Best Data Smart One 9624 FP Traveler Fax/Modem. (Hardware Review) (Evaluation)
by Eddie Huffman
Even though you could phone in your lunch order just as easily as you could fax it, advancing technology creates heightened expectations. You want a fax machine.
The thing is that you already have a printer and you're not really looking for a similar-sized plastic box to take up more space in your crowded office. Or maybe you and your laptop do quite a bit of traveling, and you're in the market for a fax machine that allows you to send and receive pages from airport lobbies and hotel rooms. In either case, the Best Data Smart One 9624 FP Traveler Fax/Modem could get that kebab cooking by noon without your ever having to pick up the receiver.
The 9624 FP takes up only about as much space as a walkabout cassette player trailing a cord or three. You hook it up to your computer directly through a 25-pin port or via cable through a 9-pin port and then plug in a phone line and a power cord (or, if you prefer, you can power up the 9624 FP with a nine-volt battery). Red indicator lights tell you whether the battery's low, if the modem's operating at 2400 bps or faster, whether a connection has been established, and if the modem is ready for communications to begin. Unlike some portable fax/data modems, the 9624 FP connects directly to the phone line rather than strapping onto the receiver, so don't buy it expecting to use it easily from public phones or in office buildings with odd-sized plugs for their phone systems. Also, the modem has a slightly clunky feel because of loose nuts and a power-cord receptacle that gives slightly when you plug the cord in. Those are essentially cosmetic concerns, however, and they have no bearing on the performance of the 9624 FP.
Anyone who has ever removed a desktop PC's cover to install a fax/data modem board will appreciate the convenience of the 9624 FP's external connections. Best Data has even adapted for use by the general public a Velcro strip used by the company's employees to attach the 9624 FP directly to a monitor, out of the way. I had the modem hooked up and its accompanying software installed within about ten minutes of opening the box. The user's manual provided relatively clear instructions, though without illustrations, an index, or the kind of literary spark that can make phrases like retractable locking screws come alive.
The software accompanying the 9624 FP--WinFax Lite and Quick Link II--makes communications an intuitive breeze. Both programs allow you to send and receive faxes, as well as view them onscreen or print them on your printer. If you run Windows, I'd advise sticking with WinFax Lite, though. Quick Link II gets the job done, but it has an interface on a level with an average shareware program, and when you're viewing a fax that you're sending or you've received, it offers no helpful onscreen guidelines telling you how to move around the page or pages. I used both programs for successful fax communications, however, and their inclusion with a portable modem that can transmit at 9600 bps makes the 9624 FP a bargain at $199 suggested retail. (WinFax Lite isn't available as a stand-alone product, but WinFax Pro retails at $119.)
The bargain looks even better when you consider the error correction and data compression technologies built into the 9624 FP. It incorporates V.42bis and MNP 2-5 technologies, which are imposing-looking monikers for the intelligence that makes the modem fast and its transmissions clean. Using data compression, V.42bis allows for a transmission throughput up to four times the bps rate of the modem itself, which allows the 2400-bps 9624 FP to send in your lunch order at 9600 bps. (V.42 covers the error correction, while bis covers the data compression.) MNP 2-5 is a subset of V.42, and, in a nutshell, it means the 9624 FP can communicate with other MNP modems, a standard protocol.
If you're simply looking for a way to get that memo you needed yesterday here today, at least, don't let all those weird letter and number combinations confuse you. The Best Data Smart One 9624 FP Traveler Fax/Modem packs a lot of power into a small package, fulfilling your fax needs without crowding you at all.