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Documenting obscure 90s laptop brands - WinBook

3lectr1c

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I recently bought a couple of WinBook 486 laptops off of eBay. In the process of getting them working, I ended up looking into finding more information about them, but could find only a couple mentions of them on Google, and no real info about what they were. In fact, there was hardly any info about WinBook the brand at all! However, the info was still out there, just hidden in the depths of the Wayback machine. Through hours of research and browsing, I uncovered WinBook's two websites (www.winbook.com and www.winbookcorp.com) which housed extensive technical documentation about WinBook laptops, drivers for every one of their laptops, and their manuals. Through other sources, I found multiple full-page print advertisements for the 486SLC model that I bought, the ODM manufacturers of many of their early laptops and more. I'd say that I probably know the most about these laptops out of anyone in the world right now, besides for the original designers if they're still around. But that's a problem! This is important history that is currently still out there, but is quickly being lost to the depths of time. We need to preserve it! There were quite literally a hundred different laptop manufacturers back in the 90s, and besides for Dell, Apple, Compaq, Toshiba, and the other common brands, there is just about no online information about the more obscure ones, which make up half of what's on eBay nowadays. I aim to change this. Starting with WinBook, I'll be creating extensive documentation for every 90s model on my website, www.macdat.net, and I plan to move on to other obscure brands after that. My goal is to have a resource that we can all use when we find one of these random laptops we know nothing about. For an example on what each page will involve, you can check out the pages I created for the WinBook SLC/SX DX series laptops here: https://macdat.net/pc/winbook/486series_home.html

Here's where you come in:
If you own ANY WinBook laptop from the 1990s-2000s, I could really use any information, and most importantly, PHOTOS of it. I'm not taking random photos off the internet (the few there even are of these models) without the owner's permission. If you've got anything to offer, I'd really appreciate it. Let's put WinBook back on the map!
 
I'll have to dig out details, but some models: Winbooks:



FX = Unknown

J1 = ECS Green 720

J4 = ECS Green 730. G731 or Green 732

MX = Unknown

LX = Unknown

S2 = ECS (Formerly AlphaTop) Green 510

Si = FIC A430

Si2 = FIC A440 or A450?

XL = Twinhead P85 (??) series

XL2 = Twinhead P98 series

XL3 = Twinhead P98W series

X1 = ECS Green 500

X2 = ECS Green 510

X4 = ECS Green 550

Z1 = Compal N30W & N30W2 (Note: Dell Inspiron 5000 is also a N30W)
 
Ah, that explains why a bunch of the 2000s WinBook eBay listings mention “Green 550” or similar. That’s very useful.
Also, the FX’s ODM was Quanta. I believe the LM was a Compal design.
Let me know when you find additional details.
 
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Old-school print ads are so fun!
print_ad.png
Does anyone know a way of getting higher-res screenshots of Google Books? I found a bunch of these for various models but they won't just let you download a page as a JPG.
 
Pages are now live for the WinBook XP/XPC!
Most of this info came from the wayback machine, so it's back on the open web again. I put a couple meta tags on the homepages so hopefully google picks them up so people can actually find them.
Edit: Ah, adding a description metatag caused XenForo to pick up the link as one of those fancy ones, instead of just showing the link. Nice!
Edit 2: Looking into the XP5, XP5 Pro and the FX next, and it's really really confusing. XP5 is a souped up XP, easy. The XP5 Pro is like a slightly worse FX? I think? The designs look the same at a glance but they're different, and then the FX was the high end...
 
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IIRC, Microcenter may have purchased Winbook at some point.

OBTW, I bought out many of the remaining parts at the service center that serviced the "Green" laptops. Not much left in the way of plastics, but I have some for the J4 series of Winbooks. These were the J4's -- or Green 730, Green 731, Green 732 and Green 736 models all shared the plastics and drives. Motherboards were the major differences. These same laptops were sold by many other local and national brands.

For those that might be interested, the Green 733 came in several variations and I don't believe Winbook sold any of them, but the early ones also shared most of the same plastics as the above models. Later ones used modified plastics and were hard to come by. The Green 733 mobo's was a cheaper version of the other models.

Info for Twinhead was always a problem (for me) since they didn't want to supply parts to me. Mitac was somewhat better, but very much not willing to share repair info. Just parts.
 
WinBook was always part of micro center, since the first models in 1993. Their main site Winbook.com started redirecting to microcenter in 2008 or 2009 I think. Winbookcorp.com, their support site, redirected starting in 2015.
Shame that Twinhead wouldn’t supply parts. The WinBook XL systems are failing apart now due to bad hinge design and brittle plastics.
 
The J4 was several different Green models over time. All had the same appearance. The Green 730 was the first version, then the Green 731 which lacked the CD drive controls on the front edge, last version was the Green 732 which brought back the CD controls and allowed a 3.06GHz HT core CPU.
 
Did see that when I was looking into if any WinBooks came with better screens than XGA or 1280x800 and saw that there were three J4 revisions. I think the 731 didn't have an SXGA+ option while the others did. I definitely want to pick up a 732 model with SXGA+ at some point, am a bit concerned by mentions of a rubber coating though. How much do you want to bet that it's gone sticky?
Also interested in your signature - was this OLSG a website?
 
The black cases on the Green 730-736 models were rubber coated. The silver cases were painted. The Green 731 was a feature reduced model. The Green 732 and a later model, the Green 736 (used newer P4 CPU's), had optional LCD's that were larger than the base. I'll have to dig one out of my collection and check on the resolution. I don't believe any Green 736's were sold under the Winbook brand, but were sold as HoneyBee, Northgate and perhaps some other USA brands that I've forgotten off the top of my head. These large LCD laptops had fold out speakers that acted as lid closing retainers when folded down along side the base. One interesting failure of the Green 732 and perhaps the Green 736 was the blowing of the CPU power fuse that remained a 2 amp fuse carried over from the Green 730 even as the CPU power increased over time. The 3.06 HT popped more than one fuse that I have to replace. An easy fix was to replace with a 2.5 amp or 3 amp fuse. All of these laptops has a PITA CMOS battery (2032) location under the top half base plastics and required removing many screws to replace. The power jacks were also often destroyed by dropping the laptops and with the AC adapters plugged in and breaking the jack free from the motherboard. Some caps and a inductor or two often were damaged at the same time. Easy to fix if you know the values. I think I have some NOS LCD lid plastics left, but not sure on that.
 
How did you end up with so many of these ECS green laptops in the first place? I can’t find so much as a photo of the G736, or any honeybee or north gate laptop either…
 
My small business was one of two service businesses in the country, outside of the OEM's, that could purchase spare parts from a couple of S. California ODM laptop service centers. Alphatop, ECS, Clevo and Chicony ODM laptops. I guess I was grandfathered in. I had an early online service and parts website that supported a lot of smaller brand laptops that either were out of business or not supporting their older products. Go on the Wayback Machine and look up www.orphanlaptops.com I was helped by a couple of friends around the country that were trying to do the same thing. I bought the parts for them and they helped with the technical side of things. I kind of backed into the whole thing and was growing the business until I ran into a few years of health issues and had to stop. I had had plans of selling laptops to schools and local businesses, but had to stop. Truthfully, selling ink and toner to local businesses was much more profitable at the time. As my health problems began a few of the service centers were also either being closed by the ODM or moved to distant locations and so I decided it was time to stop. I did manage to pick up a lot of parts that were going into dumpsters, but missed out on a lot more of it due to being in the hospital.

Note: If for some reason you want a non-Winbook Green 753 (early pentium one) laptop, I have many of them still in the sealed factory boxes. At one point I had 150 - 200 of them when I bought out some off warranty models that they wanted out of inventory. I need to start moving some of this stuff. Some of these Green models were sold as Micron or NEC besides the generic brands.
 
Your old site is quite useful - thanks for the link!

So, Green 753? Do you mean that it's a "Pentium 1" or is it "one with a Pentium"? What sort of specs do the one's you've got have and what sort of price would you want to sell them at. No promises but I may be interested.
Edit: found your page on it - would possibly be interested in an active matrix model if you have one sometime, maybe.
 
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They are Pentium Socket 5 laptops. AKA- 75MHz to 166 MHz without MMX Intel CPU based and no AMD's. I'll need to check on if any with TFT's are left. The real problem with selling the Green 753's is the cost of shipping, they are double boxed and so the weight is about 14 or more pounds (I think) as sealed. Plus they are not configured, lacking any CPU, any extra RAM (2 slots of 72 pin SODIMM EDO - has 8MB on mobo/for a total of 48MB max), no hard drive and there's no main battery or a source of main batteries. (AC adapter use only) In the box is the laptop, hard drive caddy, AC adapter, manuals, driver floppies for Win3/Win95 and a leatherette carry bag. The laptop has a 3.5" floppy and a CD-ROM drive built-in. No USB ports, but has serial, parallel and VGA plus 2 early PCMCIA NON-cardbus compatible slots so many PCMCIA cards don't work. Since they are in sealed boxes it is possible of a dud too. I do have most parts including motherboard, but no new LCD's if there's an issue. If I don't have to build and test (ship still sealed) then I'm happy to get $50 plus shipping.
 
Hmm. What type of RAM do they use? Would have to look at how expensive a CPU would be too…
Edit: I’m an idiot, you said it right there.
Where are the batteries located on these? Is it obvious on the front or side that it’s missing?
 
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