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 TRENDware CompactFlash 10/100 Fast Ethernet Adapter

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 4/19/2001

Model: TE-CF100


- Integrated jack
- Full set of LEDs
- Low price


- High power consumption
- No ability to control speed or connection mode



The Basics

  • Rx

  • Col

  • Tx

  • Fdx

  • 100M

  • Link

Comes with
  • Driver floppies for WinCE & other Windows OS

  • printed User Manual



I don't usually review Ethernet adapters because, for the most part, they're pretty much commodity products.  You can usually buy on price, as long as you stay away from the "no-name" computer-show specials.  But Ethernet adapters for the CompactFlash format are newer, and so are many of the devices that they're used with, such as PocketPCs.  So I thought that it would be good to check out at least one of these puppies.

As luck would have it, TRENDware contacted me about reviewing their soon-to-be released 802.11b product line.  Turns out they also make a line of CompactFlash network adapters and modems and sent one of each in for review.


The Details

TRENDware's TRENDnet TE-CF100 is a complete 10/100 auto-sensing Ethernet NIC in CompactFlash format.  You can use it on devices running WinCE 2.0 or higher...either HPCs or PocketPCs.   TRENDware also includes a driver floppy for all other Windows flavors (except XP), so if you use a CF to PC Card adapter (not included), the CF100 can serve your laptop Ethernet connection needs, too!

The printed user manual covered the installation procedure for both WinCE and other Windows OSes, but if you've installed network adapters before, you won't even need to look at it.  Since this was my maiden voyage for installing a PocketPC NIC, I dutifully read and followed the instructions and could see the new entry in the Network Connections properties on my Casio E-125 Cassiopeia.  The LEDs on the CF100 told me that I was connected to my networks router in 100Mbps Full Duplex mode and it looked like I was ready to rock.  However, try as I might, I couldn't get Pocket IE to bring up a Web site.  As I eventually found out, this was due to my unfamiliarity with Pocket IE.  Once I figured out how to bring up the Address entry box, I was off and running!

Tip: I found Cambridge Computer Corp's free vxUtil package very handy in figuring out what was happening with my network connection.  The ping and information (like winipcfg) utilities were especially helpful!

Since netIQ doesn't make a WinCE endpoint, I couldn't run the Qcheck test suite on the CF100.  Nor could I do any computer-to-computer file transfer tests without going through ActiveSync, which would add too much overhead to be an accurate indicator of what the adapter could do.  So performance testing will have to wait until the tools (and WinCE capabilities) mature some more.


The Good... The Bad

Like any product, the CF100 has its good and not-so-good points.  Here's my take on both:

The Good:

  • Integrated Ethernet jack: No messing with little teeny connectors that break easily. The RJ45 jack is built right into a hump on the card.  It does help to use a flexible CAT5/UTP cord, however!

  • Status LEDs: There are six LEDs, which tell you everything you need to know about how the CF100 is connected.

  • 3.3 and 5V operation: The card automatically adjusts for either voltage. This means that you'll be able to use it in most any PDA or laptop.

  • Low price: I found a $49 on-line price for the CF100, which compares favorably to PC card 10/100 Ethernet adapters.  The  price compares very favorably to other CF 10/100 adapters, in some cases as much as half price!

The Bad:

  • High power consumption: All those nice LEDs probably don't help this number.  TRENDware says that the CF100 will draw 120mA max in 3.3V mode and 140mA max in 5V mode.  (I find this curious... I'd expect the lower voltage to have a higher current draw.)  Compare these numbers to other CF NICs listed in Chris De Herrera page. (NOTE that the list is for 10BaseT NICs.)  

    If the card's draw is really 120mA, this will certainly not help your battery life. But I didn't do any battery rundown tests to quantify the effect, and if you're tethered to an Ethernet cable, you'll probably run your PocketPC off its AC adapter anyway!

  • No mode control: There's no way to force the NIC to connect at a lower speed or at half duplex instead of full.  So if you're having problems connecting to your network's hub, switch, router, or whatever, there's not much you'll be able to do.



Although TRENDware's been around since 1990 and makes a full line of networking products (including the CF modem reviewed here), they are not as widely known (or distributed) in the US as other manufacturers, but are more widely known in Europe.  The main US distributors are Global Computer Supplies and UBid and their Web site lists other resellers.

So if you're on a tight budget and are looking for a CompactFlash Ethernet adapter for your new PocketPC, the CF100 is worth a look.

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