Xircom plays its cards right with new deck of comm devices

Xircom plays its cards right with new deck of comm devices

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

The modem-LAN card sales of some first-tier manufacturers far outpace those of Xircom Corp., but I'll bet it won't be long before the company narrows the gap.

A look at Xircom's extensive line of 16-bit and 32-bit products convinced me the company is positioned to outlast the competition in an extremely volatile marketplace. Xircom manufactures three distinct product lines: the CreditCard series, the RealPort series and the RealPort2 series.

The CreditCard series comprises 10 PC Card and CardBus 56-Kbps Ethernet and token-ring adapters, modems and multifunction cards with feature sets and prices that are competitive with other, less extensive product lines. Four of these cards are single-function, 56-Kbps modems in both PC Card and CardBus formats. Two models, the $97 16-bit CardBus Modem 56 Global Access and the $114 32-bit CardBus Modem 56 WinGlobal, are designed for international service, with specific software for each country.

Bit of information

Multifunction models include 16-bit and 32-bit CreditCard Ethernet 10/100 + Modem 56 units that provide 56-Kbps analog, 10/100-Mbps Ethernet and cellular options. The models are priced between $207 and $250. Prices for all the CreditCard units include cable attachments.

With its RealPort series, Xircom has come up with a design that integrates the connectors into the card itself. This effectively eliminates the problem of lost or broken dongles or damage to fairly fragile XJack connectors if too much stress is placed on the connecting phone or LAN cord.

Because the connectors are built in, there's nothing to break, lose or forget. The latest 56-Kbps members of the RealPort family include the $178 16-bit RealPort Modem 56 GlobalAccess PC Card, which offers 56-Kbps analog and Global System for Mobile Communications services, along with 128-Kbps Integrated Services Digital Network service if you buy an optional ISDN cable.

The multifunction RealPort Ethernet 10/100 + Modem 56 also comes in both PC Card and CardBus versions that offer 56-Kbps analog, 10/100-Mbps Ethernet, GSM and Advanced Mobile Phone Service cellular services, and optional 128-Kbps ISDN service. They're priced between $265 and $280 from third-party resellers.

The real deal

With its RealPort2 design, Xircom has broken the design mold. The RealPort2 architecture lets users combine 56-Kbps modem, 56-Kbps modem with GSM and AMPS cellular, and 10/100-Mbps Ethernet LAN access cards into a single unit. The unit can be customized to meet most communications requirements'ISDN has recently been added'and Xircom plans to add broadband and Bluetooth wireless options as they become available.

The system works like this:

• Select the RealPort2 cards you want to use.

• Flip one of the cards over and place it on top of the other.

• Align the tabs of both cards and join them.

• Insert the combined cards into the notebook's PC Card or CardBus slot.

• Plug the cables into the integrated connectors.

Cards in the RealPort2 series come with the same integrated connectors as RealPort cards, eliminating the need for dongles or additional cables. The system will work with one or two cards, though 16-bit and 32-bit cards won't work together.

If you're looking for a well-designed, functional and future-proof suite of card products, Xircom's RealPort2 is a good place to start.

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