The Universal Serial Bus (USB) came of age last year when Apple and Microsoft finally provided proper support for the standard on their respective iMac and Windows 98 platforms. Connecting a modem to your PC is an obvious use for USB and Elsa’s MicroLink 56K USB modem is a good example to review.
One of the selling points of USB is its plug and play mastery. We inserted the installation CD, plugged the modem’s USB cable in and installation was complete in a matter of minutes. You don’t even need a power cable as the USB port provides enough current to power the modem directly. The modem itself is a small, pleasantly styled box with just three indicator LEDs. One shows that there is power, the middle one flashes when data is being transmitted or received and the third indicates when the line is off-hook. For an external modem, this is the bare minimum you’d expect. Not having separate lights for transmit and receive activity is not ideal, though Windows does offer the alternative of its icon tray modem activity indicator.
Besides the now mandatory combination of data and fax, the Elsa MicroLink 56K USB is also a voice-capable modem and is supplied with a comprehensive Elsa-Communicate Pro! voice and fax messaging software suite. There is no built in speaker or microphone, so you must have a sound card fitted to your PC for the voice messaging functions to be accessible. However, the modem also supports CLI (calling line identity) if it is provided on the phone line.
Unlike some competitors, Elsa provides a fully functional package which is able to provide multiple mailboxes and customised greetings. There is no need to pay extra for an upgrade from a ‘lite’ package to get the full feature set. Our only complaint is that the installation process is badly designed; preventing the software from being installed under the Windows Program Files folder, which is where Windows convention requires it should live. A welcome bonus, though, is the bundling of Traveling Software’s excellent LapLink Pro file transfer and remote control package.
In use, the Elsa MicroLink 56K USB worked faultlessly and achieved expected connection speeds in its V.90 mode. Another advantage of USB is that as the interface speed is 100 times faster than a conventional serial port, there is no chance of the port becoming a bottleneck for streaming data. Plus you can use your old serial port for something else.
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