Here are summaries of some recent computing product reviews. Each product is rated on a scale of one to four, with one computer indicating poor and four indicating excellent:
Intel 9600EX Modem. $799 for the PC version, $819 for the Macintosh version. From Intel Corp., 5200 N.E. Elam Young Parkway, Hillsboro, Ore. 97124. (800) 538-3373.
9,600-bit-per-second modems have become the standard for business computing. (Recreational computer users can probably get by with a 2,400-bps modem, which costs only $150 or so.) Intel's 9600EX has V.32, V.32bis, V.42bis and MNP compression support; Hayes command set support; diagnostic and telecom software; some memory for frequently used numbers; and protocols and versions for Mac and PC (the cables and software are all that differs). It also has a five-year warranty and good technical support.
It isn't the cheapest 9,600, though the price isn't bad, nor is it the most portable -- Microcom's Microportes are only a fraction the size and can run off batteries.
Overall: 3 computers
IBM PS-2 Model L40 SX. $5,995 with 2 megabytes of RAM, 60-megabyte hard disk and external numeric keypad. From International Business Machines Corp., 1133 Westchester Ave., White Plains, N.Y., 10604. (914) 642-4662.
The PS-2 Model L40 SX is a notebook-sized PC-compatible computer. It has a large and fast hard disk, a fine keyboard, room for lots of RAM, a variety of options and a large flat-panel display that can show 32 shades of gray.
It also has a good price, at least for anyone with an IBM corporate or educational discount.
Unfortunately, the display is hard to read, the batteries don't last long enough, the processor is about to be obsolete (new machines introduced last month have faster processors or processors that extend battery life), and the whole thing weighs a couple of pounds too much.
Overall rating: 2 computers
System 7.0, for Macintoshes with at least 2 megabytes of RAM and a hard disk drive. A 68030 or equivalent microprocessor is required to use the virtual memory feature. $99.95. From Apple Computer Inc., 20525 Mariani Ave., Cupertino, CA 95014. (408) 996-1010.
System 7.0 is the latest version of the Macintosh's fundamental software. 7.0 looks and acts a lot like the older system software, so anyone with Mac experience -- and at least 2 megabytes of memory -- will be able to use it immediately. 7.0 is even easier to use than the old Mac system software because of such features as balloon help and a simplified interface. It offers more power to individuals through TrueType fonts, virtual memory and publish-and-subscribe features.
System 7.0 also makes the Mac a more potent networking machine.
One drawback is that 7.0 isn't compatible with all Mac software. For some programs, you'll need to get a new System 7.0 version. The reason to look forward to System 8 is that 7.0 doesn't have real multitasking and loses in some comparisons to personal computers running Windows or OS-2.
Overall rating: 4 computers