The NCR Decision Mate V is an interesting entry in the world of business-oriented personal computers. In its normal configuration, it is furnished with an 8-bit Z80A microprocessor. However, an optional plug-in module is available that converts the machine into a dual 8/16-bit processor with the capability of running both CP/M-86 and MS-DOS. If this option is ordered with the basic machine, it is installed internally. We think this is the configuration that will have the greatest appeal to users, so that is what we tested.
The basic machine includes 64K (expandable to 512K); a 12" high-resolution monitor (monochrome or color); dual 5 1/4" double sided, double density disk drives; and a detachable keyboard. Available as options are a Winchester disk drive, parallel and serial interfaces, and additional memory, as well as a wide range of software.
In a departure from the traditional separate keyboard, display, and system unit, the German-engineered Decision Mate V combines the system unit and display into a single, compact package (14.9" x 18.1" x 14.6"). The CRT and disk drives overhang the base of the unit so the total desk space occupied by the keyboard and display/disk unit is about the same as TRS-80 Model 4 or IBM PCjr.
Upon seeing the Decision Mate V, most people comment about the keyboard. Instead of the familiar sculpted keys found on most full-stroke keyboards, the Decision Mate V has square keys with raised round concave tops. Although the travel of each key is the same as on a standard keyboard, subjectively it seems quite different. After a few hours of use, we had to trouble touch typing on the keyboard, but we never shed the feeling that it was "different." NCR tells us that a standard, sculpted keyboard will be available for the machine. On the other hand, it is our feeling that if this your only computer, you will not have any trouble adjusting to the current unit.
Graphics resolution is 640 by 400 pixels (about 15% more than the IBM PC and its clones) so the detail on graphs, schematic diagrams, and engineering drawings is truly amazing. Moreover, this resolution is preserved in all eight colors (black, white, red, blue, yellow, magenta, green, and cyan). The only computer that we have evaluated in this price range with similar color graphics capabilities is the NEC 8801, although several of the other Japanese units have the same specifications.
Should you buy a Decision Mate V? The system is solidly engineered and constructed, and shows off its German heritage. For the price, we don't think the 8-bit configuration makes much sense (you can get a Z80A machine for one-half as much). However, the 8-16-bit configuration is another story. In one machine, you have the ability to run CP/M, CP/M-86, and MOS-DOS software. While NCR doesn't offer that many packages directly, they are available from dealers and third party vendors.
The graphics are stunning and second to none. Moreover, the NCR DR Graph package produces business charts and graphs in an easy to use package.
The shortcomings? The keyboard for one. while it is possible to get used to the unusual round keys, there is no substitute for the good, solid feel of an Epson QX-10 or TI Professional keyboard. Since the system is not bundled with software, and interface modules are extra cost items, the price can mount up fast. A fully configured Decision Mate V with a good selection of software can cost upwards of $5000, certainly no bargain.
On the other hand, we were impressed with Omninet at Softcon and, for companies wanting this capability, it is a cost effective choice. But even as a stand-alone machine, the Decision Mate V offers a great deal of capability and potential.
Browsing the Collection
There is only one image (a game) available for the NCR Decision Mate V.