Best retro purpose
Early DOS and Windows 3.1 era gaming, for titles released before 1995 or as office computer. Unfortunately, despite the somewhat adequate CPU speed, the video chipset is definitely too slow for anything beyond 320x200 resolution and even 640x480 resolution is quite taxing on Windows 3.1. DOS games support is quite good as the laptop offers also good SoundBlaster emulation. Definitively avoid, if possible, the colour monochrome passive LCDs as they have very poor contrast, and even more so in the case of monochrome screens as they are having even lower contrast than the colour ones. Unfortunately, there is no visible hint on the laptop chassis about the screen, except on the label placed on the laptop's underside.
Durability and Repair-ability
The plastic quality of most of the chassis is quite good for such an old laptop and significantly better than later Fujitsu-Siemens models. Internal component access is also quite good, as the hardrive has a caddy that can be opened externally, as well as easy access to the floppy drive, battery and RAM. The LCD screen has a fluorescent backlight that is potentially difficult to replace as screens used by IBM on similar laptops can be quite cumbersome to disassemble (the IBM Thinkpad 755, IBM 370C series). Unfortunately, the floppy drive is highly unreliable, as the belt driven platter system requires belt replacement and it is prone to fail.
Greatest features & flaws
|Average Windows 3.1 DOS Gaming platform||Cumbersome graphics support on some VESA modes|
|Compact laptop, good soundcard (if available)||Somewhat slow on Windows 95, limited RAM expansion capability|
|Durable, comfortable keyboard and trackball||Mediocre video chipset, poor speaker, no volume control|
|Stylish, great internal parts access||Proprietary RAM module, poor floppy drive|
A midrange, compact, business laptop, released in 1993. It had an average mix of parts for a 486. The CPU is good for a 486, the video chipset is just mediocre while the soundcard positions this laptop somewhat on target with the intended goals. The only major improvement of this laptop compared with other 486 models equipped with the same video chipset is the slightly faster CPU that could run upto 100 MHz, on some models.
The Western Digital branded video chipset was decent in 1993 but seriously obsolete by 1995 or 1996, late in the product's manufacturing run. The lack of modern acceleration functions means that even running Windows 3.1 in 640x480 feels somewhat sluggish and Windows 95 operation is outright slow. It is very difficult to understand why Siemens agreed to linger on with this laptop configuration and using such video chipsets up until 1996, as they do not even expose full VESA capabilities, requiring loading a special VESA TSR to run some programs that require 640x480 in 256 colours. Also, although resolutions such as 1024x768 at 256 colors are possible, they are clearly beyond the user's patience. Provisions for monochrome screens also show the dated system platform, as most laptops have started to abandon in 1993 such display options.
The inclusion of a relatively modern TFT screen on some models, although the contrast ratio, response time and especially colour accuracy (fringing) seems slightly poorer than IBM's offerings, is one of the few saving graces in terms of technical prowess, as most laptops of its era either had poor color LCDs. RAM capabilities are mixed. The lack of standardization means that memory upgrades are quite difficult to find, as the laptop require a clearly proprietary memory module package, that looks as a slightly thick black cartridge. Similarly, CPU upgrades seem to be limited as there is a proprietary connector used for CPUs and CPUs are soldered on a CPU module board. Cooling is, however, adequate, so durability is ensured.
The standard capacity harddrive is not adequate as even modest Windows 95 installations with a Microsoft Office 95 package can take around more than 300MB. The harddrive itself is noisy and very bulky (12mm height) but the plastic drive cage along with the laptop's own casing offer excellent noise damping capabilities as metal frames are almost entirely avoided.The keyboard, trackball and trackball buttons are close to the classic IBM standard of peripherals, which is a nice surprise. The keyboard feel and travel is just right for a classic model. The only discomfort comes from the trackball buttons that have indentations that are slightly unpleasant on longer use. Also, the slightly slanted palmrest creates a comfortable typing position.
The sound capability of the laptop is unbalanced. Inclusion of a soundcard is highly appreciated but lack of volume controls, except when using proprietary applications, seriously limits comfort. This issue is even more annoying as the speaker can either be too loud or relatively normal, as there is some variability between same equipped models. Even when you can hear the speaker, the quality it provides is just too low. It is clear that it was mostly designed for beeps not sound or music playback. Even more annoying is the use of a belt-driven floppy drive platter, which makes replacements and operation near impossible after so many years. It is difficult to find adequate replacement belts, but more laptops used this poor and cheap solution on laptops, notably Toshiba, for unknown reasons.
Software support is a mixed experience. While hardware capabilities are not outright bad, the video chipset seriously limit comfortable operating systems to Windows 3.1. Although Windows 95 can be run, you should have at least 16MB of RAM available. DOS gaming is mixed experience as, for instance, Wolfenstein 3D is playable while the venerable DOOM is a good choice only for the 486 DX4 processors running at 75 or 100MHz.