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December 1996 Reviews This Month

12/96 Reviews Systems: AST Ascentia J20

Low-Priced Pentium Packs Punch

By Jim Forbes

As notebook component prices continue to fall, AST rises to the occasion with its Ascentia J20 Pentium notebook for just $1,799. It's powered by an Intel 100MHz Pentium, 8MB of RAM and a 540MB hard drive. It has a strong complement of ports for connecting your machine to external devices (including an IRDA-1 infrared transceiver and connector for an optional port replicator). The J20 measures 1.9 by 11.4 by 9 inches and weighs just 5.9 pounds. The ports are always exposed, since there is no hinged cover on the back.

This notebook uses an 11.3-inch super VGA color screen, with an 800x600-pixel native display resolution. However, it can drive external monitors at resolutions as great as 1280x1024 pixels. The display is bright and has good contrast.

The keys on the 87-key keyboard have three millimeters of travel and just enough tactile feedback to make typing easy. Windows 95 and Menu keys are included. There's an integrated palm rest and a SmartPoint tracking device for cursor control.

In my tests, the Ascentia J20's nickel metal hydride battery consistently gave two hours' life under continuous use. The battery fits into a compartment on the case's left-hand side, while its two PCMCIA and 3.5-inch floppy disk drive slots are on the right-hand side.

You can choose either Win95 or Windows for Workgroups 3.11. Other software includes ConnectSoft E-Mail Connection, Delrina Winfax and Comit Lite (both of which are also communications programs), CompuServe, America Online and OAG Flight Disk.

This machine's Wintune 95 benchmark numbers were on a par with other 100MHz Pentiums I've tested, although its video subsystem was slightly above average. It delivered an average of 182MIPS, had a 1.53MB-per-second average hard drive throughput, and its video subsystem churned out 4.53Mpixels per second. The three-pass average scores for our 32-bit Word and Excel benchmarks were 64 and 27.33 seconds, respectively.

The Ascentia J20 offers a yeoman's performance, a one-year limited warranty and good battery life. It's a bargain for under $2,000.

-- Info File --
AST Ascentia J20
Pros: Cost; basic performance; better-than-average battery life
Cons: Small hard disk
Platforms: 3X, 95
AST Computer
800-876-4278, 714-727-4141
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

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