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October 1996 Reviews TOC

10/96 Reviews What's Hot: Compaq Presario 3020

And Now: Something Totally Different

By Jonathan Blackwood

I'll tell you this up front: You're going to want Compaq's new Presario 3020 computer.

Seeing the 3020 for the first time was akin to hearing my first television with stereo sound. As it turns out, the television analogy is apt: The Presario line is intended for the consumer market. It's got all the style needed to fit comfortably and unobtrusively into home decor, but I predict that every style-conscious executive who sees it will want one, too.

The medium-gray, 166MHz Pentium-powered Presario 3020 seems at first more sculpture than machine, with a sweeping curve that houses the twin JBL speakers-the sound is so good that it really has to be heard to be believed. Positioned in front of that curve is a 12.1-inch active-matrix LCD flat-panel display, the brightest LCD screen I've ever seen. The screen pivots up and down so you can find a comfortable viewing angle. Compaq calls the screen Double Bright, and it is in fact twice as bright as a typical active-matrix screen and about 60 percent brighter than a standard CRT, since the 3020's designers didn't need to think about battery life for this desktop unit. It actually is portable, by the way: The case forms a handle at the top.

The whole unit sits on a hemispheric pedestal, which has buttons arrayed along its front to control the CD-audio and answering-machine features. Compaq has introduced this innovation across its entire Presario line: You need not boot the computer to listen to an audio CD or play a telephone message. It's a nice touch, and again, one that seems destined to make the 3020 easy to live with in a den, bedroom or home office.

Near the front of the lower right side of the machine is a 6X 4-disc CD changer with a single slot. When CDs are inserted, an icon appears in Windows 95's status bar that provides access to the software CD controls. The floppy drive is near the front of the lower left side. The back is nicely styled as well, with an integrated handle somewhat like the one you'll find on a portable TV set. The 15.1-by-19-by-9.1-inch unit weighs just 26 pounds with the keyboard, allowing you to easily move the system from room to room, or pack it to take to a beach house. The keyboard hooks onto the front of the unit on such occasions, and the cordless RF Logitech three-button mouse fits in a holster (Compaq calls it a Mouse House) on the top rear of the right side.

This unit would even look good with its back facing a room, since cable management has been thought out in advance-the power plug enters from below, for example. Ports and add-in cards are arranged at the top rear of the left side. There are the ports you'd expect-serial, parallel, joystick, speaker, line-in, line-out, microphone, mouse and keyboard-and two that you wouldn't expect: the first universal serial bus (USB) ports I've seen installed in a system.

A 33.6Kb-per-second DSVD fax modem with telephony features is standard on the 3020, occupying one of the two ISA slots. There are also two PCI slots, one of which is occupied by the special video adapter required to drive the LCD panel. It features 2MB of EDO video memory and full-motion MPEG playback, and uses an S3 64-bit graphics accelerator. The integrated 16-bit stereo sound features Spatializer 3D Surround Sound. The motherboard is the standard assembly Compaq uses on all its Presario computers. The 3020 comes with 24MB of EDO RAM (expandable to 128MB), 256KB of cache and a 2GB hard drive. The keyboard is a standard-issue Compaq affair with Win95-specific keys, but Compaq's keyboard with integrated scanner is available as an option.

Adding to the complete package is built-in speakerphone capability and videophone reception capability. An optional camera enables the 3020 to transmit videophone conversations as well. Software for faxing, multimedia, telephony, and simultaneous voice and data transmission is included. Other standard software includes Microsoft Works, CorelDRAW 5.0, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia, Quicken Special Edition Multimedia, PGA Tour 96, Yukon Trail, America Online, CompuServe and Netscape Navigator. The speakerphone makes use of active echo cancellation to reduce distracting ambient noise.

Performance is quite good: On our WINDOWS Magazine Wintune 95 benchmarks, the Presario 3020 averaged 299.67MIPS, 13.67Mpixels per second for the video and 3.7MB per second uncached hard drive throughput. Average times to execute our Word and Excel macros were 17 and 14.33 seconds, respectively.

Even with its one-year warranty-one year parts and labor, one year carry-in (90 days on-site)-and 24-hour technical support, the Presario 3020 is still expected to sell for $3,499 at retail outlets everywhere. If you're looking for the next thing in computers, look no further. This is what you want.

--Info File--
Compaq Presario 3020
Pros: Screen; style; portability; sound
Cons: No wireless keyboard
Compaq Computer Corp.
800-345-1518, 713-370-0670
WinMag Box Score 4.5

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