Socket Communications LP-E Ethernet Card

With Handheld PCs becoming more prevalent in the workplace, the need for network connectivity for HPCs is becoming increasingly important. While many companies are looking into or rolling out wireless 802.11b-based networks, an equal - if not greater - number of companies are still establishing their hard-wired networks. For these companies, wireless networks are, as the saying goes, "not even on the radar".

Understanding the immediate need of Handheld PC users, Socket Communications (http://www.socketcomm.com) has developed a line of 10-Base T and 100-Base T Compact Flash Low Power Ethernet Cards. These cards, available in standard and rugged versions, allow network connectivity at work* or at home. Additionally, HPC owners need not worry about finding drivers for the Socket LP-E cards as they are included in the ROM of all Handheld PCs. This makes the installation of the card as simple as sliding into your PCMCIA (with the provided adapter**) or Compact Flash Type I slot.

The LP-E can be setup to utilize DHCP or static addressing via the Control Panel Networking Applet. Once configured, the card will display a small icon on the System Tray, giving the user a visual indication of network activity. By tapping this icon, the pertinent network information, such as IP address, Subnet Mask, Default Gateway are displayed for informational and troubleshooting purposes.

The Socket LP-E Network information screen

Users can also configure the LP-E driver to Auto Start applications when the card is inserted. For example, once the card is inserted, you could start Pocket Internet Explorer or Active Sync. The Auto Start feature is highly configurable to start any application.

The Socket LP-E can be configured to start any application upon card insertion

Besides being specifically designed to work with the Windows CE platform, Socket made the LP-E cards battery friendly (Hence the Low Power Ethernet name). Most Compact Flash cards consume approximately 70mA of power while Microdrives can consume nearly 200mA. The Socket LP-E cards only consume 19mA. This translates into minimal battery impact for Handheld PC users. For example, when using the LP-E 10-Base T card in my Jornada 720, under normal use, my battery life dropped from an average of 7 hours to 6 hours and 15 minutes. While a forty-five minute drop may seem considerable, the same test with an IBM 1GB Microdrive drained my Jornada's standard battery in less than 4. Battery life for HPCs is critical and Socket, by their intelligent design, has shown they understand this fact.

Socket Communications sells their line of LP-E cards in both a 10-Base T (10MB/Sec) and 100-Base T (100MB/Sec) versions. The prices range from $105 to $149 depending on which model and if it is the rugged version. The rugged versions of the LP-E cards have the network connection dongle permanently attached to the CF card while the standard version is removable. The cards can be purchased from Socket directly or through other online retailers.

Socket LP-E with PCMCIA Adapter

Without question the Socket LP-E line of network adapters is one of the best available for Handheld PCs. Their "plug and play" aspect as well as their versatility makes them worth the purchase price.

If possible, spend the extra money for the rugged version of the card. Having the network connection dongle fixed to the card makes it far less likely the connection head will be broken by an accidental pull of dongle while it is connected to the card. Further, it can prevent you from having to replace the connector if it is lost.

* Check with your Network Administrator to see if connectivity is allowed in your work environment and is available to you

** Socket sells the LP-E CF without the adapter as well. Check the Socket website to verify that the unit you purchase comes with the adapter if it is needed.

 

System Requirements:

Windows CE 2.11 or higher
MIPS, StrongArm, SH3, SH4

Rating  
Cost: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Usability: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Built-In helps: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Customer Service: 4 Star Rating: Recommended
Overall: 4 Star Rating: Recommended

More information on the Socket LEP can be found at the following URL.
http://www.socketcom.com/

Clinton Fitch
Chief Reviews Editor