CD-ROM makes computer special – Hardware Review – Sun Moon Star 386SX-16/CD

CD-ROM makes computer special – Hardware Review – Sun Moon Star 386SX-16/CD – evaluation

Philip Bishop

AT A GLANCE: An expandable 386SX with built-in CD-ROM drive and bundled software running under Windows 3.0.

DOCUMENTATION: Satisfactory; wish it were ringbound.

SETUP: Delivered ready to run.

EASE OF WORK: Works easier with Windows and software preinstalled.

SUPPORT: Toll-free technical support; knowledgeable, courteous.

LIST PRICE: $2,995

STREET PRICE RANGE: $2,350-$2,700

MANUFACTURER: Sun Moon Star, 1941 Ringwood Ave., San Jose, CA 95131; (800) 545-4786

MICROPROCESSOR: Intel 386SX (8/16 MHz)

MEMORY: 2MB installed, expandable to 8MB on motherboard

DISK DRIVES: 1.2MB 5.25-inch floppy-disk drive, 40MB internal hard-disk drive, Sony CD-ROM drive

PORTS: One parallel, two serial

AVAILABLE EXPANSION SLOTS: Three AT

HARDWARE INCLUDED: Serial mouse

SOFTWARE INCLUDED: On CD-ROM: Microsoft Bookshelf, Microsoft Stat Pack, Microsoft Small Businss Consultant, Toolworks Illustrated Encyclopedia, Hotline II Executive National Directory of Addresses and Telephone Numbers, World Atlas. On Disk: CD-Set Go, Checkit, PC Tools and BackUp

WARRANTY: Three years

OPTIONS: Second hard-disk drive; S-VGA card

Some industry gurus are calling 1991 the Year of the CD-ROM. Whether or not this turns out to be the case, in putting the Sun Moon Star 386SX-16/CD through its paces, I (perhaps) got a peek into the future of computing.

Before we proceed, here’s a little history. In 1982, NV Phillips of the Netherlands introduced the audio compact disc. As history has shown, this was a very lucrative move. Two years later, Phillips released a compact disc that could hold up to 600MB of computer data: the CD-ROM. While it hasn’t captured as much of the public’s imagination (or market share) as its sibling, CD-ROMs are now used in growing numbers in government and academic circles to disseminate or access vast amounts of data. They can be of equal value to the homebased worker; at least that’s what Sun Moon Star is betting on.

CD-ROM players are essentially industrial-strength audio CD players, designed to cope with the considerable number of movements the head has to make to retrieve data. Most CD-ROM applications are for retrieval of large amounts of data that are impractical to store on floppy disks, and are not actually programs. And since so much data can be stored on a compact disk, applications can be flashier–including full-color graphics, animation, and sound in some cases. Data-retrieval speed is only fair–generally faster than retrieval from a floppy disk, but slower than from a hard-disk drive. This has been a criticism of CD-ROMs since they were first introduced, though developers are working on ways to speed throughput.

In component parts, the Sun Moon Star 386SX-16/CD is based on Intel’s popular 386SX microprocessor, switchable between 8 and 16 MHz. It offers five expansion slots and one parallel and two serial ports. The 386SX-16/CD, which is shipped with VGA, offers S-VGA as an option (which offers higher resolution handy for applications such as desktop publishing and graphics). The CD-ROM player is installed in one of the drive bays, while the second bay holds a standard 1.2MB, 5.25-inch floppy-disk drive. It also comes with 2MB of RAM standard, expandable to 8MB on the motherboard.

Quite a stack of impressive CD-ROM software accompanies the Sun Moon Star: Microsoft Bookshelf (useful for on-line research), National Directory of Addresses and Telephone Numbers (helpful for mass mailings or telemarketing), CD Guide Optical Edition, an illustrated encyclopedia, an atlas, and some games.

The 386SX-16/CD also gives you on CD-ROM Microsoft Stat Pack, Microsoft Small Business Consultant, and a phone dialer and directory. On disk is CD-Set Go–a utility for playing audio CD-ROMs that can be operated from Windows or DOS–PC Tools, Windows 3.0, DOS 4.01, and backup and system-management utilities.

Start up straight out of the box. The 386SX-16/CD wins in the installation department: All programs come preinstalled on the hard-disk drive, so you just plug in and go. When you start your machine, Windows 3.0 is automatically launched.

For its part, the 386SX-16/CD makes life easy for the user: Windows 3.0 and other software come already installed, and the three-year warranty is commendable (compared with the Magnavox Head Start System, which offers only one-year coverage). However, the machine lacks polish.

The big question. Should you buy a CD-ROM PC? Obviously, this depends on individual needs. But as general advice, I’d say if you are in the market for a new computer, buy one if the rest of the system meets your computing needs. You and your family can use some of the titles as educational tools, and if you need access to large databases–such as information in an encyclopedia or national phone directory–CD-ROM can deliver.

COPYRIGHT 1991 Freedom Technology Media Group

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