Compaq Presario ES for Education Serves With Style

Distinguished by a Ford Taurus-like "dashboard," plus the obvious, an all-in-one monitor/CPU/ speaker design, Compaq's new Presario 4406ES multimedia PC has a stylized look that turns out to also be uniquely functional. Introduced in the fall of 1996, this is a Compaq education-specific offering.

It Has a Dashboard

The all-in-one design, in reality, fits the personal needs of students and educators, as well as into classroom/lab environments. Since the 15" monitor (13.8" viewable) is integrated, back cabling comprises a single power cord. Students in dorms or bedrooms and faculty in shared offices, for example, would appreciate its small footprint.

Since it is a single unit, the Presario 4406ES can do some cool things design-wise. Basic controls for the CD drive, speakers, screen and more are placed in a sweeping arc on the front. To me, it looks like a dashboard -- and it is very handy in actual day-to-day usage. Of course, this is a multimedia machine. Stereo audio with a surround-sound quality comes from the JBL Pro speakers.

Indeed, the design encourages users to exploit its 6X CD drive to play music CDs with the dashboard's Easy Access control buttons. Through here and via software, one can manipulate audio, MIDI mixer/maker, the video player for movies, WAV tools for sound, and more.

Finally, the integrated monitor offers a crisp .28mm dot pitch and a maximum non-interlaced resolution of 1024 x 768. Behind the scenes, full MPEG video, wavetable sound and a Pentium 120 MHz heart power the ride. Other specs include standard 16MB of RAM, a 1.2GB hard disk, floppy drive and Windows 95 pre-installed.

Special Features Suit Education

The Presario 4406ES' few cables are color-coded, which helps make set-up a breeze. Linking to a network, from dorm room or classroom, is nearly plug-and-play as well. Compaq's solid Netelligent 10 Mbps/100 Mbps Ethernet Controller is standard equipment. Certified for Novell networks, even upgrading to Fast Ethernet is easy.

If the Homebase GUI is not wanted, its menu can be deleted. For teaching environments, press the SmartQ button. This accesses a unique way to let teachers instantly switch among up to eight custom "learning spaces."

Through SmartQ's Homebase menus, they first create a limited number of applications and references -- from any source accessible by the PC, whether it is on the Internet, a local server, a CD, etc. -- and assign them to a GUI-based work space. Later, with little more than a touch of SmartQ, the instructor or lab aid can, in essence, switch the "curriculum" and/or grade level on the PCs for a new class or student.

For example, in an English composition class, "story starters" could be pulled off the Internet from national newspapers and stored, then offered up along with a dictionary, thesaurus, CD encyclopedia and "sticky note" utility. In this space, students would write a piece, even adding images or audio, then "self- edit" their first draft using the temporary notes. Teachers then use the notes to visually track and analyze students' thought processes during the editing stage.

HyperStudio in SW Bundles

In an exclusive agreement with Roger Wagner Publishing, Inc., (El Cajon, CA), every Presario 4406ES also comes with HyperStudio, a multimedia authoring package popular with teachers and students. This is the only Windows 95 PC to have it, transforming each Presario instantly into a multimedia-creation and delivery vehicle, even able to share projects across the Internet.

LearningPaqs, included in the price, are bundles of CD software -- newly revised and totaling more than 70 titles -- grouped by subject matter and grade level. A single-user license is standard, so one must purchase appropriate licensing from publishers. Educators are offered their choice of 12 LearningPaqs. While most schools will want to add other programs, these collections do provide instant access to targeted instructional needs. LearningPaqs areas covered are higher education, the Internet, teacher productivity, general and reference, as well as discipline groupings of math, science, language arts and social studies. The General & Reference Grades: 10-12 set is especially well crafted.

Optional Scanner Keyboard

Perhaps the most personally useful option for the Presario 4406ES is a keyboard with a built-in PaperPort OCR/graphics scanner. There's a lot one can do with this nicety. Scan literally any non-script text into the PC and save it directly to word processor format with a few mouse clicks and menu choices. Graphics are the same, although it is not true imaging. This is an amazing productivity tool. Use it for a month and it becomes necessary forever.

The Details

As of this writing, Presario 4406ES all-in-one PCs start at $1,799 with a LearningPaq, Windows 95, Microsoft Works and other applications all included. A modified version trades an external 33.6 Kpbs modem for the network card and has ClarisWorks instead of MS Works; it's offered to educators for $1,849. Each unit is backed by a three-year limited warranty with three years on parts and one year of on-site labor. Contact Compaq Computer Corp., Houston, TX, (800) 836-0149,

Financing Options

Educational institutions have flexible ways to finance Compaq purchases with the firm's EduFlex long- and short-term leasing program. For example, only 51% of the funds needs to be spent on Compaq products. This lets schools fund entire technology programs just through their hardware lease. In explaining EduFlex, Sue Collins, Director of Education with Compaq, says that it functions like an "operations" lease even though it's really a "capital" lease.

Product "refreshment," the ability to upgrade PCs without buying all new equipment, is addressed. Plus, an "aggressive" trade-in program for out-dated computers like the Apple IIe helps with technology upgrades school- or district-wide.

Finally, Compaq works closely with those at the institution to help them select the best PC-based solution(s) for their dollars. EduFlex is a concrete example of a commitment shown by Compaq to serve the unique needs of academic organizations. For more specific details, contact (800) EDU-FLEX

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.