panel.
Polaroid's PhotoPad application acts as the interface between your system and the scanner. Insert the photo face up, press the Scan button in PhotoPad's toolbar, and the PhotoPad scanner reads the image. You can set the resolution (from 100 to 400 dots per inch, in 100dpi increments) and choose among true color, 256-color or gray-scale color depth. It scanned my 3- by 5-inch color snapshot in 52 seconds while in true color, 400dpi mode, and took 6 seconds to display on screen. You can change the brightness and select or crop any image portion in PhotoPad, but that's it. The program tells you the dots per inch used to scan an image and the approximate file size.
When you choose the Transfer button, PhotoPad turns control over to EasyPhoto, an image management application. With EasyPhoto, you organize your images into galleries; assign names and comments; crop, resize or rotate the image; adjust color, brightness or contrast; and zoom in or out. Although EasyPhoto provides no printed documentation, you probably won't need any.
You can drag and drop images into OLE-compliant applications-I dragged a photo into PowerPoint 95 with no problem. PhotoPad is TWAIN-compliant, so it works with most Windows-based graphics applications.
The unit's input tray, which can be removed from the tray for cleaning, has a small guide that directs the photo (up to 4 by 6) through the scanner. The PhotoPad measures 3.5 by 6.2 by 5.5 inches-smaller than a mousepad-and weighs less than a pound. You insert a calibration card during installation (or when using the PhotoPad software), which improves color-scanning accuracy. The PhotoPad includes a one-year warranty.
Pros: Size; image quality
Cons: Sparse documentation
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x
WinMag Box Score 3.5
By John J. Yacono
The Jack of Diamonds Ethernet/28.8 modem combo card is aces in my book. It takes up just one Type II PCMCIA slot to deliver a winning hand of connectivity-via its 28.8Kb-per-second fax modem, or over its 10BaseT Ethernet connector.
Thanks to Windows 95 driver support, it installs in seconds with no fuss. Its power management is also well thought out. Power management is separate, so the modem can be asleep while the Ethernet portion is in full swing and vice versa.
In my tests at 28.8Kbps under Win95, I never once had a connection go awry or perform at a phone-line speed less than 26.4Kbps.
But the modem's story doesn't end with great performance. The fax modem section supports MNP10EC for cellular communications. The modem also has Smart Cellular support, which automatically sets your initialization string for land-line or cellular connections.
As of this writing, Ositech is promising to provide an enhanced modem driver via the Web or its ftp site. The company will also bundle the new driver with newly shipping product.
There are accessories for the card's LAN adapter, too. One accessory, called the Deuce, acts like a mini-hub that's powered by your laptop. It connects your laptop to the network between your desktop PC and the wall-mounted LAN connector, granting both the desktop and laptop simultaneous access to the network.
Using a special cable that's included, you could connect the laptop to two PCs to form a mini-network. Using multiple Deuces, you could even create a small network of laptops. The Deuce lists for $129, but until the end of April its introductory price is $79.
For performance, power consumption, and ease of setup and use, the Jack of Diamonds is definitely the card to draw.
Jack of Diamonds
Pros: True PnP; power management; reliability
Cons: Error message on boot
Platforms: Windows 95, 3.1x, NT
WinMag Box Score: 5.0