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7/96 Reviews Systems: TI Extensa 570CDT

Listing of July 1996 Reviews

Pentium + PCI = Power

By Jim Forbes

The battle lines are drawn, and the notebook war is being fought on two fronts. Value-line models built with readily available, off-the-shelf parts offer economical solutions, while the high end is well represented by high-performance portables that tap into cutting-edge technology and carry serious price tags for serious road warriors. Texas Instruments is confident that it can skirmish on both fronts with its value-priced Extensa line and its high-end TravelMate notebook series.

I tested one of the first of TI's new Extensas, the 570CDT. The $3,999 notebook is based on a 100MHz Pentium processor aided by 256KB of level 2 cache. Base memory is 8MB, which can be expanded to a maximum of 40MB. This well-equipped notebook also has a 1.2-gigabyte hard disk, removable KME 4X CD-ROM drive and a 10.4-inch active-matrix screen. It uses a PCI bus and, when coupled to its optional port replicator, can effectively serve as a desktop machine, too.

The 570CDT, which weighs 6.4 pounds including its AC adapter, is slightly larger that the average notebook at 2.75 by 11.62 by 8.9 inches. It has external video; parallel, serial, PS/2 and audio connections; and a PCMCIA slot for two Type II PC cards or one Type III card.

Although the keys on the 570CDT's keyboard appear to be placed slightly closer together than those on many other notebooks, the layout is still very comfortable. You control the cursor via a touchpad device. The sculpted palm rest helps eliminate unintended taps on the touchpad that can send the cursor racing into uncharted territories. The volume for the system's built-in speakers, as well as screen brightness and contrast, are controlled by function keys. The speakers are mounted inside the top of the display-panel case.

The 570CDT's CD-ROM and floppy drives are removable. They use the same bay on the right-hand side of the case and are easy to swap in and out. Adding memory is also a simple, straightforward process.

Using advanced power management settings, I managed to squeeze about two hours of work from a single charge of the notebook's nickel metal hydride battery. With power management turned off, the battery lasted slightly more than an hour.

I tested the 570CDT with Windows 95, but TI also offers the unit configured with Windows for Workgroups 3.11. The notebook's performance, as measured with our Wintune benchmarks, was respectable. It clocked 174MIPS on the CPU test-a score that would be expected for a notebook with this class of processor. It also had an uncached hard disk throughput of 1.23MB per second-not particularly fast. But the video system, with its bright, high-contrast screen, turned in a score of 5.73Mpixels per second on our tests, making it among the fastest notebook video systems we've seen.

On the application simulation tests, the 570CDT notched ho-hum scores of 55.67 seconds and 25.67 seconds, respectively, to complete the Word and Excel macros.

It's the small touches-like its palm rest and keyboard-that help the Extensa 570CDT stand out from its competition. The notebook is a little pricey, however, compared with that same competition. If you add memory and the port replicator, figure on spending about $5,000.

--Info File --
TI Extensa 570CDT
Pros: Ergonomics; screen; warranty
Cons: Battery life
Texas Instruments
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

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