Xircom – CompactCard Ethernet 10 review

CompactFlash Ethernet card for PDA owners
Photo of Xircom – CompactCard Ethernet 10
£89 + VAT

Some people just won’t go along with the crowd. Take Xircom for example. The rest of the PC industry looked at the CompactFlash slots on handheld computers and said “We could fit some extra memory in there”. Not the fellows at Xircom, though. Instead, they looked at the CF slots and said to themselves “We could fit a network card in there”.

And so they did, and the result is the CompactCard Ethernet 10, which is a pretty handy addition to any handheld computer. The long and short of it is that with this device you’ve got a standard 10Base-T Ethernet interface, which works with pretty much any company’s network, and it plugs into a CF slot. Don’t worry if your handheld doesn’t have a CF slot because the card is supplied with a PC Card caddy, which allows it to work just as well in a Type II PC Card slot as found on most larger sized handhelds.

The card is designed solely for use with Windows CE (version 2 or higher) machines, which begs the question, why? Several reasons actually, the most obvious of which is that it allows you to quickly and easily synchronise the device with server based e-mail and scheduling programs like MS Outlook. Secondly, Ethernet is faster than the standard serial link used to connect CE machines to desktops, so if you regularly move large chunks of data between the two machines, this card will save you a lot of time. Also, people are waking up to the fact that Windows CE-based sub-notebooks are good substitutes for full blown laptops. Many such machines now offer large high-resolution screens, good quality keyboards and a lot of the functionality of Windows 9x machines. They’re also cheaper, more reliable and harder for end users to fudge up – making them an attractive proposition to large companies who are always looking for ways to save support costs.

If you throw a fast network connection into the bargain a lot of people will be hard pressed to justify not choosing these machines. And for this reason we predict that the Ethernet 10 card is going to do very well indeed, particularly in distributed business environments. There are no real problems with the card, and our only grip is a minor one – you have to use an adapter cable to plug it into the network cable, and those things get lost so easily.

Company: Xircom

Contact: 0800 7070 6060


Verdict
Packing the guts of a network card into the form factor of a CompactFlash card is highly ingenious. By adding network support to CE machines, Xircom has made the cut-down Windows platform considerably more appealing. Compare a full-blown networked laptop with a handheld PC and one of these cards, and you'll see why we think Xircom's onto a winner.