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Duo 210 Observations

Now that I’ve traveled to Japan and back with my Duo 210, I have comments which might be helpful to potential buyers. Please send me suggestions or comments if you have similar experiences.

Snoring — It snores! When my 210 sleeps with the power plug removed, it snores. A light buzzing comes from the rear, near the power jack. In any but the quietest places, you have to put it within a few inches of the ear to hear it. Battery life is good when asleep, so there is no evidence that this is a fault. I’d like to know if anyone else hears this! (When shut down, or the battery is removed, it is completely silent.) At least one other person has confirmed this.

Battery life — I took four batteries with me for the flights across the Pacific. I never ran out of power – the flight from Los Angeles is eleven and a half hours, but between meals and movies I only used up two batteries. With the screen set to minimum (quite bright in a dark plane) and the conservation set to maximum (not too annoying) and processor cycling on, but full CPU speed, I got well over two hours of use per battery. These batteries discharge when not in use, and after 24 hours they’ve lost maybe 20 minutes of charge. So plan ahead and keep them topped off. I suspect I could get close to three hours booting from a big RAM disk.

While we’re talking about the battery, I have had zero problems with loose connections. Just make sure that it is tightly latched as intended and you should be fine.

The battery slip-case has sharp innards that dig grooves into the battery. This is silly. Discard the case, or sand down the ridges in the case (not so easy). You can also slice off the pin way inside the case that latches the battery in there and it’s much easier to use the case. The primary latch, in front, is good enough without that darn plastic pin.

Screen — The screen is excellent in black and white mode, but I never use that mode, because the 16 grays look much nicer. Black, single-pixel-high horizontal lines cause slight shadows to extend down the screen. Window title bars, with six parallel lines, are the worst offenders. Try setting the background to alternating horizontal lines of white and black – the screen quality plummets. I use a 50% gray background with a grid highlight, similar to one provided in the "General" control panel. The grid lines help to hide shadows. Cranking "up" the contrast (the top button) can also reduce shadows. [If you’re familiar with ResEdit, consider modifying the procedure Conrad Halling passed along in TidBITS-160. -Adam]

When the screen is off, it takes a minute to warm up. It comes on fairly bright, but gradually increases to full. This is subtle enough that I thought it was my eyes for a while. Does anyone know what kind of lights are used to light the screen? Do they ever burn out? Should I keep them off when I’m plugged in and don’t need backlighting?

Keyboard — This keyboard just isn’t a desktop keyboard. It is adequate, but the spacebar takes some getting used to, and it will always be a little less comfortable than a full-sized keyboard. For extended use at home you’ll be happier with a real mouse and keyboard. The floppy adapter has one ADB port, so it is the least expensive way to add the real keyboard and mouse.

[Important! The 08-Mar-93 issue of MacWEEK reported that Apple will replace Duo keyboards that have a problem wherein the Shift keys or the spacebar don’t respond when the user types too rapidly. Either call your dealer or the Apple technical assistance hotline at 800/767-2775 if you experience this. -Adam]

Network Connections — A simple ImageWriter II cable works fine to connect any two LocalTalk ports such as between the Duo 210 and a LaserWriter or the 210 and a IIci, etc. It’s a lot more compact than a pair of PhoneNet connectors.

Summary — I love it. Sun Computers wants $1,999 for them; developers can do better but may have to wait a while – perhaps as long as three to four months. They are abundant in San Diego stores. I see no need for the faster 230, though the dealer said most people opt for the 230. My most desired option now (in addition to four batteries, two power supplies and one charger) would be 4 MB or 8 MB more RAM. It’s a well-balanced machine, but 4 MB is a little tight.

Negatives — [On the negative side, common complaints about the Duos include the paucity of the Apple Express Modem and the docks, most notably the MiniDock, the lack of an internal floppy drive, the lack of an ADB port, the difficulty in taking it apart for anything but adding RAM, the smaller trackball size (although it does use a jeweled bearing that improves the feel significantly), the cost of an overall Duo Dock system, and the loss of the internal screen when docked in the Duo Dock. Of these, I’m only really concerned about the last – all the other problems will either go away or force you to suffer with a traditional PowerBook. -Adam]

Information from:
Eric Anderson — [email protected]

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