That Handheld 386SX is falling apart

A few weeks ago, our community was abuzz with news of several new laptops available through AliExpress. Their special feature was that they were brand new 2023 retro computers, one with an 8088 and the other with a 386SX. Interested in learning more? [Yeo Kheng Meng] owns one of the 386 cars and he’s singled it out for our viewing pleasure.

What he found is a well-designed machine that does exactly what it claims and that runs Windows 95 from a CF card. It is slow because it is an embedded version of the 386 with a 16-bit bus that was originally marketed as a chip that could work with 16-bit 286-era chipsets. But the designer did a good job of blending old and new parts to get the most out of this old chip, and included some distinctly modern features unheard of in the 386 era, such as the CH375B USB mass storage interface.

If we had this machine, we’d ditch 95 and run DOS speed with Windows 3.1 where needed. At one time, with eight megabytes of RAM, it would have been considered a powerhouse until users considered its form factor, so it’s an interesting exercise for someone to get an old-fashioned build of Linux running on it.

One way to look at it is as a novelty machine with a pretty high price tag, but he notes that considering the hardware design work that went into it, the $200+ price tag isn’t too bad. With luck, we will have practical experience in time and can make our own decision. Our original coverage is here.

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