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WinLab Reviews
Head to Head: 166MHz Notebooks
Portable Powerhouses Cruise at 166MHz

-- by John Cummings and Jim Forbes

At the moment, 166MHz notebooks reign in the realm of notebook performance. We took a look at four of these portable powerhouses.

AMS Tech Travel Pro 2010

The Travel Pro 2010 immediately grabs your attention with its stunning 13.3-inch screen; the active-matrix display offers a native resolution of 1024x768 pixels. The machine is beautifully designed and seems more compact than its 6.3-pound weight and dimensions of 1.9 by 12 by 9.6 inches.

The Travel Pro also has a top-tier configuration: a 166MHz Intel MMX-enabled P55C Pentium processor, 32MB of RAM (expandable to 80MB), 512KB of level 2 cache, a 2.1GB hard disk, PCI bus, a built-in 33.6Kb-per-second modem, an internal 10X CD-ROM drive and 16-bit Sound Blaster-compatible stereo sound. The video system is powered by an Opti Viper N+ accelerator and has 2MB of EDO RAM. A carrying case is also included. The unit has an infrared port-as well as twin Type III PC Card slots, one of which supports Zoomed Video. The 88-key Win95 keyboard is one of the best we've seen.

Running Wintune benchmarks, the Travel Pro scored 299MIPS and a meager 1.2MB-per-second uncached disk throughput. It completed Word and Excel macros in 25.67 and 16.3 seconds, respectively. These scores compare poorly with the similarly priced Dell Latitude LM M166ST. The Dell, a WinList product, scored better in every category.

These scores were the result of testing in 800x600 16-bit mode, in which the Travel Pro's display showed a wide black band around the edges. When you bump the video up to 1024x768 16-bit mode, the notebook slows considerably. The Word macro took a full 64 seconds to execute, and the Excel macro took 22 seconds.

The Travel Pro's big, beautiful screen exacts another price: In our rigorous battery rundown test, with power management disabled and constant disk access, the lithium ion battery only lasted 1.2 hours.

HP OmniBook 800CT

The latest version of Hewlett-Packard's OmniBook, the 800CT comes close to perfection. It's light but rugged, with a fast hard disk and video.

The standard 800CT comes with a 166MHz Intel Pentium MMX processor, 16MB of RAM, 512KB of level 2 cache, a 2GB hard disk, an external 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, a 10.4-inch active-matrix color screen and a full complement of external ports, including infrared and even a SCSI connector. It has a single Type II PC Card slot, external audio connectors and self-contained 16-bit Sound Blaster-compatible stereo sound with integrated speakers. The unit we tested was equipped with 32MB of RAM, an upgrade that will cost you about $200. An external 8X CD-ROM drive is a $405 option. The CD-ROM drive was included with our test unit.

The 800CT measures only 1.5 by 11.1 by 7.2 inches and weighs just 3.9 pounds. The full-sized keys have approximately 3mm of travel and a nice tactile response. The unusual two-button mouse pops out when you depress a key on the right rear portion of the keyboard.

The 800CT's lithium ion battery delivered 1.7 hours of service on our battery rundown test, a middling performance. The 10.4-inch, 800x600 screen is bright, although colors appear washed out.

Overall, the 800CT's benchmark scores were good. Though its raw scores of 314MIPS and 1.36MBps of uncached disk throughput were average, its application scores were impressive. The OmniBook took 17.33 and 14.66 seconds to run our 32-bit Word and Excel benchmarks, respectively, which is nearly as fast as some 200MHz Pentium desktops.

The 800CT comes at a high price-$4,747 for the configuration we tested. In addition, its feature set is inferior to that of the 150MHz Toshiba Portege 660CDT, its strongest rival (see WinLab Reviews, April). However, the 800CT's performance, portability and keyboard earn it a place on our WinList.

Hitachi Mx166T

The Hitachi Mx166T, with its 166MHz Pentium MMX processor, is the latest in Hitachi's line of well-rounded notebooks. We looked at a preproduction unit with an impressive standard configuration: 16MB of EDO RAM; 256KB of level 2 cache; a 2.1GB (nominal) hard disk; a 12.1-inch active-matrix screen; a PCI-based Chips and Technology 65550 video controller with 2MB of RAM; two Type II vertically stacked PC Card slots; and a full array of external connections.

An internal U.S. Robotics 33.6Kbps cellular-ready fax modem and a 10BaseT Ethernet connector set Hitachi's notebooks apart. The Mx166T comes with an 8X CD-ROM drive and a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, either of which fits into its modular bay. This unit measures 2.2 by 11.3 by 9 inches and weighs 7.25 pounds.

Sound from the two integrated speakers is slightly tinny. The 12.1-inch screen is very bright, and the colors are quite crisp. Overall video performance is very good, making the Mx166T a great choice for presentations. The lithium ion battery lasted 1.5 hours.

We had no difficulty attaching this machine to our network. We also liked the modem, which connects to cellular phones as easily as a wall jack.

Benchmark results were among the best of the systems in this review. The Hitachi notebook's processor clocked 327MIPS, and its hard disk had an average uncached throughput of 1.5MBps. The Mx166T executed our Word and Excel benchmarks in 17.7 and 11 seconds, respectively.

While this computer's benchmark scores are below those of new MMX-equipped computers from Dell, Toshiba and NEC, it's still a fine notebook. Its communications features, durability and performance make it an easy candidate for our WinList.

Jetta JetBook 7000

Jetta International is touting the JetBook 7000 as the first notebook to have the power, speed and expandability of the most advanced desktop system. That's an exaggeration-there's no Pentium II or AMD-K6 processor under the hood, for example. But the company has put together a good package.

The 166MHz Pentium processor used in the JetBook is a desktop chip-the P54C. It's not MMX-enabled, but the chip is accompanied by an impressive feature set: 256KB of level 2 cache, 64MB of RAM and a 2GB hard disk. Its 32-bit enhanced Card Bus (PCMCIA) supports up to 33MHz connections for high speed input/output. The JetBook's 12.1-inch active-matrix screen serves up crisp images and vivid colors.

The notebook measures 2 by 11 by 9 inches, weighs 6.9 pounds and has a comfortable keyboard. The JetBook differs from most in that its design accommodates two separate modular bays. The TEAC 10X CD-ROM drive and floppy disk drive are standard; other bay modules are optional. These include a Fujitsu 20MB magneto-optical drive, a hidden AC transformer, a second hard disk and a second lithium ion battery. You may want that second battery: The JetBook survived only 1.23 hours on our battery rundown test.

On our Wintune benchmarks, the JetBook managed an average of 286MIPS-slow compared to P55C chips with their greater level 1 caches-and only 1.17MBps of uncached disk throughput. It took 23.33 seconds to complete our Word macro and 17 seconds flat to complete our Excel macro. Compare this to the scores of the WinList's Dell Latitude LM M166ST: 326MIPS, 4.46MBps uncached disk throughput, 14.22 seconds for the Word macro and 11.33 seconds for the Excel macro. While the JetBook's performance will satisfy most users, it's by no means the fastest available.

The four vendors in this roundup have produced very appealing notebooks, and two of them-the HP OmniBook 800CT and the Hitachi Mx166T-earn spots on our WinList. The AMS Tech Travel Pro 2010 and the Jetta JetBook 7000, however, suffer from lackluster performance and poor battery life.

AMS Tech Travel Pro 2010
Bottom Line: Elegant, but runs too slowly and quits too soon
Price: $5,695
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Pros: 13.3-inch display; great keyboard
Cons: Slow video performance; short battery life
Strongest Rival: Dell Latitude LM M166ST

AMS Tech, 800-868-8148, 818-814-8851.
Circle #846 or visit Winfo Online

HP OmniBook 800CT
Bottom Line: A fine update to a winning formula: small, light portable performance
Price: $4,140; with 32MB RAM, $4,342
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Pros: Low weight; full-sized keyboard
Cons: High price; optional external CD-ROM drive
Strongest Rival: Toshiba Portege 660CDT

Hewlett-Packard Co., 800-443-1254.
Circle #617 or visit Winfo Online

Jetta JetBook 7000
Bottom Line: Swappable peripherals not enough to overcome drawbacks
Price: $3,769
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Pros: Twin modular bays allow use of more than one peripheral at a time
Cons: Poor performance; disappointing battery life
Strongest Rival: Dell Latitude LM M166ST

Jetta International, 800-445-3882, 302-792-1987.
Circle #847 or visit Winfo Online

Hitachi Mx166T
Bottom Line: An overall good performer with excellent connectivity features
Price: $4,799
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Pros: Built-in dial-up and cellular-ready 33.6Kbps modem and 10BaseT Ethernet
Cons: Cramped keyboard layout
Strongest Rival: Dell Latitude LM M166ST

Hitachi PC Corp., 800-555-6820, 408-321-5216.
Circle #618 or visit Winfo Online

Windows Magazine, July 1997, page 130.

[ Go to July 1997 Table of Contents ]