Two things are certain: everything's getting smaller and everything's going wireless.
Take SanDisk's new SecureDigital Wi-Fi Card for example. Thinner and lighter than existing Wi-Fi cards, it pops into SDIO-enabled handhelds and cell phones to allow them to easily connect to private and public 802.11b wireless networks.
We've been testing a SanDisk SD Wi-Fi Card for the past few days along with an HP iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC and were able to easily connect to several wireless networks, including the 802.11b network in our office and the T-Mobile HotSpot at our local Starbucks. The only issue we found with the card is that it protrudes from the device about half an inch (see picture at right), making it succeptible to accidental breakage. Otherwise, it was simple to set up, worked the first time, and provided excellent range while not draining the battery.
Using the SanDisk SD Wi-Fi Card to connect to an 802.11b network is a simple 3-step process: install the software, insert the card, and connect to the network.
Install the software. Slip the CD-ROM that comes with the card into your desktop or laptop computer and follow the on-screen instructions. Synchronize your Pocket PC to copy the configuration utility software and device driver to your Pocket PC. Finally, soft reset your Pocket PC.
Insert the card. Turn on your Pocket PC, stick the Wi-Fi card in the slot and push down lightly until it clicks in place. The green LED on the card should begin to flash and a small icon that looks like a cell tower emitting a signal should appear at the bottom of the Today screen.
Connect to the network. An information bubble should pop up on the screen and list the wireless networks available to you. Select the one you wish to connect to and tap on the Connect button. Now go to Pocket Internet Explorer and start browsing!
SanDisk provides an excellent configuration utility to help you manage your connection. To access the configuration utility menu, simply tap on the small icon at the bottom of the Today screen that looks like a cell tower emitting a signal (click on picture at right for full image). SanDisk makes it easy to turn the wireless radio on and off (to save power) from this menu.
You can also check the status of the Wireless Network (click on picture at left for full image), including the link quality, signal strength, and IP information. And the Advanced panel can be used to set the power save mode, preamble mode, and authentication algorithm. Finally, the About panel lists the version and date of the network driver you're using, and the version and date of the configuration utility software.
The SanDisk SD Wi-Fi Card maintained a strong signal up to 100 feet away from the access point. I tested it and a Symbol Wireless Networker CompactFlash card in an HP iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC and experienced about 20% less signal strength in the SD card than the CF card. I have not yet analyzed battery drain for either card.
The card and drivers will be available for many of the current SDIO enabled Pocket PCs when it launches on August 1. Support for other Pocket PC models with come in August and September (see the SanDisk website for details). Support for Palm 4.1 will come in October and Palm 5.x in November.
SanDisk expects to release its SD Wi-Fi combination card, which combines Wi-Fi and 256MB flash memory, in December.
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