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Amstrad XTs: Models

The following models of Amstrad XT are mentioned on Web pages or newsgroup postings. The same computers were sometimes sold under different names; in this case, they are grouped together in sections.

PC1512 (aka Sinclair PC500) - 1986

The PC1512 is Amstrad's original PC clone, and (in the UK) the first cheap PC that was hardware compatible with the IBM XT. Indeed, it's nearly twice as fast as a genuine IBM XT, and cost much less. The codename for this computer (which can be seen in some of the system software) was "AIRO" - Amstrad IBM Rip Off.

All Amstrad XTs include one feature that I wish existed on today's PCs: a volume control for the internal beeper. With this, it's possible to silence the wretched thing without ripping the beeper out of the PC altogether.

The case (and this applies to all the XTs before the 3086) is made of plastic rather than metal. The drives and motherboard each have individual metal shields which protect them from interference. In the case of drives, the shields double as mounting brackets.

The three ISA slots are in a bay at the back of the case, with a removable panel (the 'sunroof') allowing access to them without dismantling the PC.

Specifications:

PC1640 (aka PC6400) - 1987

The PC1640 is based on the PC1512 design; the major difference is that the motherboard CGA chipset is disabled and replaced by an EGA chipset (very similar in capabilities to a Paradise EGA card). Memory is 640k as standard.

Specifications:

PPC512 - 1987

The PPC512 was an incredibly heavy luggable computer that ran on non-rechargable C batteries (and, one imagines, gobbled them at a rate of knots).

Rather than the lid being the screen, as on a modern laptop, the lid is the full sized keyboard. The screen is a tiny non-backlit LCD, which folds up from the top of the system unit, and displays dark blue on green.

Compared to the original IBM "portable" 5155, the PPC is decidedly more advanced; but it isn't quite a laptop unless you've got a really big lap.

Specifications:

PPC640 - 1987

The PPC640 is the 640k version of the PPC512. It looks identical to the PPC512, except that its casing is a darker shade of grey.

Specifications:

PC20 - 1988

The PC20 is a desktop computer based on the PPC512 design, minus the batteries, RTC, and built-in display. It was intended as a games PC, and has a motherboard-under-the-keyboard design similar to an Atari ST. Since, like the PPC512, its graphics support is limited to CGA, it sold very badly and was swiftly withdrawn.

The ISA slots on the PC20 (and the PC200 below) are only half the usual height. Full-height cards can be accommodated only if the sunroof is left open all the time; and there is no proper physical support for the cards.

Specifications:

Sinclair PC200 - 1988

The Sinclair PC200 is almost the same machine as the PC20, but the case, keyboard and mouse are black. In CGA modes it can also output to a domestic television; according to my sources, the PC20 lacks this capability.

Specifications:

PC2086 - 1988

An updated version of the PC1640. By this time Amstrad were making computers with 286 and 386 processors; the PC2086 is the bottom-end model of the PC2000 range. The power supply moves from the monitor to the computer, and the video chipset is now VGA. Instead of two 5.25" drive bays, it has three 3.5" ones (the central one for a hard drive, and the other two for floppies). The sunroof is secured by a screw.

The original RLL controllers supplied with hard drive models of the PC2086 turned out to be defective. In many cases, the hard drive was disconnected and replaced with a hardcard, which occupied 1.5 of the three expansion slots.

Specifications:

PC3086 - 1990?

A much more conventional PC than earlier Amstrad models. The internal layout closely resembles standard XT/AT motherboards, with ISA cards running front-to-back rather than left-to-right. There is no sunroof and the case has to be removed to get at the ISA cards. The case is metal rather than plastic, with no depression in the top for the monitor stand. Drives are mounted on rails rather than individually in metal cages. The Real Time Clock no longer needs power from add-on AA batteries; its battery is built-in, as on a modern PC.

Specifications:

PC5086 - 1990?

A compact desktop PC - a scaled-down version of the PC3086, with the Amstrad keyboard and mouse interfaces replaced by PS/2 designs. Unlike the other XTs, the BIOS is not written by Amstrad.

Specifications:

Others

A Sinclair PC800 has been mentioned; this is most likely to be a rebadged PC1512 or PC1640, but there is no firm evidence of what it is.

I don't know if a PC1086 ever existed. If it did, it would have had the same spec as the PC2086.


John Elliott 19 April 2013