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 Proxim Symphony HomeRF Cordless PC Card

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 7/2/2001

Model: 4430


- Excellent range
- Detachable / replacable antenna

Cons :

- Unhelpful link quality indication
- Supported OS info somewhat confusing



Review Updates

7/19/01 Added a Pricegrabber link for the dipole antenna.

7/11/01 Added info on optional dipole antenna.


The Basics



Comes with
  • printed Quick Start Guide

  • printed User's manual

  • software CD

  • Removable antenna



The Proxim HRF Cordless PC card is a good companion to their HRF Cordless Gateway.  Most of what you should know about my HomeRF experiences (including performance tests) is in the HRF Gateway review, but I just wanted to touch on a few points that pertain more to the PC Card client than the wireless gateway.



The information on supported drivers is a little confusing. The documentation that comes with the card says that Win95 and 98/98SE are the only OSes supported.  But if you find your way to the Symphony OS support page, you'll see that you can download Me & Win2000 drivers and apps packages, that the  products and admin apps are not supported in NT, and other info on WinXP, MacOS, WinCE and Linux support.  Read the info carefully and make sure you look for specific mention of  product support for the OS that you're interested in.

In general, the Maestro administration application does a nice job, but its weak point is the information that it provides on your network connection.  Instead of showing a signal strength indication like some other wireless client utilities, the System Tray icon only shows as either red or green (connected or not) with no further info available when you place the mouse pointer over the icon.  I didn't find Maestro's Test Cordless Connection app to be very helpful either, since it gave me an Excellent result pretty much up to the point where I lost the network connection.  The only tool that you can use to continuously monitor the quality of your connection is the Cordless Status, which has to run in its own fairly large window.  It gives a running total of packets sent and received.

My Compaq 1650 laptop's has some audio circuitry near the PC card slots and many wireless cards will cause static when a wireless connection is active.  I found the Proxim card to be very "chatty" and had to listen to constant noise!  Fortunately, you can snap off the paddle style antenna and attach an optional cabled monopole antenna to the card.  When I did this, the noise disappeared entirely...whew!  The bad news is that this cabled antenna isn't included, but you can order it from Proxim for $25 (ouch!), or check this Pricegrabber link for better prices.



If you need a PC card adapter to get your laptop onto your HomeRF network, the Proxim card is one of two choices.  The other choice, the Intel Anypoint PC Card has the advantage of coming with a cabled antenna, and drivers and applications for Win95/98/Me/2000 on its install CD.  On the other hand, Intel has exited the HomeRF market, so your chances of long-term support are probably better with Proxim.


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