Commodore's Comeback

Commodore's Comeback

BEST FOOT FORWARD?

But it was Bala Keilman’s comments about the company’s partnership (Keilman described it as “strategic marketing alliance”) with Microsoft that really floored me: “We’ll be the ones who talk to the PC gamer,” he said, “because most PC gamers are not fans of Microsoft.”

Uh, Bala, let me clue you in to something: Most PC gamers aren’t fans of Vista, either; and based on my conversations with my contacts at Microsoft, the value of Commodore’s partnership to Redmond is that you’ve committed to shipping Vista machines exclusively with DX-10 videocards and a Vista-compatible game (Capcom’s Lost Planet) in every box.

Commodore’s biggest challenge, however, could be getting into retail distribution in the U.S. market. As of E3, the company had no commitment from any brick-and-mortar retailer. The Microsoft deal might gain them some leverage, but retailers typically plan their holiday offerings in the aftermath of January’s CES, not during the doldrums of summer. The barrier to entry when it comes to selling direct and online, on the other hand, should be much less formidable.

Commodore's chicken-head logo conjures fond memories for some.

THE NITTY GRITTY

Okay, so they won’t be teaching Commodore’s launch strategy to MBA candidates. Let’s look at the product the company will be shipping. The company announced four SKUs during E3: Model G, GS, GX, and XX, all of which will be outfitted with Intel quad-core processors, Asus motherboards, and Nvidia videocards. Keilman told me he expected the entry-level model G to sell for around $1,700. It will be based on a Core 2 Quad Q600 CPU, 2GB of Corsair XMS2 800MHz memory, an Nvidia 8800 GTS with a 320MB frame buffer, an Asus P5N-E motherboard (Nvidia nForce 650i SLI chipset), a 500GB hard drive, and a 550-watt FIC Ice Cube power supply. Entry-level systems will ship with Vista Home Premium.

Commodore didn’t disclose anticipated pricing on the other three models, which will feature the same components as the model G except as noted below:

  • Commodore GS: Steps up to an Asus P5N32-E motherboard (Nvidia nForce 680i SLI chipset) and a 750-watt PSU.
  • Commodore GX: Comes with two 500GB hard drives, two Nvidia GeForce 8800 GTS cards with 640MB frame buffers, and Vista Ultimate.
  • Commodore XX: Uses Intel’s Core 2 Extreme Quad QX6800, doubles memory to 4GB of Corsair’s Dominator series (clocked at 1,066MHz), bumps the graphics horsepower up to two Nvidia GeForce 8800 Ultra cards, adds a Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Xtreme gamer, and gooses the PSU to 850 watts. The top-end machine will also ship with Vista Ultimate.
  • For all you retro gaming fans, every machine will come with a C64 emulator and 50 classic games.

All components will ship with stock clock speeds, but Keilman told me that Commodore would encourage overclocking and would even provide users’ guides to the process. The company will not, however, honor warranty claims on user-overclocked systems (a reasonable position, considering just how many factors Commodore cannot control in such a situation).

I didn’t spend much hands-on time with the one prototype Commodore had to show, but I had a favorable first impression of the minimalist case design and the cooling features (the CPU cooler features both a fan and a Peltier-like heat exchanger, with a dew-point sensor to prevent moisture formation). Every case will be insulated to reduce noise.

Thanks to Commodore’s C-Kin (it’s pronounced “skin), buyers will be able to customize the exteriors of their new machines with what looks very much like a custom paint job. In reality, the design is printed on a membrane that is then baked on to the surface of the case and then covered with a clear protective varnish. If you grow tired of having Hello Kitty, or any other unfortunate decorative choice, you can snap the panel off and trade it for your kid sister’s Transformer design.

I wish Commodore the best of luck in their endeavor. It’s great to see new competition in the marketplace, and the skin idea is new and innovative. But as Maximum PC readers know, it takes a lot more than a pretty case to score a great verdict in our pages.

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Comments

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Darth Ninja

Will the new Commodores have this boot skin?
http://tinyurl.com/2vgnk6

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Marcus_Soperus

Call me sentimental, but I wish they'd include a C-64 emulator and some games. Of course, then their 'crack' team of marketing people would need to decide which emulator and games to bundle: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Commodore+64+emulator

The first technical writing I ever did was to boil down the C-1541 floppy disk drive manual to a single page so my customers at Children's Palace (also home of the $50 TI-994A) could figure it out. LOAD "$",8, anyone?
=============================================
It's amazing how illogical a business built on binary logic can be.

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MrMick

They are including an emulator and 50 games, although they haven't disclosed what those games will be.

Michael Brown Executive Editor

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Bin3ry

It sounds like some kinda terrible marketing ploy to me. I mean,"the components inside the boxes were just too powerful to be just gaming PCs", how lame is that. I think i will stick to building my own. Thanks Michael, for giving another great and honest review. This is what makes MaximumPc the greatest PC magazine on the planet.

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crank

The Amiga was my very favorite computer. It was the first multi-media computer. I would rather see it come back than the Commodore. How would a new Amiga be configured?

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TheMurph

I, for one, think the mushroom cloud design looks pretty sweet. But that's just me. :D

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Talcum X

I often wondered where the big 'C' went after all these years. But looking at the list of innards, it seems to me to be just another pre-built, after market rig. Beyond the custom C-kins, which isn't a new process, and maybe the enclosure, its everything anyone else can pick up at NewEgg. Now, that said, it's good stuff inside. I was almost hoping to see the Commodore come back as it once was, but modern. But then I remembered, "I don't want to see another Packard Bell" either. Proprietary = Bad Ju-ju.

Welcome back Commodore, and good luck.

********
Every morning is the dawn of a new error.

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oihorse

My first computer, my first real gaming machine after the Atari.

I was always boggled at how much they squeezed out of that little machine, and reaffirms my belief that today's games are bloated beasts wasting massive amounts of computer resources.

Horse

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RGCook

Guys - you are at your best with this review. The comment about mushroom clouds and MBA had me laughing at loud.

But on a serious note, I wish Commodore the very best. I may be dating myself but my first computer was a Commodore Colt, with an 8087 processor, two 5.25" floppy drives and (I think) 640K or ram with a VGA monitor. The mouse was an expensive add-on! I remember staying up late many nights, reading the GW-Basic manual that came with it. I taught myself a lot about programming - stuff that I still use as I endeavor to learn VB.NET, some two decades later in my profession as a chemical engineer. Yes, I cut my teeth on WP 5.0/5.1 for DOS and dreaded the migration to Windows 3.0 when our company said it was time to "upgrade". I sold the machine to a friend of mine back in 1994 and he still uses it to run simple programs for his service station.

I have found memories of my Commodore.

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