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Compaq SLT/286 - My Review

compaqportableplus

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2011
Messages
945
Location
USA
This is a little review of my favorite 1980s laptop, the Compaq SLT/286, a reliable, solidly-built machine with great features.


IMG_5632.jpgIMG_5631.jpg


Some history first: the SLT/286 was released in October of 1988 and was the very first laptop to feature VGA display. It was sold as a high-end desktop replacement system, and the price started a $5,399. Battery life was 3-hours minimum. Very good for 1988 standards.


I own three of these units and they all work fine (I did have one issue with enabling EMS support on one of them, but I think it's a bug of the first-revision system board, not a failure). They spared no expense on the construction of these, so they use very high-quality components (no nasty SMD electrolytic caps to worry about). They are also very easy to service in my opinion.


Here are the specs:

12MHz Harris 80C286 CPU

640KB of RAM (expandable to 12.6 megabytes, my three all have 3.6 megabytes)

20 or 40MB Conner Peripherals hard drive (standard IDE with special three-pin power connector, but can be adapted to standard molex)

10" 640 x 480 VGA grayscale LCD display

1.44MB 3.5" floppy drive

2400 baud internal Hayes compatible modem (optional)



The pros:

Not terribly hard to find or expensive (lots of these were produced)

Easy to service (they really are. Please just take the time to read the official Compaq service manual that can be found on minuszerodegrees.net.)

Very reliable

Great form factor

Solid construction

Really nice feeling removable keyboard

Looks awesome

3-hour minimum battery life (probably even more with modern Ni-Mh cells)

Bright, easy-to-read display

Uses standard IDE hard drive

Nice n' chunky :)



The cons:

I'm drawing a blank here. I've really got nothing! For me, this machine really is perfect. It has everything I like and lacks everything I don't. I'm sure others would have a different opinion, but this is my opinion.

I suppose the Dallas DS1287 RTC chip would be a big con for most people, but they really aren't that hard to fix (especially now that I have found a relatively safe way to hack into them without unsoldering it), and I would way rather have that over a NiCd battery that would leak and ruin the board.


Well, that's my review of the Compaq SLT/286. All in all, I give it a 10 out of 10.


Keep in mind this is all just my personal view/opinion on this machine.


And also, on the software side of things, I run Compaq DOS 5.0 on my "main" one, along with 4 different versions of Windows, Premier Edition, 1.04, 2.11/286, and 3.0. Also got WordPerfect 5.1, DeskMate 3.02, some games and a few other odds and ends.


I've got something else on the way I plan on doing a review of as well if I can get it running. It'll probably end up being one of my favorites too if everything works out. I've gotten to the point where I only buy systems I actually think I would like to use, rather than buying merely on curiosity like I used to. Don't have the room for that anymore, and I would honestly rather have a slightly smaller collection of things I really like, rather than a massive collection of things I "kinda" like.
 
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CloudInMyHead

Experienced Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Laguna Hills. California
My SLT seems to have a bad floppy disk, although I have not tried to clean it yet so there is hope. The SLT 286 doesn't appear to know the hard disk type either. I bought a new CMOS battery but I have not installed it yet as I don't know if it will help until I get the floppy working. Do you know if there is a Compaq "Setup" disk for the SLT? I downloaded the MS DOS 5.0 Compaq edition but there is no SETUP.EXE on any of the 4 disk images :( I do have and earlier Compaq SETUP but that is for a Compaq 286 Portable computer, it might be the same, I have not tried it, nor would I expect it to be the same.
Do you know if there are any User guides for the SLT? I only find the service guide.
 

compaqportableplus

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2011
Messages
945
Location
USA
My SLT seems to have a bad floppy disk, although I have not tried to clean it yet so there is hope. The SLT 286 doesn't appear to know the hard disk type either. I bought a new CMOS battery but I have not installed it yet as I don't know if it will help until I get the floppy working. Do you know if there is a Compaq "Setup" disk for the SLT? I downloaded the MS DOS 5.0 Compaq edition but there is no SETUP.EXE on any of the 4 disk images :( I do have and earlier Compaq SETUP but that is for a Compaq 286 Portable computer, it might be the same, I have not tried it, nor would I expect it to be the same.
Do you know if there are any User guides for the SLT? I only find the service guide.
Definitely try cleaning the heads, that could very well be the issue.

Here is a link to the diagnostics disk image you need:


This requires a 720KB diskette.

Unfortunately, I don’t think the the operations guide has been scanned and uploaded anywhere yet, just the service manual.
 

CloudInMyHead

Experienced Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2022
Messages
59
Location
Laguna Hills. California
OK. I have a USB 3.5 drive so I can put that image on it. Pretty sure that is the same one I have on a 5.25 floppy so I have used the utility before.
I'll clean the drive sometime this week and see if I can config the SLT. I guess can find it in the service manual but will it know what HD it has or will I need to crack the SLT open and see what model it has 1st?
 
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