3 Cards let laptops stay connected-- anywhere
by Alan Zisman
(c) 1996. First
published in Computer Player, January 1996
GVC 14,400 bps PCMCIA Fax/Modem
$225 (CDN$) list-- about $200 street price
Gentek Marketing, Inc.
20 Barnes Court, Building G
Concord, Ontario L4K 4L4
Megahertz XJack14.4 Ethernet Modem
$395 (US list)
604 North 5600 West
Salt Lake City, UT
Jack of Diamonds TrumpCard
-- $425 (CDN$) special limited time evaluation price
Ositech Communications, Inc.
679 Southgate Drive
Guelph, Ontario N1G 4S2
519-836-8063 / 1-800-563-2386
Portable computer users still need desktop power and
is this more apparent than in the need to stay connected. On the road,
in and out of the office, at home? Need a high-speed modem to connect
the Internet, to BBSs, or to access data and even programs on the
And back in the office, would the ability to plug into
the network would
be a plus?
At the same time, you have to deal with the limited
size and weight
restrictions of portable computing, where every extra centimeter and
counts. An added problem is the limited expandability of portables.
three PC Cards (formerly known as PCMCIA Cards) provide an answer to
dilemma, usable by any portable user with an empty Type 2 PC Card slot.
GVC 14.4 Fax Modem
Concord, Ontario?s Gentek markets a full range of
including a 14.4 PC Card fax-modem. (They also market a separate PC
Ethernet adapter, for those networking needs). It works well and is
at an attractive price, but is somewhat hindered by the spartan
a 13 page mini-manual.
The F-1114PV1 model ships with a proprietary, plug-in
phone cable, and
a copy of Delrina?s 4-in-1 telecommunications software, comprising
versions of ComIt telecommunications software for DOS and Windows, and
WinFax and DOSFax. Of course, it can also be used with the
and fax software of your choice, after some fiddling with configuration
In addition, a PCMCIA driver disk is included,
although the modem requires
that Socket/Card Services are already installed on your portable.
95 correctly autorecognizes this card as a ?Cirrus Logic? modem, and
automatically install drivers for it. As with other cards in this
the GVC model features hot insertion-- meaning it can be inserted or
without having to power the computer down. Because PC Cards can really
drain portable batteries, it features a low power sleep mode, when
but not in active use.
The modem performs well, supporting all the standard
specifications-- V32bis, V42bis, and so forth, and operates as a Group
III fax, for sending and receiving. It can be configured to work on any
of the four standard COM ports, and supports the standard Hayes AT
It includes a five year warranty, which can be extended to a lifetime
with the purchase of GVC?s DataGuard communication line protector.
It represents good value in a modest package.
Megahertz 14.4 XJack Ethernet Modem
This offering from Megahertz is a step up in features,
price from GVC?s card. It?s just one of a series of PC Card modems and
networking adapters from Megahertz, now owned by US Robotics.
Unlike GVC?s card, which requires a proprietary phone
cable (lose it
at your own risk), the current line Megahertz models feature a
XJack adapter-- a thin phone jack that fits into the body of the PC
when not in use. Simply press on the end, and the XJack pops out. That
means you can plus any standard phone plug into this card. Some fear
it may be easy to break off, however, a charge that Megahertz denies.
the same time, use of an XJack and phone cord may make it impossible to
use some second PC Cards at the same time.
While the unit includes the XJack for its phone
connections, a proprietary
adapter is used for the networking side of the card-- depending on the
adapter, either 10BaseT or 10Base2 cables can be used with this card.
$215 (US) Ethernet adapter comes with a similar XJack for 10BaseT plug
Faxworks 3.0 for Windows software is included, along
and America-On-Line connection software, but no general purpose telecom
software is included in the package. DOS users get a token nod of the
a card to return for free DOS communications and fax software. Running
the DOS-based install program adds appropriate drivers for both the
and networking functions; Windows 95 recognizes the card and installs
for all its functions.
This combo card permits simultaneous access of a
network, along with
14.4 fax modeming. It also features a built-in Digital Line Guard, an
to protect the modem from being plugged into office digital PBX
phone lines... if you do, you?ll be notified of potential problems, and
the modem will be switched off-line-- hopefully before any damage to
modem has occurred. (Digital phone lines are unlikely to harm
modems, but the higher voltage has the potential to make any PC-Card
go up in smoke-- beware!)
Another handy feature-- Megahertz?s software includes
a point enabler.
This can reduce (DOS) memory utilization by setting up the card, and
removing itself from memory. The down side of this is that doing so
the ability to remove and reinsert the card, or to switch in and out of
power-saving sleep mode. Windows 95 users avoid these problems, getting
drivers that load into much more available extended memory.
This unit includes a full-featured, 170 page manual,
complete with all
the modeming jargon that makes this area of computing so much fun. Like
the GVC card, it includes a 5 year warranty.
The Install program will set up your machine with its
own version of
Card and Socket Service drivers if you do not have any specifically
This well-designed program will set up your machine to, by default,
to a Novell network, and for simultaneous network and modem operation.
An Uninstall program can be run to undo the installation.
The documentation aids in the sometimes complicated
the modem for your telecom software-- especially necessary since no
software is included with this package. It lists a number of different
modems that can be chosen if your software lists modems by model, and
includes sample initialization strings for a wide range of popular
In addition, it gives detailed instructions for working with the modem
and the (Type 2) fax, and for setting up the network driver with a
of popular networking packages. Additional information on manually
the networking and modem functions will appeal to the computer
Flash ROM means the card?s built-in software can be
updated as newer
versions become available. Megahertz uses the well-regarded AT&T
set in its modem.
Megahertz is one of the most widely distributed brands
of PC Card modems--
users who do not need this model?s combination of networking and
should have no trouble finding their 14.4 and 28.8 kbs modem-only cards
at their favorite retailers.
Jack of Diamonds is a hard card to play...
Like the Megahertz card, the oddly-named Jack of
from Guelph, Ontario?s Ositech, is also a combo card, cramming Ethernet
networking and a fax modem into a single, Type II PC Card. Unlike the
product, this card boasts 28.8 v34 ultra-high speed modeming. It also
cellular support, making it particularly attractive for mobile users.
the other hand, with a $827 (CDN$) list, it?s also the most expensive
of the trio. (There is a special $425 CDN$ evaluation price in effect,
for one unit per customer site, until the end of next March).
Like the Megahertz card, it permits simultaneous
network and modem connection.
Unlike that card, it does not use (Megahertz?s patented) XJack
including special cables for both the telephone and networking jacks. A
10BaseT cable is included... an Media Access Module, allowing both
and 10Base2 network connections, can be ordered (upping the price by
The included software allows connection to several
models at speeds up to 14.4 (which is pretty good, considering the
of cell connections in general), and includes a nice feature-- it
whether or not the network adapter is in use... if not, it powers down
that side of the card, providing dramatic savings on notebook
The company claims compatibility with DOS, the entire
(including 3.11, 95, and NT), OS/2, and several varieties of UNIX
not the popular Linux). As with the other cards in this review, I used
it with Windows 95, which again, successfully recognized both the
and modem functions, and automatically installed the appropriate
Unlike the Megahertz card, the TrumpCard does not
include its own generic
PC Card and Socket Services software-- it claims, instead, to be
with the CS&S software installed with virtually all PC Card
Like Megahertz?s software, an optional point enabler allows users to
about 60k of DOS memory, at the expense of losing hot swapping.
II Windows fax and telecom software is included. There are separate
for installation, and for the modem and networking sides of the card.
While Windows 95 happily recognized the card?s modem
function, and set
it up to work transparently with that environment?s native telecom and
Internet software, it was more difficult to find appropriate
string information to work with my older (DOS and Windows) software...
eventually I located a Readme file with sample initialization strings--
buried several directories deep in the driver disk. Even with this
I never quite got my software set up to my satisfaction, and found
performance slower than I would have hoped from a 28.8 kbs modem...
my own fault, but I would have hoped that this vital information would
be more clearly communicated.
It?s the priciest of the cards reviewed, but Ositech?s
offering is clearly
the feature-leader of the bunch.