It’s not likely that we’ll talk about a new PC here at Hackaday because where’s the news in yet another commodity computer? But today along comes not one but two new PCs courtesy of the ever bounteous hall of wonders at AliExpress, that are unusual enough to take a look at. If you have around $250 to spare, you can have a brand new, made in 2023, 80386sx plamtop PC capable of running Windows 95, or an 8088 laptop for DOS. Just what on earth is going on?
First of all, these PCs are not evidence of those aged chips going back into production. A close look at the photographs on the Ali listings shows chips with date codes more appropriate to the era when these chips were king, with a mid-1990s VGA chip and a 2000s-era 386-core SoC. These are the fruit of the chip recycling business, devices removed from their original boards, cleaned up, and sold on. Some canny Chinese designer has spotted a product niche, and run with it.
For your cash you get what would have been a high spec 386sx PC in the early 1990s and a pretty useful 8088 machine in the mid ’80s. Neither would have appeared in a palmtop or clamshell laptop form factor in their own eras, so they would both have been considered phenomenal machines when new. It’s debatable how good a Windows 95 machine the 386sx would be even with that 8 megabytes of RAM, but both of them will benefit from their solid-state CF card hard drives.
So, these machines are cool. Inestimably cool, and we have to admit a level of desire. But are they $250 levels of cool? Probably not, when the modern equivalent in a base model Steam Deck is about $450 and there are so many emulation options out there. Still, top effort!
Haven’t got $250 but must have a DOS PC? It’s five years since someone emulated one on an ESP8266.
Thanks to the many tipsters who came to us with this one.