U.S. Robotics Sportster V.32/PC. (modem) (Evaluation)
by Richard C. Leinecker
This Cadillac of modems makes my four hours online each day just cruise by. What's so special about this internal modem? For one thing, 9600 bauds. For another thing, as close to glitch-free communications as I've ever experienced. It's a well-engineered piece of hardware that will give you many years of fine-tuned service.
The last dozen modems I've installed here at COMPUTE have been compact models. It's almost like the manufacturers are trying to get better mileage by leaving out parts and making the cards smaller. These modems don't reject line noise very well. But this U.S. Robotics modem is a full-size card that's jam-packed with stuff. It combines all of those parts for great line-noise rejection. They don't add to the probability that the modem will break down; in this age of solid-state circuitry, that's unlikely.
And there's more to the card than line-noise rejection. MNP error-control protocols and MNP5 compression are implemented. These are techniques that help modems communicate more accurately, and, in some cases, with fewer date bits sent for the same amount of information. Not all services support MNP features. When I connect to America Online, I have to make sure these features are disabled or I have trouble connecting. The manual offers adequate technical assistance with these problems, though casual computer users may have trouble plowing through the jargon.
The card was simple to install. It comes set for the most common configuration found, COM 1 and IRQ 4. That fit my system perfectly, so I didn't have to mess with switches. But if you do have to make changes, the DIP switches are on the back. That means you don't have to take your computer's case off to change settings.
This modem isn't inexpensive. The list price is $549, but street prices are lower than that. For many people, the price tag is too high. But if 9600 bauds will save you money in connect charges, it starts to make sense. And if you rely on error-free data transmission, then it's an even better choice. This modem won't be obsolete next year or even the year after. It's on the forefront of consumer electronics and will serve you well for years to come.
Since I spend many hours online, this modem is a good investment for me. Rather than send back the one loaned for this review, I'm planning to buy it when the U.S. Robotics rep calls to ask for its return.