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As I’ve probably said before, back in the 80’s and 90’s virtually every company that had anything at all to do with electronics wanted a piece of the IBM personal computer pie. To this end many companies released their own brand of IBM compatible PC’s. Compaq, Dell and Packard Bell are some of the first to come to mind but there are other companies as well that while being well known names in the business field were not especially known as PC manufacturers. Among them are Epson, AT&T and as we will see in today’s machine, Canon. Canon is a company perhaps best known in the PC world for their printers but today’s PC is a little something I stumbled upon at a thrift and had to pick up.

cinn1

I present to you the Canon Innova 486e part of Canon’s Innova PC compatible line. The front of this PC does have a little style to it with some curves on the case. The power button is the big block under the CD-ROM drive and the reset is the curious little button above the Canon logo next to the three LED’s. The third LED next to the power LED and HDD activity LED is an LED for the turbo feature. [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[ + ] on the keyboard toggles the turbo feature on and off. You get two 5 1/4 bays and one vertical 3 1/2 bays which is pretty typical for a OEM slim machine of this era. This case does seem a little less wide then most and a little more tall. I’m sure the 1.44mb floppy drive came stock but I’m not sure about the CD drive. Mine came with one installed but this may of been installed by the prior owner. This model did come with a 210MB IDE drive that fired right up and worked fine.

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The rear of the PC is pretty standard with two PS/2 ports, two serial ports a parallel port and then the built in VGA port. The extra height of this case allows for four expansion cards running off the internal riser card as you can see from the slot ports to the right.

My case happened to still have the factory sticker mostly intact touting the stock specs.

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The specs aren’t terrible for the time and there is plenty of room for possible upgrading. The thing that caught my eye was the built in video is running off the local bus so it should give me VLB card performance levels unlike a few previous OEM machines I’ve had of this era that ran the built in VGA off the ISA bus.

One thing I noticed pretty fast is the case is screwless and sort of reminds me of a 90’s Macintosh case but without the brittle plastic shell. It did take me a minute to figure out how to get the case off but it involves removing a number of tabs around the case followed by prying off the front panel and untabbing more tabs to slide the case off. Overall I think I would of preferred screws as it’s a bit of a hassle.

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With the case off and the bay mount removed we have full access to the motherboard.

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1) CPU – the CPU in this model is a Intel 33mhz SX meaning no built in math co-processor. upgrading is very easy though and you should be able to pop in a DX version no problem. There are two options for front side bus set by jumper conveniently labeled on the motherboard for either 25mhz or 33mhz. upgrading to a 66mhz dx2, 100mhz dx4 or an AMD 133mhz 5×86 is a cinch. The sticker proclaims Pentium Overdrive compatibility which may very well be true but I’ve encountered boards in the past that claimed OD compatibility but failed to function with the chip. It also lacks the blue overdrive socket  style common on overdrive compatible machines. For that matter the socket it uses the older style LIF socket without the handle making CPU removal and replacement a little more stressful.

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2) RAM – The 486e has 4mb of RAM soldered onto the motherboard with two 72 pin RAM sockets to either side. I have two 4mb sticks installed along with the built in RAM for 12MB total. I am unsure of the total RAM limit on this motherboard but if I had to venture a guess I would say at least 32MB and perhaps 64mb total allowed.

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3) L2 cache – Here we have the sockets for adding L2 cache. There are nine sockets for 28 pin chips. eight for the SRAM and one for a tag RAM chip. It can accommodate 64kb, 128kb or 256kb of l2 cache. again with jumper instructions conveniently printed on the motherboard.

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4) Video – The video chip is a Cirrus Logic CL-GD5428 also found in mid to high performance VLB cards such as the Diamond Speedster pro card. This is a fairly capable chip and a great DOS performer. This chip is capable of addressing 2mb of VRAM but the motherboard only has 512kb built in with another 512kb able to be added for a total of 1mb VRAM via the sockets next to the chip. There are a few suspect ZIP looking sockets by the video chip that I’m very unsure about. They may be for adding even more video RAM but I find it odd they would use a completely different socket type. As I mentioned the built in video is running off the local bus or Vesa Local Bus which gives a nice speed boost over ISA. Overall this is a really good chip for having as built in video and I’m not sure theres any ISA video card that would be worth using instead since I don’t think you’ll find one more capable.

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5) Riser card with four ISA slots for expansion cards

6) AT power connector with built in Floppy controller and one built in IDE connector for supporting two IDE devices.

7) Piezo beeper speaker

So what do I think overall? as far as OEM 486 rigs go I rather like the Canon Innova 486e. I could do without the hassle of the odd screwless case design but what you find under the hood is a pretty capable beast with plenty of room to easily upgrade. The closest machines I have to compare it to are the Tandy 425 SX and the Packard Bell Legand 115 which in my opinion are inferior machines. The Innova is more powerful, at least in the built in video department as well as offering comparable and easier upgrade options.

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Benchmarks (Intel SX 33mhz 486, no L2 Cache, 12MB FPM RAM, Built in Cirrus Logic CL-GD5428 512kb video)

3DBENCH – 24.2

PCPBENCH – 5.4

DOOM -13.96

Quake – N/A

SPEEDSYS – 12.16

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7 Comments

  1. quite a nice looking machine, as you said very up-gradable. I wasn’t aware Canon made machines in this era, although I had seen that XT clone I took photos of. They seemed to make quite nice systems. Those funny sockets near the video chip look similar to the sockets on that 386 system I have with SIP memory modules, perhaps sockets for those?

    Sparcie

    • I wasn’t are either until I found this machine. I to have seen those sockets but only in a 286 and in an Amiga 3000 for RAM. I have no idea what there for on this board though except maybe video ram since they are next to the vram and video chip but then…why when there already are sockets for vram?

      • perhaps like the boards with 72 pin and SDRAM slots they are offering two different options for expansion? That would be unusual. Otherwise it could be another expansion header for something else.

  2. Nice little box. Love the VLB style video. I had one and also a VLB hard drive controller. They where FAST!

    • indeed. I ended up benchmarking this machine against a similarly speced Tandy 425sx and a Packard bell and the Innova came out ahead even when I used the same CPU and L2 cache in the other machines. The video is quite fast. Also for whatever reason It was the only one of the three that ran Quake in my benchmarks with such low specs. Now when I say “run” I by no means mean it was playable on a 33mhz machine but at least on the Innova it loaded up and played where on the PB and Tandy it failed to load even though I gave them both enough RAM and a 33mhz CPU for the test.

  3. I can offer you $175 US for this machine.

    • Thank you very much for the offer but this machine already went to a friend of mine.


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