The Buddy PC – Vega Technologies special-purpose computer – Hardware Review – Evaluation
Victoria Hall Smith
8 9 9 7
V P E S
Pros: Lets two people work from the same PC
Cons: Slight performance loss, second user has no audio capabilities
Does either of these scenarios sound familiar? You could really use a second person in your home office, but the added payroll expense will eat into the cash flow you need to buy that second PC. Or you need to work on a presentation that’s due tomorrow, but your son or daughter has the family PC tied up doing homework. If you’re nodding your head right now, it means you could use a Buddy.
The Buddy PC ($150 alone; $189 with keyboard, mouse, and 50-foot cable; Vega Technologies, 888-654-5415, www.vegatechnologies.com) lets you add a second monitor, keyboard, and mouse to any PC, essentially cloning it so the second user can concurrently use the same system. It doesn’t have the power of a home network, but in a pinch, the Buddy system lets you share modems, printers, CD-ROM and DVD drives, and even the same modem line and ISP account.
The system includes a 15-foot cable; a connector box with ports for the second monitor, keyboard and mouse; software; and an adapter card. And there’s the only rub: You have to open your PC and install what is essentially a network card that manages the traffic of two users. The manual, although sparse, does a good job of explaining how to install the card and distinguish between the necessary ISA slot and a PCI slot.
On our 166MHz Pentium desktop with 32MB of RAM, performance slowed when we shared an Internet connection. Another test–in which our office mate prepared and printed a Microsoft Word document while we retrieved e-mail–showed no slowdown, and a 200MHz Quantex system with 48MB of RAM saw no performance hit during either test.
On the minus side, the second user doesn’t have any audio capabilities, because the speakers are controlled by the host PC.
We have to admit we were skeptical about the Buddy PC, but we came to like this odd item. However, with PC prices as low as they are, it brings up an interesting point: Why pay $150 to harness a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to
your current PC when you can network two PCs for the same price?
Although the Buddy PC performs well, there’s a tangential issue you can’t overlook: software licensing. Some licenses limit use to a single user or to a single computer. Make sure you read your applications’ licenses before you use the Buddy, to avoid any nasty legal surprises later.
THE NETWORKED HOME’S product scores are weighted averages of 1- to 10-point ratings for: Value (30 percent of total), Performance (30 percent of total), Ease of Use (20 percent of total), and Suitability for Home Network Use (20 percent of total).
V = Value
P = Performance
E = Ease of Use
S = Suitability for Home Network Use
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