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Documenting obscure 90s laptop brands - WinBook

3lectr1c

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Transmeta crusoe? Would definitely like to hear more info on that one!
 

3lectr1c

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Been a while, but there's a big new site update out with info on more models: https://macdat.net/pc/winbook_home.html

- WinBook Si2
- WinBook J1
- WinBook X4
- WinBook C100

And finally, an eBay listing archive, in order to track rarity, reliability, average condition, prices, etc. on WinBook models over time.
 

3lectr1c

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I just found a very intriguing eBay listing - finally evidence for the DX half of the SX/DX series. I assumed that it would be the same externally and internally largely as the SLC and SX Jetta WinBooks, but no! It’s far, far more interesting.
Here’s the listing. Very unfortunately it’s only a bunch of parts, they said they trashed the case because it was in rough shape. Unfortunate, these models seem to be extremely rare. However, what remains is quite interesting.
- Trackball is different
- Internally very different, different port layout at the least. That means the plastics molding of these models must be different.
- takes 18V power instead of 16v, meaning a different PSU
- Model number is 486E1DX2-66C
- it specifies STN on the bottom sticker, meaning potentially there was a TFT model
- Best of all - it’s got an ESS AudioDrive sound card built in! Very rare to see on 486 laptops.
- keyboard appears slightly different too.

All this makes it a real shame they junked the case and screen. Now I’m real curious to see what it could have looked like. Google has got NOTHING for this model number. Very odd as you can find numerous listings on worthpoint and such for the SLC and SX models. WinBook documentation also doesn’t state anything about these really, other than they existed and had this processor option. No mention of the ESS card either which is strange.

Edit: never mind! WinBook says they maxed out at DX2-50. Maybe this one was only Jetta branded? But otherwise where would they have gotten the WinBook from? There were none of these Jetta laptops listed or listed as sold still currently with WinBook branding. Still no mention of a sound card in their spec sheet - in fact they say it was not available.

Very interesting stuff! I’m really hoping a complete unit comes up some day.
 
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3lectr1c

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Well, I picked up an XL off eBay.
6A3F19CE-7DAB-4CE2-8338-4A2E89DEDC12.jpeg
It's working great so far. Took it apart and no sign of a VARTA battery either. These have mad hinge issues though so I'm going to have to take apart the screen and reinforce with epoxy to keep it in one piece. It looks ok, for now. Not going to operate the hinge until I do so.
Mine's a mid end config. 12 inch TFT LCD, 233MHz Desktop Pentium MMX, 64MB upgraded EDO memory.
These have an actual OPL3 in them so it should make a nice DOS system once I get the DOS sound driver working. Adlib audio isn't coming through at the moment, but sound works in windows.
Battery is dead but of course it is.
Now that I have one, I'll be able to get a lot more info on it up on the site too. It's a nice system, I like it! Great keyboard too. Screen on mine is bright and not at all yellow. Very lightly used from the looks. Got it for $60 shipped.

Also, I've got more info on that mysterious parts listing. I contacted the seller, and they provided photos of the laptop from before it was taken apart. It isn't a WinBook though, just a Jetta model that's a bit similar to the 486 Jetta-made WinBooks.
Specifically, it's a Jetta Jetbook E1 series. Info on it, including the seller's photos (they gave permission for me to use them) are now also up on my site here: https://macdat.net/pc/jetta/e1_home.html
 

danlieberman

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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!
Several things come to mind....

1. Why? Why would anyone waste hours on this ? Lol
2. Thank god the registration process on this website is adequate in keeping people away because it was a doozie lol
3. I have a winbook. Just fired it up but the cmos is messed up. I have a whole bunch of old laptops at home and work. You can have the ones you want just cover shipping.
4. Ill email ya pics of this one but your own website doesnt even have an email address listed. Lol

Email me if you want: danliebermail@gmail.com
 

3lectr1c

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Edit: never mind! WinBook says they maxed out at DX2-50. Maybe this one was only Jetta branded? But otherwise where would they have gotten the WinBook from? There were none of these Jetta laptops listed or listed as sold still currently with WinBook branding. Still no mention of a sound card in their spec sheet - in fact they say it was not available.
Follow-up on this that I should have posted a while back.
I went and contacted the seller, and they had photos of it from before it was parted. There wasn't any WinBook branding on it, so it wasn't ever sold by MEI. I did some sleuthing on Jetta's old website, and it's an E1 Series.
In any case, documented it on my website here: www.macdat.net/pc/jetta/e1_home.html

I haven't gotten any new pages on WinBook laptops made for my site lately, although I am going to get to that soon and finish documenting them all. I've shifted focus for a bit on documenting Jetta and CTX laptops. Speaking of which, if anyone reading this has EzBook info, let me know! I'm specifically in need of anything on the early models, before the 700 Series.
 

njroadfan

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That 00s Winbook reminded me of another laptop brand that the store I worked for sold: Averatec. Just another random factory pushing out cheap silver painted laptops.

Also, while working at that store, I worked on someones Transmeta Crusoe based laptop. It was 100% generic with NO branding at all. Most of all...... it was SLOW at certain operations.
 

3lectr1c

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Just looked into them, they were definitely an ODM reseller, that's for sure. Was able to ID one of their laptops as being made by Uniwill, a Taiwanese ODM. FCC IDs can really come in handy in these cases. There's something that I seem to have developed a liking for about these generic low-recognition ODM laptops. I mean, something like a ThinkPad T30 is a great laptop and all, but there's something unique about having a computer like a WinBook X4, or an Averatec laptop, or any of those ODM rebadged laptops. They're uncommon, and can often still be quite decent computers. My WinBook X4's pretty great. Not a gaming powerhouse with SiS video, but still makes a great Quake III machine.
 

3lectr1c

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Finally got some new WinBook pages up. Specifically for the following models:
- A100 Series
- J4
- M Series
- N3
- X1 & X2
- Z1
- 330/331

All here as normal.
You'll also notice that I've done a layout update with some nice photos. I'm eventually going to extend that to include the 2000s models, one I have all the pages made and info collected. I've also added release dates in for most models as part of this update.

I should also have much more thorough documentation on the WinBook FX up soon, including better images, as I've just bought one off eBay for a good price. Can't wait to have it, from all my research, it appears to be the best built of all the 90s WinBooks - although the original XL may still have it beat in terms of DOS gaming support. The FX has Creative Labs sound, but it's the later CT2505/Vibra 16 chipset that doesn't have a real OPL3 and apparently can have audio distortion. This I'll have to see.
The XL has an OPL3-SAX audio chipset, which should produce the most accurate audio you'll find in a 90s laptop for DOS games, as far as I can tell anyway. The XL's scaling also isn't half-bad. Unfortunately, the XL has poor build quality and suffers from hinge plastic failure. I've tried to prevent this by adding epoxy around the hinge mounts in mine to add support, but I suspect it won't help much. Shame it's like this. In all other ways, the XL is an excellent Pentium MMX era system.
The FX on the other hand seems to be better built, I've not yet seen one with broken hinges.
 

zerocool

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Finally got some new WinBook pages up. Specifically for the following models:
- A100 Series
- J4
- M Series
- N3
- X1 & X2
- Z1
- 330/331

All here as normal.
You'll also notice that I've done a layout update with some nice photos. I'm eventually going to extend that to include the 2000s models, one I have all the pages made and info collected. I've also added release dates in for most models as part of this update.

I should also have much more thorough documentation on the WinBook FX up soon, including better images, as I've just bought one off eBay for a good price. Can't wait to have it, from all my research, it appears to be the best built of all the 90s WinBooks - although the original XL may still have it beat in terms of DOS gaming support. The FX has Creative Labs sound, but it's the later CT2505/Vibra 16 chipset that doesn't have a real OPL3 and apparently can have audio distortion. This I'll have to see.
The XL has an OPL3-SAX audio chipset, which should produce the most accurate audio you'll find in a 90s laptop for DOS games, as far as I can tell anyway. The XL's scaling also isn't half-bad. Unfortunately, the XL has poor build quality and suffers from hinge plastic failure. I've tried to prevent this by adding epoxy around the hinge mounts in mine to add support, but I suspect it won't help much. Shame it's like this. In all other ways, the XL is an excellent Pentium MMX era system.
The FX on the other hand seems to be better built, I've not yet seen one with broken hinges.
That is awesome, new user here. I was just doing some small projects with my vintage computers and I have this Great Quality ZX-5580 that turned out to be a Winbook Clone. It is mint, waiting for an IDE-SSD adapter to arrive to reinstall probably Win2000 on it instead of XP. Really cool that it is basically a blank Winbook X4 I beleive. Glad I found this website.
 

3lectr1c

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Oh really? Would love to see photos of it! Probably another system based off the ECS Green550.
 

3lectr1c

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That’s a newer model from the same series I’d reckon. Pentium M based from the looks, probably runs cooler than the X4. Looks like it’s a Green558 or more likely just 558 based on the model, I do think ECS dropped the Green prefix not too long after the point where the X4 came out..

And what a name “Great Quality” is. Neat.
 

zerocool

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Was ECS another company? What about green? The reason I bought this laptop is part of the hunt for a no brand silver laptop I had back in 2003-2004 that I can’t pinpoint. The little testing I did on it so far points out some decent quality very bright screen, decent cpu, speakers are great. Might be an Intel graphics card gotta double check. Currently on the work bench with my Compaq N600c( a 10/10 condition laptop) running old games on them counter strike 1.0 with lan support, unreal tournament, max Payne. I even ran wow classic on a private realm on the Compaq n600c and it handled it. We will see how the Great Value holds up. Has the hinge crack just like the Winbooks too lol.
 

3lectr1c

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Looks like these were sold by Fry's Electronics: https://web.archive.org/web/20060213065323/http://fryssupport.net/zx-5580.cfm
Looks like they sold all sorts of ECS laptops. I haven't looked at each individual one they have listed but I already recognize the Green733 and something similar to the Green720.
List is here: https://web.archive.org/web/20060209072013/http://fryssupport.net/notebook.cfm
Would you mind at all if I used your photos on my site? I'm currently working on documenting more of ECS Elitegroup's laptops and this would go nicely there.
 

zerocool

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Please do! Use the photos however you’d like. Thanks for the extra info I’m gonna dive in and do some research. Glad I found this forum I am an IT engineer and an avid collector of computers 1990+ nice to meet you!
 

3lectr1c

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Was ECS another company? What about green? The reason I bought this laptop is part of the hunt for a no brand silver laptop I had back in 2003-2004 that I can’t pinpoint. The little testing I did on it so far points out some decent quality very bright screen, decent cpu, speakers are great. Might be an Intel graphics card gotta double check. Currently on the work bench with my Compaq N600c( a 10/10 condition laptop) running old games on them counter strike 1.0 with lan support, unreal tournament, max Payne. I even ran wow classic on a private realm on the Compaq n600c and it handled it. We will see how the Great Value holds up. Has the hinge crack just like the Winbooks too lol.
ECS is Elitegroup Computer Systems. They are a large Taiwanese company that makes various computer components.
See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elitegroup_Computer_Systems
I'm not sure whether they still make laptops, but they made a bunch during the 2000s. They acted as an ODM (original design manufacturer) laptop manufacturer. This means that they'd design and manufacturer laptops, then they'd form contracts with local-market distributors to brand their laptops and then sell them. This manufacturing agreement could be anything from getting the generic laptops and slapping a sticker on them (as yours appears to be an example of) to specifying a completely custom design. WinBook and Frys Electronics (through their Great Quality label) both distributed ECS laptops during this time, which is why I keep mentioning ECS.

The Green series was a series of ODM laptops that was introduced by GVC's Alpha-Top division in the mid 1990s. ECS bought Alpha-Top in 2001, and then continued the series. Seems they dropped the Green branding in the mid 2000s though, and your ECS 558 comes after it.

Nice to hear the speakers in your unit are good, they must have improved them through the life of the 500 series. The ones in my WinBook X4 (Green550) sound terrible.
Them being generic laptops doesn't honestly make them any less reliable than a brand-name one in my opinion. ECS made them pretty decently, and I really appreciate them using metal rear display housings in many of their laptops (is yours metal or just silver plastic?), which will prevent hinge failures. The front display bezel is still plastic though, it doesn't surprise me that they're prone to cracking. With any luck that won't affect them structurally.

Ya know, I'd love to go search eBay for some of these great value laptops as they seem to have sold a bunch of the ECS models, and I might want some of them as a result, but of course as one may expect, searching "Great Quality laptop" into eBay doesn't yield the small brand from 15 years ago...
 
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