Skip navigation

20151118_142425

Say what you want about the quality of Packard Bell but you have to admit they did use some pretty interesting and unique cases for their computers. The example I have today is the Packard Bell Axcel 39CDT. From what information Ive gathered this is a rather uncommon model and I’ve been told is somewhat sought after by Packard Bell enthusiasts so I’m guessing it didn’t sell very well.

pb39cd1

This machine is a 486 PC as you may be able to guess by the turbo button on the front that is accompanying the reset button. On the to is a keyboard lockout keyhole. setting this to lockout mode will prevent the machine from registering key presses from the keyboard pretty much making it useless. If you don’t have a key and its set to lock don’t worry. They weren’t built to keep out anybody with anything but the most rudimentary picking skills and I was able to change the position on mine with a Xacto knife. The power button is located on the bottom of this case but what is interesting is the panel that opens up to your drives.

pb39cd2

The door is actually kind of slick looking but personally I don’t see much need. There is one 3 1/2 bay as well as two 5 1/4 drive bays. This machine did come with a double speed CD-ROM drive according to advertisements I’ve seen but this drive mine came with is a CDR drive added by the previous owner. There is actually two internal bays under the 1.2MB floppy drive you see here that you could fit a hard drive or two into with a 5 1/4 adapter. Specs and adds claim the 39CDT came with a 420MB IDE hard drive but when I picked mine up the hard drive had been removed but more on that later.

pb39cd3

You can tell right off front looking at the rear of this PC that the power supply is located at the bottom of the case, a somewhat uncommon location of the time. There are five expansion slots and along the right side we have  our various ports. Two PS2 ports for keyboard and mouse followed by a built in VGA port. below those we have a common parallel port and a serial port.

After unscrewing the four rear screws the case on this machine slides forward taking the front face along with it as one piece. It took me a minute to figure this out as I kept trying to remove the case cover in a more traditional manner by pulling to back and toward myself.

pb39cd4

There is also a spot as you can see above the power supply for a 3 1/2 hard drive. The power supply is mostly standard except instead of a mounted switch there is an internal button that is pressed in by that long plastic arm that lines up with the power button on the front of the case. This may force some inventive solutions should the power supply fail.

My machine thankfully had the motherboard and jumper configuration chart on the inside of my case. Here it is for any of you that may be missing and need it.

pb39cdmbdia

pb39cdjc

Ok, now lets take a look at the motherboard.

pb39cd5

First thing I need to point out is that is NOT the original stock CPU but is what the previous owner upgraded this machine to.

1) CPU – This model originally came stock with an Intel 50mhz SX2 chip. This isn’t to surprising from Packard Bell as this was a cheaper part. The SX designates no built in math coprocessor. Being a DX2 that means the chip ran on a 25mhz front side bus. Overall the 50mhz SX2 running on a 25mhz FSB wasn’t all that much faster then a 33mhz DX chip. I downgraded this machine to a 50mhz DX2 to bring it closer to stock while giving it a math copro and freeing the Intel Overdrive CPU for other projects of mine.

pb39cd6

pb39cd7

2) RAM – The 39CDT has 4MB of RAM built into the motherboard so if you don’t have any spare 72 pin sticks of RAM lying around it will still run. Mine came with 24MB total RAM but according to advertisements as well as the specs sticker on the bay door RAM is upgradeable to a full 64MB

pb39cd13

3) Video – The video is a Cirrus Logic GD-CL-GD5424 running on the VLB or Local Bus. It comes with 512kb of VRAM stock but is able to be upgraded to a full 1MB. Unfortunately from looking at the motherboard it appears that upgrading requires a 512kn VRAM ZIP socket chip. I’m not sure those are to common. As for the CL chip, there isn’t much to say and not much turned up but it appears to be a decent mid range chip and one of CL’s earlier VLB offerings being a VLB version of their ISA GD5422 chip. Overall not bad and likely decent speed/compatibility wise.

pb39cd8

4) L2 cache – My SRAM sockets are currently empty but according to the jumper chart the motherboard supports 32, 128 and 512kb of L2 cache via 16 pin and 14 pin chips. This is very similar to my Packard Bell Legend 115. I don’t care that there is no option to use the more common 256kb l2 cache amount though as this seems to be the L2 “sweet spot” for the era.

pb39cd9

5) ISA riser card – This is the slot for the ISA riser card that allows for up to five ISA expansion cards.

pb39cd14

My machine came with a pretty generic modem and extra parallel port card but it did also come with a Crystal based sound card. Likely a Sound Blaster 16 clone but I do believe it is original to this machine with the PB stickers on the chips.

pb39cdsc

6) Modem – This appears to be a built in internal fax/modem but for whatever reason the port in the rear is covered up. My guess is the former user added the ISA modem card and covered the rear port to avoid confusion.

pb39cd10

pb39cd11

7) I/0 connectors – This is the connections for the built in floppy and IDE controller. The floppy controller seems to work just fine but for all my efforts I could not get the built in IDE controller to “see” any hard drive I tried. For that matter I also couldn’t get either of the discrete ISA I/0 controller cards I tried to work either. I tried several hard drives, new and from the era but I could not get this machine to see any of them. My best guess would be it’s an issue caused by not having a CMOS battery present. The original barrel battery was long dead and beginning to leak so I removed it. There is a connector for an external battery but I haven’t tried it yet.

*update* I finally did get the built in IDE controller to work but I was forced to use a old 300mb hard drive. all my efforts to get a ISA controller running failed.

So…the Axcel 39CDT. Again this machine like all but one of the Packard Bells I’ve come across booted and posted just fine. not bad for a twenty some year old machine coming from a very poorly regarded company. The case design is pretty interesting and doesn’t really compromise anything because of it. Three external bays isn’t a lot for a tower but is pretty standard for the era and OEM machines. I don’t like the lack of a 256kb L2 cache option and I would prefer a more conventional sockets for expanding VRAM but still, not a terrible machine.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

9 Comments

  1. My, a white and red case! That’s pretty.

  2. Do you know of one for sale anywhere? Looking for a Packard Bell XLT (looks almost identical) to use some old programming software…and a game or two. =)

  3. Certainly a nice looking machine for it’s age. I’ve only seen a few Packard Bell machines (socket 7 based ones like this) and they were quite old by the time they were being retired. I got the impression from the few that I saw that they were actually fairly well made. I think even Dell, Compaq and HP machines of the time were probably mostly well made as well, it’s just after the commodification of desktop PC’s they all started to make them cheaper, and hence usually not as well.

    • Over here Packard Bell computers were seen as a joke. personnaly I’ve had very few bad experiences with them (besides hard drive issues) but they commonly come in at #1 as worst made computers on a bunch of lists you’ll find on the net. They do have a sort of cult following though. I think much of the bad rap comes from the practice of them using used parts and claiming they were new, that and there model numbers were very confusing.They also tended to skimp on L2 cache. pcworld.com named them worst computers I believe though I think that spot should firmly go to the Coleco Adam.

      • They didn’t become popular here, it was Compaq that probably made the biggest splash here in Aus. They got a reputation for poor design, but not until later when the machines started to be cheaply made. What often turned people off branded machines here was the proprietary nature of some upgrade paths, and the lack of room for extra components.

  4. He, won’t beable to get a new era harddrive to work because the IDE controller, is looking for a hard drive lower than 750MB, most of those era, computers, you needed to Trick the IDE controller by boot straping it with a program that would allow it to believe the harddrive was smaller than 750MB’s cause 1GB was still unheard of when those computers where being built.

    • I tried several HDD’s including a 300MB and 54MB IDE drive with no success. only other thing I can think of is the CMOS battery needs replaced. I have had machine that ran relatively fine with a dead battery but I’ve also had ones that acted erratically and could not function drives correctly without one.

        • Joe Blow
        • Posted March 24, 2016 at 09:41
        • Permalink

        I had one just like this. The daughter (riser) card was a poor implementation and I was always cleaning the ISA contact points in the slots so my sound card would work.
        You are correct on the modem – it was a 9600 baud modem that came preinstalled. Very unusual form factor.
        In order to get the hard drive to be recognized, you may have to supply the correct drive parameters in the BIOS – cylinders, heads, sectors, all that legacy stuff that I used to know 🙂
        I gave the PC away to an indigent friend who needed a computer – sure wish I had it back.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

I ❤ Old Games!

Retrogaming & other stuff

Waltorious Writes About Games

Game-related ramblings.

NekoJonez's Gaming Blog

A Journey Through A Gamer's Life

Old School Game Blog

Amiga enthusiasm, retro gaming passion

Evelynn Star

Lynn talks about video games, records and books ...

Retro Megabit

Sharing My Retro Video Game Collection.

133MHz's Junk Box

Random electronics and gaming crap

SNES A Day

Every game, every day

Too Many Games

A blog talking about games

Retrocosm's Vintage Computing, Tech & Scale RC Blog

Random mutterings on retro computing, old technology, some new, plus radio controlled scale modelling.

The PewPew Diaries.

Work(s) in Progress!

The Martian Oddity

Video Games and other weird stuff!

1001Up

1001 video games and beyond

retro computing and gaming plus a little more

sparcie

retro computers and stuff

jispylicious

Stay Jispy!

lazygamereviews

MS-DOS game reviews, retro ramblings and more...

%d bloggers like this: