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  Notebook Upgrading, More Upgrade Options 
  Nov 29, 2001, 09:30am EST 

Networking and I/O

By: Sander Sassen

Naturally most notebooks come with USB connectivity and some even with FireWire ports but only very few of them have a built in network card or modem. However there’s a very broad range of network, modem or combo cards available to tackle that problem. We’ve looked at a number of popular ones that come as a PCMCIAA card that plugs into your notebook’s PCMCIAA slot. Most notebooks have two PCMCIAA slots and thus will be able to accommodate two cards. Our combo card of choice is one made by Xircom, a company that has recently been bought by Intel, they have a whole range of cards, and we’ll just be looking at a very popular model in their RealPort series.

Xircom 10/100 Ethernet 56K Card

Fig 4. A Xircom RealPort combo card featuring 32-bits CardBus interface, 10/100 Ethernet and 56Kbps modem. Notice how the card is a full height card with the connectors mounted on the card.

Normally a card with 10/100 Ethernet and modem connectivity would require a number of interface cables coming out of the card to connect to generic CAT-5 UTP cabling and telephone lines. Xircom however does it differently, they sacrifice one PCMCIAA slot to enable these connections to be made directly on the card. From our experience with this card and other cards that do feature interface cables we really prefer Xircom’s approach. You’ll never be searching for cables again, nor will their fragile connectors snap off at the card’s end due to the notebook being lifted or tilted. Once the Xircom card is fully inserted it is mounted flush with the notebook’s side, thus there’s nothing sticking out but the actual UTP or telephony cabling.

ADS PYRO 1394 FireWire Card

Fig 5. A Sony Digital HandyCam featuring IEEE1394 connected to the ADS Pyro 1394 CardBus card. Making for a very versatile mobile recording and editing platform.

Although some notebooks feature FireWire or IEEE1394 ports, many don’t and fortunately there’s PCMCIAA cards available that allow you to add FireWire connectivity to your notebook. ADS technologies is one of the few companies that have a full featured and overall compatible CardBus IEEE1394 card that comes in both a plain version, just the card and a simple software package, or a full featured Platinum edition that has a full version of Adobe Premiere 6.0 included with manual and full registration. If you own IEEE1394 devices such as a Digital Handycam, the Platinum package is really all you need to make a great start with making professional audio/video presentations, or edit your holiday footage, when traveling or on the road.

More information about Xircom’ networking products can be found here: Xircom
More information about ADS’ FireWire products can be found here: ADS Technologies

1. Introduction
2. CDROM, DVD and Combo drives
3. Networking and I/O
4. WiFi, Wireless networking
5. Conclusion

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