IBM Personal Computer 350 Product Review & Details

The IBM PC model 350 is an early Pentium computer from the mid-1990s. Here are some details on the computer and my assessment of its design, features, and upgradability…

The PC-350 has a desktop-style design, in that it sits horizontally on your desk. It is relatively heavy, at 28 pounds, but is slightly smaller than some equivalent computers. The exterior is mostly made of metal, with a large ventilation grate on one side. It has a sliding door on the front which can be moved over the disk/CD drives or away from them, and keeps the power button (as well as the indicator lights) visible in either position. There are no reset, sleep, or turbo buttons. It uses more electricity than most laptops, but less than many newer computers. It makes more noise when running than a laptop or some earlier 286/386 computers, but is quieter when compared to a 200MHz Pentium II or a newer Dell computer.

It is relatively easy to replace/install parts in the computer, as well as to add accessories or upgrades. The removable part of the casing is held on by a plastic lever (a lock can also be used if you have the key for it), so no screws have to be removed when opening it. The inside of the case has a diagram indicating how to set DIP switches for different settings, as well as a map with the names of different parts of the motherboard. This is a good feature, as most computers instead have such diagrams in the manual, allowing them to be lost. There are five horizontal expansion slots on the back. Expansion cards, such as modems and additional ports, are inserted horizontally into a riser card, which plugs into the motherboard. The back of the computer has a row of accessory ports, including two serial ports (serial mouse/trackball, older digital camera, etc.), a parallel port (usually for printers), and two PS/2 ports (standard mouse, keyboard). Unlike some computers from this period, you can still buy a new mouse or keyboard for it in a store, which is an advantage if you need a replacement. However, there are no USB or game (joystick) ports built-in. It also uses standard monitors and power cords. There are two 5.25″ bays on the front, which can be used for 5.25″ disk drives and/or CD-ROM drives. There is one 3.5″ drive bay, and a couple of small slots which additional accessory ports could possibly be run through. It would be difficult to install two 3.5″ disk drives in this computer. Otherwise I find it easier to work inside than equivalent tower-style computers. The diagram indicates that it is possible to upgrade the processor and memory to atleast 100 MHz and 128 MB.

It has a built-in IBM setup program which is easier-to-use and more understandable for beginners than some of the other setup (BIOS) programs. A variety of operating systems can be used, including Windows 98 (or earlier) and MS-DOS. On the 350-P75 model (75MHz Pentium) with 32MB memory, I found Windows 98 to run rather slowly. On the other hand, when I tried Windows 3.1 it was quite fast. It is capable of accessing dial-up internet, although slowly, but does not meet the minimum requirements for DSL internet service. It is fine for purposes such as word processing, creating spreadsheets, playing older computer games, programming, occasional internet/e-mail use, and listening to music.

It is most possible to find one of these computers in newspaper classifieds or on internet auction services, usually for less than $150. Overall, it is quite suitable as a back-up computer or to be used for purposes mentioned in the previous paragraph.

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