Brainboxes Bluetooth PC Card

by Reads (6,475)

Now, I’ve had to improvise a little on this one. I asked Brainboxes for a USB dongle, and was rather surprised to receive a PC Card instead. Never long dismayed, I dug out my old Dell laptop to test on instead of my desktop.

The packaging for the card is functional, but unremarkable. Inside the box is a mini-brochure, a labelled CD-R of drivers (presumably because I have a pre-release model), and a quick-start guide — as well as the PC card, of course. The card itself is large — the antenna sticks out a full inch from the laptop, which is a little inconvenient. Fortunately, it is no thicker than the rest of the card, so it won’t obscure any other slots, and, as on the CF card, it probably helps push the range to a claimed 50m. There is no LED or other indicator of usage, which is against my personal taste — I like to know what’s going on with a product.

Upon inserting the PC card, Windows 2000 detected it and prompted me to search for a driver. Telling it to look on the CD, it found the right driver (the CD is universal for the Brainboxes range) and completed the installation without requiring a restart. An attractive shaded icon appeared in the system tray, and another on the desktop, pointing to My Bluetooth Devices. All well so far, at least.

From this management program, it was easy to add and pair with my T68 and my BluePAQ. The card’s discovery mode is just a right-click away, and indicated by a spinning icon. Paired status is indicated by a green tick over the device in the management. By right-clicking on a detected device, the card can detect the available profiles for the slave, and list them in a collapsible tree structure. By right-clicking on one of these, the options for that profile are displayed — for example, the OBEX profile allows the PC to send notes, calendar items or business cards to my phone. Also available here was a Send Text Message function, but it was grayed out. Unfortunately, I was not able to scan my BluePAQ. Every time it tried I’d get a little flicker of activity from the iPAQ, but the PC would then report “Discovered — Not Discoverable.” This was with the BluePAQ set to discoverable. Coincidentally, this same thing happens whenever I try to send anything (for example, a business card) to my iPAQ from my phone I get connection failed, even though the BluePAQ is detected. Perhaps the TDK Systems device can only initiate connections, but doesn’t like accepting them?

The software on offer from Brainboxes is well-designed, catering well for multiple devices and being fairly intuitive to operate. Most of the tools you’ll need are available with a right-click, either in the system tray or on the device concerned. It also keeps you well updated with the status of your devices. The options available are comprehensive — startup options, timeouts, directory settings, OBEX types, filters and profiles can all be edited from a well-organized screen, stopping the options from becoming bewildering. Excitingly, the card supports the headset profile — which should allow wireless audio to a suitable Bluetooth headset. All in all, eight profiles are supported: serial, DUN, OBEX push, OBEX transfer, LAN, Headset, cordless telephony and fax. Perhaps a little more integration would have been appreciated — such as calling a contact directly from Outlook, or right-clicking on a file in Explorer to send via Bluetooth. Having to use a separate management program removes the user one step from the benefits of the technology. Fortunately, with Brainboxes promising regular software updates, such integration might come to pass.

Seeing as I had my T68 bonded, I thought I’d try to dial up and check my email over Bluetooth. This proved extremely easy, I am pleased to say. Right-clicking on the DUN profile for the T68 presented me with a Connect option. This clicked, a virtual COM port was established with the phone. Modifying one of my existing DUN connections in Windows to use this in addition to its normal modem took seconds, and using the standard dialler I was on the net (admittedly at 9600) in moments. Using it with GPRS is merely a matter of changing the dialled number to one suitable for your phone and provider. Thumbs up on this aspect of the software.

By enabling the emulated serial port on COM 4, I was also able to use XTND Connect from the Ericsson site to synchronise my T68 with Outlook. This was completely painless — the Bluetooth manager did it all for me, and it worked first time.

The other major use that I envisage is Pocket PC synchronization. This worked fine with the BluePAQ — all I had to do was select the PC Card as my Activesync partner and connect. I will discuss the Brainboxes CF card’s connection in its own review, but suffice it to say here that it worked fine.

From my testing, the Brainboxes device seems superb. The hardware, although not to my taste on a couple of points, seems sound, installation was smooth, and the software is reasonably customizable and extremely functional. A great first effort from Brainboxes.

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