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Indelible Blue Einstein Series Cyrix 6x86 P150+

Over the years, as Indelible Blue's software business has grown, they have taken the logical and welcome step of carrying a complete line of PCs preloaded with OS/2. While they have been preloading and selling machines since Warp 3 was the standard, the systems now come fully loaded with Warp 4 and a few other notable goodies. Our test system from I.B. this month was a Cyrix 6x86 P150+ Einstein series machine.

Receiving the System

Indelible Blue sells and ships their machines throughout the U.S.A. and Canada so we had no problems getting our test machine sent to our offices in Canada. Canadian customers should be aware though, that Indelible Blue's on-site warranty is only available in the U.S. Other international orders are not available at this time.

The shipping box that Indelible Blue's machine came in was efficiently designed to contain the computer itself, the keyboard, mouse, all cables and manuals and the speakers for the system. This made the box a little larger than normal but meant the shippers had less chance of losing extra pieces -- always a plus.

When we unpacked the Einstein, our initial impression was that it was a "mid" tower case. In fact, the box was 17" high (instead of 13" or 14" for a "normal" mini-tower case). This extra 3" made a lot of difference inside. First, there were three 5 1/4" drive bays instead of only two, leaving two free (one was filled with the CD-ROM). (There were also two 3 1/2" drive bays, filled with the hard disk and the floppy drive.) Second, digging around inside the case looked like it would be much easier than with many cramped mini-tower cases. The roomy case was a definite asset.

Another nice feature of the Einstein case was its unusual method of access. On the rear of the machine were the typical screws, but the side panels were actually separate from each other. We were able to remove just two screws and pop off one side, giving us as much access to the innards as we would have had if we had removed a more awkward one-piece shell from a normal machine.

The mouse shipped with our test system was light and responsive and the buttons had a nice tactile feel. The keyboard (Win95 variety) was also pleasant to use although it was slightly stiff.

The Hardware

Under the hood, our test machine was built for speed -- with economy in mind. As with all our review machines, this one had 32 Meg of RAM installed in one 4 slot bank (a total of 256 Megabytes of RAM was possible on the motherboard). The machine was powered by Cyrix's 6x86 P150+ chip, which boasts Pentium level speeds, and featured a Western Digital Caviar 21600 hard drive. The BIOS was manufactured by Award (dated 9/9/96), the motherboard supported EPA Energy Star specifications and had a 256 Kilobyte cache. The modem was an OEM USRobotics Sportster 28.8 fax/modem; the video card was an S3 Trio64 V+ video card with 2 Meg RAM. To round things out there, was an ESS 1868 sound card (discussed in this month's Need for Speed column) with a Panasonic CR-583-J 8x CD-ROM and a pair of MLi 691H speakers attached to it.

Manuals and Documentation

The Einstein systems that are sold by Indelible Blue are actually manufactured by another company, Diamond Flower Inc., and bought in bulk by Indelible Blue. I.B. puts their name on the machines and installs all the software that an OS/2 user needs to get up and running.

The manuals and other documentation are left practically untouched from when they are shipped out by DFI, with the exception of slapping an Einstein sticker on the front of the binder which holds the motherboard, video card and CD-ROM manuals. These manuals are, as most are, more or less Windows oriented and offer little help to OS/2 users. Of course, our test machine was shipped already configured so this was not a problem. Just in case, floppies and CDs containing drivers for the various hardware items were also included.

Machine Configuration

The test system shipped with its Western Digital hard disk partitioned into two drives, a 788 Meg HPFS C: drive (the boot drive) and an empty 794 Meg HPFS D: drive. Boot Manager was also installed in case we preferred to install other OS's, but OS/2 was (unfortunately) put on the first hard drive. This meant that either repartitioning or the use of Partition Magic would have been necessary if we had wanted DOS/Windows on the first partition.

The machine shipped with a few extras worth mentioning. Indelible Blue preloaded Ray Gwinn's SIO communications drivers but, unfortunately, they were not the registered version. This meant that after a trial period they "expired" and we were forced to wait an extra 30 seconds each time we booted (we could have registered or removed the drivers, of course).

There were also demo applications from Oberon Software and Hilgraeve installed. The Oberon demos were TE/2 Pro!, DiskStat PLUS! and Phone Log; the Hilgraeve app was the KopyKat demo.

The Einstein's claim to preload fame (after Warp 4 itself) was the licensed copy of Object Desktop v1.5. Stardock's best selling WPS enhancer was standard on the Indelible Blue machine we tested and was a great bargain as well as very useful.

The preloaded software worked largely as intended with only one noticeable problem. When we first booted the machine and began preliminary inspection, we found that it would frequently "stall": the machine would not quite hang but there were periods of significant system unresponsiveness. Noticing that Object Desktop's Control Center was enabled by default and that both it and the WarpCenter had their CPU meters displayed, we remembered hearing about a conflict inherent in this setup. We disabled the Control Center and the problem disappeared (turning off the CPU monitor while leaving the Control Center enabled had the same effect). This was a minor inconvenience but a novice user might spend some time pulling his or her hair trying to figure out the problem.

Indelible Blue did not modify the CONFIG.SYS file in any noticeable way before shipping. The swap file's initial size was left at a meager 2 Megabytes and Maxwait was left at 3. Also, Netscape Navigator for OS/2 was not installed on this system so we were required to install it ourselves. Users without the Navigator archive file on disk would also have to sit through the tedious download.

Performance Impressions

Installing our standard array of "most used applications" revealed no unexpected problems. The first thing we did was install the Iomega Zip drivers (v2.34) and plug a parallel port Zip drive into the system. This caused no problems and soon we had access to the rest of our sample applications: DragText v2.0, PMMail v1.53, Smalled v1.4, Info-ZIP's UnZip v5.20, NPS WPS v1.82, PMView v0.93 and (naturally) Trials of Battle v1.0.

As usual, we do not mean to imply that this battery of installation tests is a comprehensive representation of "typical" OS/2 systems. It merely allowed us to test installing software from floppy, Zip and CD-ROM drives, using the standard IBM installation program and nonstandard installation programs. We encountered no compatibility problems in any of our installations or subsequent use of these applications.

The Cyrix 6x86 chip had no problem keeping up with OS/2 and our applications. Trials of Battle played with smooth animation; playback of multimedia AVIs and MIDI files was crisp (although when attempting to pump a MIDI and an AVI file through the CPU at the same time, the AVI showed some slight jerkiness). We had no crashes at any time with this system. Overall, performance was very good.

Video performance, however, was not as sharp as it could have been. Although the S3 Trio64 V+ card was speedy due to its PCI bus interface, at 800x600 screen redraws were not instantaneous and could have been better. A good card but not as good as the Matrox Millennium.

Many of you are probably wondering, "but what about VoiceType? Did it work on the Cyrix chip?" The answer is, yes.

We tested VoiceType Navigation and Dictation on the Einstein machine and both worked reasonably well. There was a great deal of hard disk activity, even with the 32 Meg of RAM, but there was no doubt that the CPU could handle the task. We did not have a high degree of accuracy but this could be due to the short time we used VoiceType on this system (or a microphone problem).

Have a look at the Sysbench 0.9.1c results for this machine to compare with your own or any of our other review machines. (For details of what Sysbench is and where to get it, see the Editor's note on hardware reviews.)

Conclusions and Recommendations

The Indelible Blue Einstein review system was a very good machine. At a bargain price of US$1,599 (without monitor), this is both an economical machine and a fast one. Plenty of hard disk space, ample processing power and good expansion capabilities, not to mention Indelible Blue's on-site service warranty in the U.S.A., make this machine a great value.
Rating:  *  *  *  *

(4 out of 5 -- Good Buy)

 * System Configuration:

CPU: Cyrix 6x86 P150+
Cache: 256 K
RAM: 32 Meg
Video: S3 Trio64 V+ w/ 2 Meg RAM
Hard Drive: 1.5 Gig Western Digital Caviar 21600
CD-ROM: Panasonic 8x
Floppy: 3 1/2"
Sound Card: ESS 1868
Modem: USRobotics Sportster V.34 28.8 fax/modem

Price as tested: US$1,599
w/ 15" monitor: US$1,968
Shipping Area: U.S.A. and Canada (on-site warranty available in U.S. only)
Applicable Taxes: North Carolina residents must pay a 6% sales tax.

Indelible Blue, Inc.
3209 Gresham Lake Road, Ste. 135
Raleigh, NC 27615

Voice: (800) 776-8284
Fax: (919) 878-7479
e-mail: sales@indelible-blue.com or hardware@indelible-blue.com
WWW: http://www.indelible-blue.com/ib/

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