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 SMC BT10 EZ Connect Wireless Bluetooth USB Adapter

 Author: Sean Michael Kerner
 Review Date: 3/2/2005


Price: $$39.99
Pros:
  • Low price
  • Class 2
  • Bluetooth 1.2 compliance
Cons:
  • Not many 1.2 compliant devices out yet (device is backwards compatible though) to take advantage of improved performance.
Bluetooth connectivity is easy to achieve thanks to SMC's new EZ Connect Wireless Bluetooth Adapter (SMC-BT10). This thumb-sized class 2 Bluetooth device lives ups to its EZ marketing and is easy to set up. Thanks to its included software, it's also a breeze to operate and manage Bluetooth devices.

While Bluetooth itself is not particularly new (we've reviewed other devices here at practically networked in the past ) the BT10 is among the first adapters to support the new Bluetooth 1.2 standard, which is supposed to boost performance and improve reliability. The BT10 is also backward compatible with Bluetooth 1.1 devices, which is a good thing since there are very few 1.2 compliant devices currently on the market.

Bluetooth is of course not WiFi (802.11), it's a short range (up to 30 feet with a Class 2 device) wireless protocol for what is known as Personal Area Networking (PAN). The BT10 is a USB adapter for your PC that enables Bluetooth connections with other Bluetooth enabled devices such as mice, PDAs, cell phones, peripherals and other Bluetooth enabled PC's.

Setup: Windows, Mac But no Linux
Installing the BT10 on a PC with Windows XP is a simple matter of running the provided software installation disk and plugging the adapter into an available USB slot. According to the documentation, the included software drivers will actually work for Windows 98 SE/2000ME as well as for MAC OS 10.2. Unfortunately, there is no current SMC-provided support for Linux, (when I called SMC tech support, the person I spoke with didn't even know what Linux was).

The software installation disk also contains the BlueSoleil, GUI-based software for managing your Bluetooth connections.

Managing Bluetooth
BlueSoleil visually maps your Bluetooth environment. At the center is your Bluetooth device, which is "orbited" by whatever Bluetooth devices you have connected to it. According to SMC's specs, the BT10 can connect up to seven Bluetooth-enabled peripherals. What you can do with each of those devices is determined by what profile and what services the device in question is set up to accept.

BlueSoleil recognizes 13 different services that you can perform with your Bluetooth devices. These include the following: Personal Area Networking (PAN), Headset, AV, Basic Imaging, Fax, Human Interface Device, Printer, Object Push, Information Synchronization, File Transfer, LAN Access, Serial Port and Dial Up Networking services.

Basically, what all those services are about is connecting one Bluetooth device to another to exchange data. The need for defining a device's services is an added layer of nomenclature and complexity that, in my opinion, makes Bluetooth seem much more complex than it needs to be. When you connect a printer, mouse, CD-ROM drive or other device by wired USB, you don't have to define (or even know) what "service" it's running. All you need to know is that it connects and that it works. This is not an issue with the SMC-BT10, in particular. It's more of a Bluetooth protocol specification issue.

During the review process, BlueSoleil had no problem finding my Bluetooth Motorola cell phone. I was able to easily get the COM port service working and had some success with the dial-up networking feature as well. Bluesoleil, however, is not a cell phone synchronization tool, for that I used something called Motorola Mobile Phone Tools from software vendor BVRP, which did not seem to behave properly with the Bluesoleil induced Bluetooth connection.

To get Mobile Phone Tools to work, I had to quit Bluesoleil and start Bluetooth from Windows, which seemed to work most of the time. The BT10 exhibited a reasonable connection range with my Motorola device of at least 15 feet and this was in an area with obstacles and overhead fluorescent lighting.

With another BT10 or ostensibly another Bluetooth-enabled PC, I could have set up a true PAN (personal area network) for file transfer and sharing. Then again, for now at least, in both my office and home, 802.11g fills that need more than adequately. That's the real crux of Bluetooth wireless technology, isn't it? If you've already got some other form of wireless connectivity (RF or WiFi) in your environment it may not make sense to layer in yet another wireless technology especially if it's not price competitive.

The SMC-BT10 is a capable device that does what it's supposed to do. It's unfortunate that there aren't more attractively priced Bluetooth-enabled devices and peripherals out there to connect to the BT10. Ultimately, in my opinion, for Bluetooth to truly succeed, practical and affordable devices like the SMC-BT10 will need to become the norm rather than the exception.


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