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REVIEW: Audiovox RTM-8000 GSM/GPRS CF Card
Posted by Arne Hess - on Friday, 18.10.02 - 17:06:00 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 23316x
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The Audiovox RTM-8000 is the first available triple band GSM/GPRS card in CF card size and therefore interesting for all Pocket PC users as it fits into most Pocket PC 2002s.

Technically the card supports everything you would expect: so it supports voice calls as well as CSD data calls plus GPRS connections. Because it works as a triple band GSM card, it can be used all over the world, doesn't matter which country.
Like with other GSM cards the Pocket PC can not be used for voice calls directly because the voice isn't transferred to the device. This means that you are forced to use a headset unlike with Pocket PC Phone Edition devices. This is for sure a disadvantage and might makes the card more interesting for data than for voice. However, unlike pure wireless cards you could do it if you want and in that case it works perfect.

Package Content

  • The RTM-800 CF card incl. antenna
  • A headset
  • CD-ROM with different Windows drivers incl. Pocket PC and Acrobat files
  • The manual

Installation

The card itself doesn't need any drivers, it's recognized from the Pocket PC 2002 right after you plug it in:

Data

This advantage is a disadvantage at the same time. It means you can start working with the card right after you got it, on the other hand does it mean that you have to configure it manually. The problem is less configuring the data connection cause it works like you used to set it up if you are using an external mobile phone, the point is that you have to enter also the PIN into the extra dial-string:

This is problematic because of two reasons: First you have to enter the PIN in clear type which means from this point everybody knows your PIN and this extra dial string requires its space also for sure. Unfortunately Pocket PC is limited in the extra dial-string length which means it could become impossible to enter the APN into the same field. If this happens you got real problems so far.
The point is that the card is fired up only if you dial a connection unlikely other cards like the Option GlobeTrotter PC card. Here you have to enter the PIN right after the Pocket PC detects the card (for example after switching on the device). After entering the PIN the card connects to the mobile network and ready to use.
The RTM-8000 is offline as long as you don't start a data call (or the phone interface). In my tests I got some trouble because in the same moment the PIN was entered the card tried to connect with the GPRS network. This failed from time to time as this sequence is sometimes to short - between attaching the network and dialing out.

However, Audiovox rethought about this problem and will release a GPRS Wizard soon:

This wizard supports you entering all required information like PIN and APN. However, the disadvantage is still the clear PIN as well as that the card is fired up only if you dial out.
Here I would still like to see a PIN/APN driver which configures a Flash Memory within the card and fires up the card right after it is detected. At least the separate PIN driver is needed.

VOICE

On the CD-ROM you will find a special version of IA-Style's Phone Dialer. This interface let's you use the card like a cell phone. You can dial numbers, search for networks, setup call forwarding as well as write and receive SMS messages. This software is more or less complete and includes everything you need to use the card as a mobile phone replacement.

It also gives you access to your SIM card entries. Some owners reported problems here I've never seen with four different operator cards from Schlumberger, G&D and ORGA (something for the insiders ;-).

However, there is no way to call contacts right out of Pocket Outlook which means you can to use the phone interface only. This isn't a good solution at all and I would like to see Contacts support as well!

Before you ask me if the Audiovox card is supported today by Pocket Presence's Running Voice: the answer is no so far. But I hope that Pocket Presence will add the RTM-8000 support soon.

Size and Fit

As you can see below, the Audiovox RTM-8000 is slightly larger than a Socket W-LAN CF card and lot smaller than the smallest GSM PC card.

It's amazing how Audiovox got everything into this size!

Above - the middle picture - you see the on the right front side the headset jack. The problem I got here, when I used it was that you have to disconnect the headset if you put the Pocket PC into your pocket because the antenna which is placed in front of this jack.

Because the card is a Type I CF card it works with every Pocket PC: From the Casio E-200 to the HP Jornada to the Compaq iPAQ (with Jacket). And also Notebooks are supported with a CF to PC card adapter (which is not included while all required Windows software is included).

Final Conclusion

The size is amazing as well as the features. This gives me the opportunity to stay connected, doesn't matter which Pocket PC I'm using on any continent! Also the speed is pretty good and the stand-by time is also not so bad, what I can say so far (I still have to finalize that tests).
But the biggest weakness I see on the software side: I don't like the PIN and APN implementation. Here I would like to see a complete redesign by Audiovox. The GPRS Wizard is the first step into the right direction but can not be the final solution!
Software is always a question of taste and IA Style did a pretty good job with their phone interface. However I see here some weaknesses too. Maybe others which hadn't a Phone Edition so far don't see this weaknesses but even compared to the number one phone interface - Running Voice - it's not as good as Pocket Presence's phone interface.

But does it mean that the card isn't worth to buy? A clear no, it is worth to buy it if you are looking for a fitting data solution for your Pocket PC. At least for GPRS it works great, more or less stable and fast. As all the other phone cards before also Audiovox's RTM-8000 can't be a mobile phone replacement but a good data addition!

The Audiovox RTM-8000 GSM/GPRS CF card is available for US$ 283.00 from ShoppingPDA and delivered globally.

Cheers ~ Arne

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