Viking 56K External Modem stands tall, works at near-maximum rates

Pros and cons:
+  Space-saving design
+  Fast and automatically compatible with different protocols
–  Cord plug-in area cramped


Real-life requirements:
Windows 9x, Windows NT, or Mac OS 7 or 8; 3.5 inch floppy drive for driver installation


I’ve never been a big fan of external modems. They take up too much desktop
space. But an external unit can travel, and its active LCD status monitor gives more
information than an internal device.


The Viking 56K External Modem has shaved the real estate requirement the same way
cramped cities do: by building up instead of out. The high-rise modem sits on a tiny
cradle and has easy-on-the-eyes green LED lights that shine through the blue plastic
cover.


The unit automatically detects whether the Internet service follows the V.90
international standard or the K56flex protocol, adjusting for best possible speed.


Two communicating V.90 modems can approach the maximum 56-Kbps rate only if they have
purely digital connections. V.90 Internet downloads are faster than uploads, which drop to
about 33 Kbps because of analog-to-digital conversion.


The actual download maximum rate over the public switched telephone network is 53.3
Kbps, due to a Federal Communications Commission restriction that can be exceeded only in
short, compressed bursts.


When I set up two Viking modems, one to dial and one to answer, the connection rate was
an impressive 52.8 Kbps on nearly every try and never less than 50.2 Kbps.


Dialing from a home computer over a standard phone line into a V.90-compatible Internet
provider gave me a consistent 51.3 Kbps. Dialing into a provider that followed the 56Kflex
industry standard produced 47- to 49-Kbps rates.


If you dial through a private branch exchange at the office, you will never reach those
speeds, through no fault of the modem. The PBX adds a layer of analog-to-digital
conversion that drops to the older V.34 rate, about 28.8 Kbps.


Installation was easy. The Viking box held all needed cables plus a diskette full of
drivers.


The only problem I had was that the power cord and incoming and
outgoing phone lines all plugged into the bottom of the modem’s cradle, and there was
barely enough room for all of them.





About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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