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REVIEW: Acer Modem 56 Surf Bluetooth
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 15.12.03 - 16:54:28 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 21521x
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I've recently bought "Acer Modem 56 Surf Bluetooth" which is a 56 kbit analogue Bluetooth modem which can be used with every analogue telephone line. The reason I've bought it was the simple fact that I need a solution here which allows me to connect to the Internet without run a cable though the room. Therefore I've decided to give this modem solution a try because I already have the Acer Bluetooth USB dongle and I thought this must be compatible! ;-)

Technical Details

  • Modem: 56.000 bit/s with V.90/V.92 support
  • Fax: Send and receive up to 14.400 bit/s
  • Modem Compatibility: ITU-T (V.92), V.90, V.34, V.32, V.32bis, V.23, V.22bis, V.21, Bell 103, 212A Fax: Class 1, ITU-T V.17, V.27ter, V.29 Voice: ADPCM
  • Bluetooth 1.1

So the specs above are the typical specifications for a 56k modem and therefore I was most interested in testing it in combination with different Bluetooth equipped devices like my Desktop PC with the Acer Bluetooth USB dongle, my Sony Notebook with built-in Bluetooth and for sure with Pocket PCs also!

The modem itself comes with the power adapter and the cable which you have to simply plug into the phone outlet.
After "installing" the modem the most interesting part comes - searching and bonding.

Desktop PC with Acer Bluetooth Dongle
The Bluetooth modem is recognized by the Acer Bluetooth dongle immediately and it provides you an overview of supported Bluetooth profiles:

As you can see above it supports dialup networking as well as fax and serial port. Now, when it is in the list of your recognized Bluetooth devices you can start to create a connection:

That's it! Dialing your Internet connection is the same like you would use the internal modem of your PC.

Sony Vaio Notebook with built-in Bluetooth
Next to test was the Sony Vaio PCG-TR1MP with built-in Bluetooth. Sony's Bluetooth utility called "BlueSpace NE" also found it but wasn't unable to connect/bond it:

However, Windows XP already supports Bluetooth in its latest version and therefore I've switched to "Control Panel" -> "Wireless Connections" (sorry, the following screenshots are German because my current XP version is German too):

On the left shot you see an overview of all available and/or bonded Bluetooth devices. From here you can select the device and click "Settings". The next mask shows you which profiles can be used (DFÜ-Netzwerk = Dialup Connection). Select DFÜ Netzwerk and you are ready to go to create a dial-up connection as above with the Desktop PC:

Now you can also simply dial this connection and the Acer Bluetooth modem will establish the connection to the ISP.

HP iPAQ H5400 Pocket PC 2003 with built-in Bluetooth
The most instersting part in thiese tests was for sure if this also works with Pocket PCs. So I used the HP iPAQ H5400 with upgraded 2003 ROM for testing because it already includes Bluetooth as well and the Widcomm stack seems to be the most flexible for this kind of trials:

The modem is found easily and proper displayed as "Bluetooth Modem". From here you can create a new dial-up connection:


Pretty cool, using a Pocket PC via a cheap fixed line connection as well! Haven't done this for years and setup is easier then creating a GPRS connection since you don't have to enter any APN codes but the phone number, user name and password only! :-)

Final Conclusion

Unfortunately I wasn't able to bond the i-Mate Phone Edition because of the following reason, which is a real concern I have about the Acer Bluetooth modem also: The Microsoft Bluetooth wizard used with the HTC Himalaya Phone Edition requires to enter a PIN to bond with another Bluetooth device. You can't switch off this security feature which is okay for me. Unfortunately the Acer Bluetooth modem doesn't support any security by requesting a device PIN! 8O This means that everybody in range of this modem can create a partnership - without adding a device PIN! Inn fact it means everybody can use your telephone line to make an Internet connection which isn't acceptable at all! While the Bluetooth range is 10 meters only sometimes 10 meters could be too much! I've just tested it from my neighbor's apartment and I found the modem, even though the wall because his living room is next to my office! If he would be a bad guy with a limited PC knowledge he could use my line now to make Internet connections for free!
And no - I haven't overlooked anything - Acer is clearly noticing it (unfortunately in the package - not outside that you are informed before you buy it):

"This Bluetooth Modem does NOT Require "PIN code"; in case you are asked to provide such information during the connection, please refer to the instruction of your Bluetooth adapter to change the security requirement of each corresponding service"

Sorry guys but this is a bad joke, isn't it!? 8O A device, which is connected to a telephone line doesn't provide "PIN code" security which means everybody with a Bluetooth enabled PC, Notebook or even Pocket PC can use my phone bill to make Internet dial-ups!? Hard to believe but the truth and I really wonder who made this decision for which reason ever!

Maybe this security issue is the reason why I haven't found the Acer Modem 56 Surf Bluetooth on any other Acer site then the German. However, then I have to ask again why Acer thinks that Germans doesn't care such a security hole?

Because of this lack of security I can not recommend the Acer Bluetooth modem to anyone except users who really know which risk it is to use it. If this would be fixed it's a great companion to make an easy dial-up, doesn't matter which device you are using and it might be even more interesting for travelers since it gives you an easy and convenient Internet access - even from Pocket PCs - but please - not without this security hole!
I hope a firmware update will fix it sooner or later. Anyhow - the Acer Modem 56 Surf Bluetooth is available - at least in Germany - for around 99 Euro.

Cheers ~ Arne

Related Links : [More Information (in German)]