Dec 302017
 
Review of the Quaderno 2lb subnotebook. Uploaded by author.
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Review of the Quaderno 2lb subnotebook. Uploaded by author.
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Quaderno Review
---------------

Keyboard
The layout is pretty good, with an inverted-T for the arrow keys. Having
and keys near the arrows is fine, but I seem to hit them
perodically when aiming for the spacebar.

The numeric keypad is a nice touch. It would have been nice to have a
key in the main keyboard, though, since it's so popular.

Key travel is pretty shallow. While one might say that limited key travel
is something one should expect with a subnotebook, I'd have been more than
willing to have a case that's thicker by 2mm in order to have 2mm more
key travel.

Key spacing is 14mm, which is borderline touch-typable. I have medium-
sized hands and fast standard keyboard typing speed, and I can touch-type
on the Quaderno with minor difficulties (the and keys
in particular)

Overall: B+

Screen
On the plus side, it's 80x25 with double-scan CGA (I haven't tried graphics,
but I can believe that, with 8 grey shades, it must be nice). On the
minus side, the reflectivity of the screen seems to rely fairly heavily
on a light source behind the user. The HP95 seemed to suffer less in this
regard.

As with most LCD screens (this is my fourth), some programs that are
expecting color are tough to manage. The inverse video key occasionally
helps, but is typically of little help.

If the lighting is right, the characters are very legible. Screen updating
is crisp. I have shadow-RAM enabled; turning this off might slow screen
response down.

Overall: B

Memory
1MB of RAM is good for an XT-based system, which probably won't be running
Windows (althought it can, as noted in previous postings) or anything else
that's a memory hog. The extra 384K can be used as EMS (good for some
TSR programs, like InstaCalc or Instant Recall), with or without a 64K
shadow RAM buffer, presumably for screen I/O.

Overall: A-

Processing Speed
I didn't think XT's came in 16Mhz varieties until I got the Quaderno. In
High CPU speed, it is quite nice. Medium speed is my normal mode, at least
until I come to the conclusion that the mild battery life gain it provides
is not worth it. Low speed is slower than the original IBM PC and probably
serves little purpose beyond additional power savings.

Overall: A (for a cheap subnotebook)

I/O
I haven't used the PCMCIA slot, nor the parallel port (since I didn't
spring for the cable kit). The serial port works quite nicely with the
included null modem cable (which even came with a 9-to-25 pin adapter,
which was a nice touch). Looking at the case, there seems little reason
why Olivetti elected to use micro-ports rather than full-size serial and
parallel ports. Presumably the innards are cramped to the point that the
motherboard could not be designed in that fashion.

Also, having to reboot the machine to turn on and off the serial port (and,
hence, its electrical current draw) is ridiculous and aggravating.

Overall: C+

Persistent Storage
(I'd've said "disk", but in this realm of SRAM cards and all...)
A 20Mb hard drive in a 2.2lb package is a dream. I still haven't quite
figured out what the devil I'm going to do with it all. It is fast too,
rated at 25ms access time.

Overall: A+

Provided Software
The Personal Assistant (or whatever PA stands for) is a terrible memory
hog. Olivetti made the pieces modular, so only some are loaded into memory
at any one time. However, the minimum normal combination of the configura-
tion manager and voice processing modules take up 127K or more. There are
much better tools out there for making TSR programs (CodeRunner to name
one) that could have yeilded a much smaller memory footprint, or at least
had them loadable into EMS RAM.

This is compounded by the fact that they are lousy at best. The voice
manager (see below) is nice and the configuration manager is decent. The
calculator is ok since it adds only 2K to the memory impact. The rest are
pretty bad.

MS-DOS 5.0 is nice, and Interlink is good (especially for printing, which
can't be done with Laplink-style tools and, without a parallel cable, is
otherwise impossible).

Overall: C (D for PA, A for MS-DOS)

Voice Management
The voice processing module intrigued me while reading discussions of the
Quaderno. It is quite usable and convenient for quick notes (beats a ton
of Post-It Notes(TM) glued to the case). Being able to use it with the
case closed is what makes it work so well as a notetaker. The only draw-
back is that it seems to take a while to get into voice processing mode
from a standing start (while the Suspend mode is turned off, presumably).

Overall: A-

Size/Weight
Compared to an HP95, it is heavy. Compared to a Cray, it's a feather. You
make the call.

Footprint of 8.5"x6" (roughly) is good. I made a carrying case for it by
taking a DayRunner leather portfolio and removing the three-ring clips with
a hacksaw. The Quaderno fits nicely along with a pad, pen, the serial
cable, and a bud earphone for the voice playback (although not the charger).

Overall: B+

Battery Life
With the array of power management facilities available, battery life is
excellent, at least with the provided memory pack. Suspend mode, which is
the normal "off" mode for the Quaderno, takes only a trickle of charge.

A three-hour recharge cycle is nice. The fact that the charger weighs less
than a small apple is astounding. I'd've expected much more of a brick
than that. It would be easy to pack it in a briefcase or backpack. Heck,
it would be easy to lose it...

Overall: A

Warranty
The most confusing thing about this machine. The package I received
contained a sheet (in multiple languages) that said that the dealer was
supposed to set the terms of the warranty (at least in terms of duration).
S&W computers did nothing of the sort. I guess that this means that there
is no warranty, although I'd love to be proved wrong.

Overall: F

Price
$549 + S&H from S&W Computers in New York City. Easily the cheapest
subnotebook on the market. It's in the upper reaches of the palmtop
pricing (roughly equivalent to the HP100, more expensive than most
everything else).

Overall: A+


Quaderno Questions
------------------

If I can get some answers for some of these, I will offer to compile a FAQ
(based on the responses and other information culled from quaderno.news on
csd4.csd.uwm.edu):

1. Why is it that some of the PA utilities seem to turn on the NumLock on their
own? I haven't been able to catch who's doing it, but it is mildly aggrava-
ting. At least until I got rid of most of PA...

2. Is it ok to leave the Quaderno charging past the rated 3 hours? Does
the charger have overcharge protection?

3. How bad are memory problems with the provided NiCAD pack? Can I just plug
it in every night (regardless of how much the batteries are down to) or will
that mess up my battery life?

4. How well does the voice management programs work with Microsoft Windows
running? Can you record/playback with the case closed? Will the PA software
run in a window for managing cassettes, or do you have to exit Windows for
that?

5. Does the serial port draw power in Suspend mode? If it doesn't then I
might just leave it turned on all the time rather than constantly reboot the
machine.

6. Is there any form of technical manual available on this machine?

7. Has anyone experimented with turning off the shadow RAM? Does this have
much of an effect?

8. Is there any users group for the Quaderno, short of this newsgroup?



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