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StarTech CardBus/PCMCIA To PCI Adapter

Holiday Buyer's Guide 2006, Part 7: More Mobile Stuff
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This is the single port version of the the StarTech adapter. A dual port version is now available.

This nifty adapter lets you use both 16-bit PCMCIA 2.1/JEIDA 4.2 cards and 32-bit CardBus cards on your notebook and desktop computers. It plugs into a free 32-bit PCI slot on your desktop and receives compatible cards at the back of the computer.

You may think that PCMCIA and CardBus cards are both old and useless technologies, but you'd be wrong. While USB and Firewire ports now enable you to connect almost any peripheral to a notebook or desktop computer, there is one area where PCMCIA/CardBus cards still rule and that's wireless wide area networking. Cards that support WWANs are in heavy use in laptops and notebooks, especially in medium and enterprise size business environments.

Sierra's type 2 PCMCIAWireless Aircard 860 is as new as today, supporting the new 3G standard, HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access), which can move data at up to 1.8 Mbps down and 384 kbps up. Rather than pay for multiple Internet connections, you can buy a single HSDPA card with its own authorizing SIM card and move it between the computers you own, whether desktops or laptops. You can only use it in one place at a time, of course, buy since we humans have only two hands, that isn't a major problem.

An HSDPA WWAN card makes sense only if the service is available in your part of the world. In the USA Cingular provides HSDPA service and the Sierra 860 is compatible with Cingular's offering.

The StarTech is auto configured by modern operating systems like Windows XP. If you have an older OS, a CD is supplied with drivers.

At a retail price around $60 for the dual port version it's certainly less expensive to use a StarTech CardBus/PCMCIA to PCI Adapter than to buy DSL or cable connectivity. This assumes, of course, that your HSDPA service actually runs at or near advertised bandwidths.

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