The Wi-Fi world is in the process of changing from 802.11b to 802.11g. Most people have embraced this change, as the newer standard promises significantly faster data-transfer speeds: 54 Mbps vs. 11 Mbps.
There are very few handhelds or smartphones on the market now with Wi-Fi g built-in, but Socket is offering the Go Wi-Fi! P300, an 802.11g SDIO card for Windows Mobile devices.
The P300 does just what it is supposed to do… as far as that goes. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
In my tests, this wireless networking card connected easily and quickly to an 802.11g router at what it assured me was a 54 Mbps connection. But did that allow me to download web pages five times faster than I ever had before? No.
You have to keep in mind that transferring data between a router and your mobile device is only a small part of the whole process. Getting a new wireless card isn’t going to make the Internet run faster, or allow your device to render the pages it has downloaded any quicker.
A large percentage of Windows Mobile 5 devices already have Wi-Fi built into them, so I started my tests with a handheld running Windows Mobile 2003 SE. The installation of the P300’s associated software went without a problem, and I was soon accessing the Web on this device.
Surfing didn’t seem to be noticeably faster than I was used to on other models with built-in 802.11b, so I did some comparisons between the P300 and an Axim X51v.
|P300 (802.11g)||27 sec.||60 sec.||29 sec.|
|Axim (802.11b)||22 sec.||55 sec.||17 sec.|
As you can see, when opening web pages, the Axim using 802.11b is actually faster. This is probably because the newer Pocket PC renders pages much more quickly.
It also occurred to me that there would be people out there with handhelds with 802.11b built into them that might like to get this card and step up to 802.11g.
Based on my testing, I’d say you should save your money. I loaded the P300’s drivers and applications on the Axim X50v and visited the same web sites I did before, but now with the SDIO card. For some reason, the pages actually opened more slowly. I can’t tell you why, but that’s what happened.
Range: The range on this wireless card is decent, but not great. I could certainly get a good connection anywhere in my house, and a usable one on my back deck. If I got more than about 30 feet from the house, though, it cut off.
Security: The P300 supports all the security protocols offered by Windows Mobile itself — WPA, WPA-PSK, 802.1x, 40/128-bit WEP, and Open. I tested it with all the ones available on an average commercial wireless router with no problems.
Probably many of you are familiar with Wi-Fi b SDIO cards, as these have been on the market for years. The P300 works similarly. It is inserted in the SD slot on a compatible device, but unlike regular memory cards a portion of the wireless networking card has to extend outside of the slot. This is its antenna.
The new Socket card is surprisingly small. Its antenna is about a third of the size of the one on any 802.11b card I’ve ever seen in production.
Despite the small size, you’re not going to want to carry your Pocket PC around with this card inserted. There’s too much risk of breaking the card, the SD slot, or both.
Its small antenna, though, still has room for a small blue LED that indicates the cards status.
The P300 comes with an application developed by Socket called Wi-Fi Companion. This gives you a nice graphical way of seeing your wireless connection, including what access point you’re using, your current speed, whether there’s any encryption, and signal strength.
This also lets you pull up lots of charts and graphs about your current connection, in case you’re trying to track down any problems.
This application also puts a small graphic that indicates signal strength into the bar across the top of the Pocket PC’s screen, so you can always tell how good a connection you have no matter what application you’re in.
Whether you should get this card or not depends on your situation.
If you have a Pocket PC with no Wi-Fi built into it, I’d say this would be your best option for adding it, unless you can get a Wi-Fi b card for a really good price. It won’t be any faster than an older card, but going with an 802.11g one "future proofs" you. The P300 can connect to both b and g routers, but it wouldn’t surprise me if support for 802.11b started to get phased out. I know there are routers out there now that only offer 802.11g. If you have a Wi-Fi b card and try to connect to one of these, then you’re out of luck.
If you already have a handheld or smartphone with Wi-Fi b, odds are this card will do you little or no good. The main exceptions to this are people who have to connect to an 802.11g-only router, or people who frequently pull large files directly off a network computer.
The Go Wi-Fi! P300 is available now for $99 through Socket’s web store.
- Allows for connections to 802.11g routers
- Nice software package
- Relatively small size
- Web surfing not any faster than 802.1lb
A nice accessory for those who want to add Wi-Fi to their Pocket PC.