When I started testing the ASUS
AGC-100 GPRS modem it was very interesting to find out whether it could
make friends with my notebook. On the other hand, I treated it just as
an expensive toy unable to replace a mobile phone or compete with its functionality.
The problems popped up at the very beginning: the modem refused to work
in the first notebook (IBM ThinkPad R21) with the OS Windows XP Professional
Edition (Russian version) installed. When I inserted it into the PCMCIA
connector the device was detected as a standard PCMCIA modem, then the
system hang and started up again again only when the modem was taken out
of the notebook. I tried to remove all settings left after the previous
GPRS connection (Bluetooth), but it didn't help. No other tricks like removal
and installation of other modems, IR connections etc. could change the
As we found out later, the Russian version of the Windows XP Professional
Edition was the only system the modem didn't want to work in. It had no
problems in the Windows 2000 and Windows 98. Afterwards we tested the modem
under the English version of the Windows XP Professional Edition which
didn't need even special drivers.
Compatibility of the AGC-100 with some notebooks
|IBM ThinkPad R21
||MS Windows XP Professional, Russian version
||MS Windows XP Professional, English version
||MS Windows 2000
||MS Windows 98
However I had to install special software so that it could be used as a mobile
phone with all bonuses provided: answering machine, fax messages reception etc.
Some notebooks (in particular, Toshiba Satellite) produced typical sound when
the phone number was dialled which probably is caused by poor insulation of the
audio section. When speaking on the modem the sound quality seems to be acceptable,
and the volume level is excellent indeed. However, the headphone bundled with
the phone wasn't expensive, and I could perfectly feel the difference from the
sound quality of my cell phone. Nevertheless, the modem is primarily meant for
data transfer via GPRS, and the AGC-100 copes with it excellently.
In the GPRS networks of Beeline and MTS the modem performed fairly well:
it didn't hang or had any bugs as compared to some other cell phones. Sure,
it couldn't reach the maximum speed of 115 Kbit/s: the average speed in
the Beeline network made 24-26.4 Kbit/s, and 13.6-14.4 Kbit/s in case of
MTS, but it's still more than the low-speed GSM Internet access allows
(9600 bit/s). By the way, the connection settings for the networks of both
operators were already made, - we had to select a respective menu item.
I hoped Megafon would allow for a higher GPRS speed at least because
1MB costs over a dollar there), but we couldn't get the network access
at all making the settings manually (according to the instructions given
on the site and in the user manual) and automatically. We addressed the
technical support several times but didn't get any answer.
Although the data rate leaves a lot to be desired, I must admit the
modem is very comfortable to use - if earlier I had to place a cell phone
next to the notebook to access the Internet, now a portable PC can easily
turn into a communication center. However, this is a two-edged weapon:
on one hand, you don't need to take a cell phone with you, but on the other
hand, I wouldn't like to be deprived of the mobile connection when the
notebook's batteries run out, and I can't have it connected to the power
network all the time. That is why the modem+notebook tandem will never
replace a mobile phone but the convenience of browsing the Internet with
this compact PCMCIA modem is also precious.
Probably, it will be possible in future to use the AGC-100 in PDAs with
the CompactFlash interface (this is the modem's native interface, and it
uses a respective adapter for the PC's PCMCIA connector), but there can
be a problem of compatibility. I don't think the market will be overfilled
with pocket PCs with such support, and the audience of potential buyers
will be limited by adherents of one or another company.
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