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Game Over Online ~ Socket Low Power Ethernet CF Card

GameOver Game Reviews - Socket Low Power Ethernet CF Card (c) Socket Communications, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Socket Low Power Ethernet CF Card (c) Socket Communications
System Requirements Pocket PC
Overall Rating 80%
Date Published Monday, February 18th, 2002 at 07:15 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

The Socket Low Power Ethernet Card (LPE) debuted in 2000 alongside the initial push of Pocket PC handhelds. In spite of competition from others for the production of CompactFlash Ethernet adapters, LPE still remains one of the few products truly geared towards mobile use. The hardware dimensions continue to be the same as the launch product. The LPE is a Type I CompactFlash card so it maintains its high level of compatibility. It works with a series of handhelds and PDAs, ranging from the CE devices like the Casio BE-300, to older HPC Windows CE devices, to the latest Pocket PC 2002 devices. Moreover, devices like the HP Jornada series continue to support Type I only cards and the LPE is ideal for that device. Connecting with a 10BaseT interface, the output is restricted to 10mbps and has no provisions, unlike other CompactFlash Ethernet cards, to support the faster 100mbps standard. This makes it compatible in a wide variety of settings, except perhaps with 100BaseT only hubs/switches/routers (and those are rare). However, the speed is adequate considering the LPE offers speeds comparable to what we would find in wireless 802.11b standards and with an Ethernet connection, you are always assured of the fastest speed possible.

Although there is an assortment of CompactFlash Ethernet adapters out on the market, Socket Communications has the dubious record of delivering one that is battery conscious. Coined as Battery Friendly R cards, it consumes more than ten times less energy than its typical competitors. This makes it useful when you are on the road or away from your docking station. Moreover, the LPE is fairly sleek in size and dimension. The card itself is no bigger than your usual CompactFlash memory card. Thus, its profile fits snugly into the handhelds themselves. Because the dimensions of the Ethernet cable are larger than the actual adapter, a dongle is provided to help bridge that gap. The dongle itself is small and the clip that attaches it helps it remain connected, even under pressure. The design is similar to what IKEA does to furniture. It is space-saving for sure and eliminates the aesthetic bulkiness that is attributed to most other CompactFlash Ethernet adapters.

The LPE also distinguishes itself with value-added software. Since its inception, it has been updated to support the Casio BE-300; a Windows CE 3.0 device. Otherwise, for all Pocket PC devices, it loads itself on the taskbar of your operating system and displays activity / link lights there. The manufacturers claim this helps the LPE save electricity. From what I understand about engineering though (and I asked an engineer about this), LEDs are designed to save energy in the first place and I'm not sure how much is actually shaved off with this design decision. The software installs through ActiveSync and I found the package has been updated to support the latest operating systems. I installed it in Windows XP and ActiveSync 3.5 without a hitch. It has a combined network configuration screen for the LPE only, allowing you one touch access to IP and MAC addresses of your Ethernet connection. For the Pocket PC 2000 folks, there is a handy feature where the LPE driver software will start up ActiveSync upon the insertion of the LPE card. This is a tremendous timesaver. If anyone has played around with Ethernet cards and Pocket PC 2000, you'll know that ActiveSync takes more than a few stylus taps to get through. LPE solves this problem completely and elegantly.

The package as a whole has also aged quite gracefully. Support for Pocket PC 2002 is still there although the timesavers introduced by the LPE software may be a moot point in the new operating system. For example, ActiveSync is now prominently displayed in the default Start Menu. Still, LPE's driver software continues to work. Perhaps a big plus for owners of Casio's BE-300, special drivers are available for it too with similar amenities.

There are a few words that help mark the LPE product. One of them is compatibility. It simply supports a wide variety of Windows CE devices and its correlated Pocket PC PDAs. It works flawlessly with the native NE2000 drivers and provides extra functions to make the package unique. Though the LPE has been out for quite some time, you can be sure that Socket Communications has not neglected the product. In fact, there is an additional rugged version of the LPE for the weary traveler. The bundled software, although small and trite for modern Pocket PC 2002 devices, left me with the impression that the manufacturer actually cares about its product, rather than slapping the hardware in a box and shipping it out after that. My hope is for Socket Communications to work this form factor into an updated product. And from the perspective of an entertainment publication, good wired or wireless networking will be one of the hottest features for PDA titles this year.


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