If you have an existing PC with a system configuration including at least a 100MHz Pentium, 32MB of RAM, Windows 95 and an available PCI slot, you can make use of the $299 Buddy B-210.
The Buddy B-210 allows you to attach a second monitor, keyboard and mouse to an existing PC, creating a virtual second system. In fact, if you have four spare PCI slots you can attach four Buddy B-210 systems and create four virtual PCs in addition to the host. Once connected, both the host system and the Buddy PC can work simultaneously on the same applications and share the host PC's peripherals.
We tested the Buddy B-210 using a 600MHz Intel-based system with 128MB of RAM and a 32MB TNT2 graphics card. Installation was relatively easy and after no more than 20 minutes the Buddy was operational. All required components are included in the box: a Buddy controller card, cable, the Buddy Junction Box, software and a user's manual.
The Buddy controller card works on a PCI interface and is capable of data transfer at up to 132MBps. It has a 4MB SGRAM Trident 3D image T9750 graphics chip and can support flicker-free resolutions up to 1024 x 768 at 75Hz in true colour. The controller card is connected to the Buddy Junction Box via the provided Category 5 Ethernet cable, with a maximum cable length of 15m. The Buddy Junction Box consists of an RJ45 jack, two PS2 interfaces for the keyboard and mouse, and a VGA connector.
I tested it by running PC WorldBench 98 simultaneously on both the Buddy system and the host system. Performance dropped by around 15 per cent on both systems, although it would be almost unnoticeable in day-to-day use. 3D performance on the Buddy was also nowhere near the host's capabilities, which indicates that the Buddy B-210 is best suited to sharing productivity applications rather than gameplay. It should be noted that the host peripheral devices were easily shared and used by the Buddy.
The Buddy B-210 is an excellent cost-effective alternative to buying a complete second system and would be a very handy option to keep in mind.
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