Leo's Notebook-- the lion roars
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1996. First
published in Computer Player, June 1996
A nice example of a notebook that could function as a
is the Leo DesignNote 3500.
The model that I worked with was a Pentium-90
featuring an 800 meg hard
drive, and a quad-speed CD-ROM drive, that was swappable with the
drive (at least once I found the release switch on the bottom of the
According to the distributor, Faronics,
time you read this, it will be shipping with a Pentium 120 and a
1.3 gig hard drive, for the same $5195 price.
There?s a standard-sized, bright active matrix screen,
24-bit colour, and 800 x 600 resolution (though not at the same time!)
You can save some money by getting this model with a double-scan,
matrix screen? you?ll have a duller picture, that?s slower to
usable for multimedia or games, but some people prefer these?if you
work in public places like airline terminals, passers-by have a harder
time viewing your work. Either of these screen options feature
10.5? diagonal screens? you may have seen notebooks from IBM and other
companies with larger-sized screens?these add quite a bit to the cost
production of these units, and are not widely available on lower-priced
clones at this time.
A 16-bit sound card is built in, with tiny speakers in
the upper corners
of the screen and a tiny built-in microphone; the sound quality is
but a nice feature is that there are microphone and line in and out
on the back, allowing you to plug it into external sound equipment.
The parallel port can be set to run as a bidirectional
or ECP (enhanced)
port, useful for communicating with the new generation of parallel port
add-in devices like Connectix?s QuickCam camera, scanner, Zip drives,
more. The serial port uses a 16550 chip? needed for efficient
communications. Like most notebooks, there?s an external VGA port?
some models, this one lets you use both the built-in monitor, and an
one at the same time. An infrared port on the back will enable this
to communicate with the growing range of IRMA infrared devices?wireless
printing, for example. The external PS/2 port can be used for either an
external keyboard or mouse? plug in a keyboard, and presumably, you
type on both that keyboard and the built-in one at the same time?though
I can?t imagine why anyone would want to! Plugging in a mouse disables
the built-in GlidePad.
The GlidePad is the built-in tracking device. It?s an
2? by 1.5? rectangle (19 mm) centered on the wrist-rest below the
an easy to use location. Moving a finger on the pad moves the mouse
A firm finger tap equals a clicking the left mouse button. (There are
a pair of buttons that may be easier to use). I found it easier to use
than the other notebook alternatives?trackballs or pointing sticks, but
less precise than using a real mouse.
The keys are almost the size of a real, desktop
keyboard, and the broad
wrist-rest makes for relatively comfortable typing. The key locations
nearly standard?something that is not always true on portable models.
There?s an LCD Status Bar below the screen, featuring
icons? an ?N? on a padlock when the NumLock is turned on, for example.
A drippy water-tap for power-saving mode. On the side, there?s room for
two Type II PC Cards, or a single, thicker Type III card. I found it
at first, to properly insert my PC Card modem, but liked how, once
the card was entirely within the case?this seemed safer than models
the card sticks out several inches, and means that I can leave the card
in when transporting the notebook.
The rechargeable NiMH battery allows for about 1.6
hours of use on a
full charge; a second battery can be added for longer life, replacing
CD-ROM/floppy drive. Inevitably, trying to run your CD-ROM from the
will shorten battery life (as will leaving your PC Cards plugged in
you don?t need them!)
Power management features can be selected from the
CMOS setup, and include
a suspend feature? if selected, the system will automatically shut down
to a low-power mode, that when resumed, will restore your screen the
you left it. Alternatively, you can set the system to save the contents
of ram to your hard disk and then shut itself down. When you power-up
all will be restored the way you left it.
Performance is generally good? unlike most portables,
it is seems about
the same as desktop models with the same CPU?it sports a 256 kb L2
ram cache, a feature often left out of notebooks becauseof expense and
battery drain. The model comes standard with 8 megs of ram, and can be
upgraded to a total of 40 megs?my evaluation unit had 16 megs onboard.
Documentation is more readable than with many competitors? models,
it didn?t clearly explain how to swap the floppy and CD-ROM drives.
In an attractive, medium-grey case, this portable is
to the more expensive, better-known name-brand models.