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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 21465x
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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

Related Links : [Buy Here] [More Information]


 

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Comments
Posted by David on 18.10.02 - 00:00:00

Do you know if Audiovox is releasing any updates this year.

Posted by learnyee on 19.10.02 - 00:00:00

I used this card with my iPaq 3850 with a dual PCMCIA jacket. As the main + supplementary are fully charged, connected to my local cellular GPRS network, with PocketPC ICQ and the screen in off mode, I have tried successfully stay online for at least 12 hours before the main unit shut down completely.
With the screen on + ICQ-ing, it drains about 15% per hour for the main battery.

Posted by Nick on 19.10.02 - 00:00:00

Compared to Pretec CF GSM/GPRS, which one is better?

Posted by Arne Hess on 19.10.02 - 00:00:00

@Nick: Well, this is a good question. I only saw the Pretec in the past but never had a chance to use it, so I don't know how it will works (still try to get a test sample too).

Posted by Arne Hess on 19.10.02 - 00:00:00

@David: What kind of update do you mean?

Posted by nick on 20.10.02 - 00:00:00

@Arne: Pretec GSM/GPRS CF comes with an external battery. It is quite bulky but I do believe that it will be more practical especially for mobile users who need an always connected GPRS connection.

Posted by Anonymous on 21.10.02 - 00:00:00

I posted this on another article for this product but I guess this one is getting more play;

OK, so now we have a certain population of users of this card. I have an HP Jornada 568 that I purchased (very cheaply) about 2 months ago. I could sell it on ebay and easily get more than I paid for it.

The question is, for those of you who are using this card which would you recommend:

1. Purchasing this card and using it with my Jornada as my cell phone.
2. Purchase this card for internet but keep my main cell phone.
3. Sell my Jornada and purchase the T-Mobile all in one pocketpc phone that's available.

Thanks,
Matt

Posted by Arne Hess on 21.10.02 - 00:00:00

@nick: Yes, I know how it will looks and with which features it should come (see also my photos from CeBIT here).

However, before I can say which one is better I want to compare it. Everything else wouldn't be serious.

@Matt: Well, as I wrote in my review - the RTM-8000 supports voice for sure. However, it's data centric and even if it works for voice calls it can't replace a cell phone. If you are looking for a Pocket PC based solution which gives you good voice capabilities too, you should better buy a Pocket PC Phone Edition. Doesn't matter which GSM PC/CF card you are using, it's always an add-on only while the PPC PE is an integrated device and designed to support voice eve without a headset. However, if you are talking about using this device for mostly voice only, I would recommend a Smartphone 2002 because this is more voice centric:
Pocket PC Phone Edition = Data centric with good Voice support

Smartphone 2002 = Voice centric with good Data support
Cheers ~ Arne

Posted by Emizsa on 21.10.02 - 00:00:00

I have tried the card for some time togehter with the Toshiba e740 with builtin wlan, but I cant get tho voice to work... I believe its hardware problem (headset) is this any problem you have encountered?

Posted by Arne Hess on 22.10.02 - 00:00:00

@Emizsa: You are right, it seems to be a hardware problem with your card or headset. I don't have this kind of problems with my card, there everything works fine!

Posted by Matty on 23.10.02 - 00:00:00

Arne is, as usual, the man....

  for a while, i tried out the t-mobile sidekick. nice data machine, i must say... this thing doesn't sync with Outlook and that was the biggest bummer... i love PPC 2002, but the always on "push" e-mail was great and fast with the unlimited nationwide GPRS plan i got... voice was TERRIBLE in quality. end of story. now i am back to my Fujitsu Pocket Loox... if only it was "always on" with push e-mail... ooooh - the Audiovox......  here's my question.... BATTERY CONSUMPTION.... can you keep this card in your PPC all day long or for a couple of days?? Which one is better on the battery life? Are there other GPRS cf cards out there? If only the Nokia 9290 was gprs enabled my life would be perfect smile. It just doesn't seem that, until the p800 is available in the US, that anything will do what we all need --- instant e-mail, color screen, good phone integration, nice web browser.... at least let me get rid of my AOL Mbile Communicator! man!  -matty

Posted by Kevin on 24.10.02 - 00:00:00

I'm on AT&T,  If I plug this into my compaq 3835,  how do I configure it.  Do I use the sim from my phone?  Am I then charged at the kbyte charge of AT&T?  Sure seems better than using the IR between 3835 and my Siemens S46.

Thanks,  Kevin

Posted by Charlie on 25.10.02 - 00:00:00

I have used the Audiovox RTM-8000 for a few months. I agree with Arne's comments, but I tried the T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition and it just does not cut it as a complete replacement for a ppc. The lack of a CF slot or any expansion possibility is the kiss of death for me.
Back to the Audiovox, I echo the sentiment that any CF or PC Card solution thus far is not a viable primary voice instrument. The only solution that works well for me is the Compaq gsm/gprs sleeve. I have heard that it is discontinued and I heard that it will arise from the ashes, so we will have to waut and see. Of course, once HP integrates GSM/GPRS into an Ipaq and designs it such that it will have the requisite battery life to use as a voice phone every day, that will be the best way to go. I for one eagerly await this.

Posted by Arne Hess on 25.10.02 - 00:00:00

@Kevin: You have to configure this card with the same settings you are using with your S46. You also need a SIM card, doesn't matter if this is the one from your cell phone or a new one but for sure it have to be GPRS enabled.
Regarding the charges: yes, you will charged per byte by AT&T's GPRS service.
If this is better than IrDA I don't know but it's an option. However, it's not a replacement for your voice centric cell phone if you need to make voice calls also!

Posted by Owen on 25.10.02 - 00:00:00

Arne,

What is the impact on battery life? Using voice? Using data? In standby mode?

The big draw back for me on the voice side would be the lack of a vibrating ring feature which I use almost constantly with my current phone.

- Owen

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