Low-cost Macs are aimed at first-time buyers

PERSONAL COMPUTERS

September 28, 1992|By PETER H.LEWIS

Apple Computer Inc. has introduced a new family of low-cost Macintosh computers for use at home. They are called Performas, and they are the vanguard of what Apple executives say will be a series of products aimed at first-time buyers.

The Performas will be sold in department stores, office supply stores and consumer electronics stores, but not in traditional computer stores. The segmented distribution of the new models is a risky step for Apple, as it can cause confusion.

One shopper who asked about the Performas at a computer store was told by an insistent clerk that the computers did not exist. They do. There are three models, the Performa 200, the Performa 400 and the Performa 600, ranging in price from about $1,250 to about $3,000. Except for the Performa 600 CD, the most interesting model of the bunch, but not available until next month, the Performas are basically twins of earlier Macintoshes.

The Performa 200 is a twin of the Macintosh Classic II, which has a built-in black-and-white screen. The Macintosh Performa 400 is essentially the Mac LC II.

To set them apart from their look-alike siblings, Apple has equipped with Performas with an assortment of software, including new system software modifications that make the Performas especially easy to use.

The Performas also come with a year of toll-free phone support, plus a year of free at-home service.

The Performa 400 and 600 models come without a monitor. Apple has two new offerings, both of them with 14-inch screens, measured diagonally. The budget model is the Performa Display. The Performa Display Plus offers a sharper and clearer image, and, unlike its lesser companion, it complies with the latest Swedish standards for reduced electromagnetic fields. Such fields are suspected, but not proved, to be causes of increased rates of cancer.

Because the Performas are probably destined for households with children, some of whom watch television for hours with their noses pressed against the screen, the Performa Display Plus's radiation shielding is worth considering.

All the Performas are built around the Motorola 68030 microprocessor, which is equivalent to the Intel 386 used in IBM-style PCs. ThePerforma 200 and 400 models use a `f 16-megahertz version of the chip, while the Performa 600 uses the faster 32-megahertz version.

The Performa 600 is slightly less powerful than the Macintosh IIci but much less expensive: $2,000 or so for the Performa, compared to $3,000 for a similarly equipped Mac IIci.

The Performa 200 and 400 models come with four megabytes of system memory and an 80-megabyte hard disk drive. The Performa 600s come with either four or five megabytes of system memory and a 160-megabyte hard disk.

All the Performas have Apple's 3.5-inch Superdrive diskette drives, which can read files created on DOS and Windows machines as well as Macintoshes. The Superdrives cannot run DOS or Windows software.

The Performa 600 CD will be Apple's first computer to come with a built-in CD-ROM drive and a selection of CD-ROM software. CD-ROM, which stands for "compact disk/read only memory," is one of the most exciting technologies for entertainment and education. The storage capacity of CD-ROM disks is measured in hundreds of megabytes, allowing the disks to hold stereo sound, animation and full-motion video.

The Apple CD-ROM drive, called the 300i, is especially fast, which makes it ideal for pumping out complex images like photo-quality color images and video. To show off the drive, Apple plans to bundle CD-ROM disks, including games, software demos, and a demonstration disc of Kodak PhotoCD images.

Photographers can take their 35mmfilm to a Kodak PhotoCD processor to have the images digitized and stored on a compact disk. Then, using the Performa 600 CD and special software, the images can be cropped, trimmed, altered or given special effects.

(Peter Lewis works out of the New York Times' Austin, Texas bureau: [512] 328-8258.)

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