Xircom's RealPort connects older notebook PCs to your network

Xircom's RealPort connects older notebook PCs to your network


RealPort CardBus Ethernet 10/100+Modem 56


Xircom Inc.; Thousand Oaks, Calif.;

tel. 800-376-9300


Price: $230; available in Packs of up to 100

+ Handy, self-contained card with no protruding connectors

+ Problem-free installation

- Occupies both PC Card slots on a notebook PC

The Xircom RealPort PC Card takes up a Type III slot but has no awkward protrusions to get in the way.

This interface card is ideal for users with portable computers that lack adapters or modems

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

Many new notebook PCs these days have a network interface as well as an on-board modem, but some still do not. I recently tried a dual-purpose PC Card for the notebook have-nots.

The Xircom Inc. RealPort CardBus Ethernet 10/100+Modem 56 just might be the best combo PC Card available today.

It's compact, without dongles hanging off to the side, proprietary cables or pop-out protrusions. It requires only industry-standard RJ-45 and RJ-11 connectors.

Needs some space

The RealPort measures as thick as a Type III PC Card, occupying the space of two stacked Type II cards. It won't be suitable if you need a second PC Card slot for a Fortezza encryption card or anything but a network interface or a modem.

Travel accommodations all too often lack an extra spot for modem connectors, forcing you to use the room telephone for both voice and data. Xircom has integrated two RJ-11 ports, permitting a pass-through connection. The phone line from the wall attaches to the modem, and a second cable connects the modem to the phone.

To show whether the PC Card is installed and working correctly, Xircom has built in four small lights to indicate network and modem activities.

There's even a small port for Integrated Services Digital Network connection or for add-on products such as a wireless cellular phone to work with the modem.

The 32-bit card needs only as much voltage as a 16-bit card'3.3 volts instead of the standard 5 volts. It will even power down when it doesn't detect modem or network activity. And it supports Wake-On-LAN and Magic Packets WakeUp enterprise management functions.

Xircom also gives RealPort protection against high-voltage phone lines or private branch exchange connections that can cause damage to PC Card devices.

The CardBus portion of the RealPort's long name refers to bus-mastering technology, which can transmit data without interfering with the host processor. Data gets sent and received without significantly slowing the overall PC performance.

Easy installation

I installed the RealPort card on several notebooks running Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows 98 Second Edition. I never had a problem. If drivers were needed, they quickly loaded from the included CD-ROM. Reboots were necessary only to add the network protocols and clients. Once the card was installed, I could hot-swap easily.

Performance varied with line condition and quality. Modem use showed the most variation. Dialing from home, I reached 53 Kbps a couple of times'almost the theoretical maximum. Through PBX or hotel connections, I got from 14.4 Kbps to 33.6 Kbps.

With the appropriate software, the RealPort modem could even fax at the usual 14.4-Kbps connection speed.

Network connections weren't extraordinarily fast, but the card operated just like an integrated communication device.

If you have an older notebook without network adapter or modem, and if it has stacked Type II card slots or a Type III slot available, get the Xircom RealPort.

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