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6/96 Reviews HW: HP NetBeamIR

Complete listing of June 1996 reviews

Light's Just Right for LAN Link

By James Alan Miller

In ancient days, running into a cyclops probably spelled doom. Today, it means you've come into contact with HP's latest infrared innovation, the NetBeamIR infrared port for Ethernet LANs. The device's infrared component sits recessed in the middle of a circle, looking like a large red pupil. Its sleek, dark design, small footprint (6.25 by 8.75 by 1.87 inches) and mere 17.5-ounce weight add to the sense of mystery.

But with infrared ports becoming ubiquitous on new notebook PCs, there's no mystery about how useful the NetBeamIR is. Just plop down your notebook right in front of the device and you're network-bound.

As of this writing, most laptops incorporate infrared ports that run at the 115Kb per second standard.

However, as the year progresses, look for a proliferation of 1Mb per second and 4Mbps infrared ports. The NetBeamIR handles speeds up to 4Mbps and is backward-compatible with the lower standards.

Current Ethernet connections run at 10Mbps. But for most users, the gains in flexibility and convenience with this device should compensate for the reduced speed.

Installation is simple. Connect the power adapter for the NetBeamIR to a socket behind a removable door in the unit's rear. There are 10Base2 and 10BaseT connectors there, too. Plug your Ethernet cord in the connector applicable to your network.

After you set a couple of parameters within the Monitor utility, place your laptop within 3 feet of the NetBeamIR's range. Though HP recommends this distance, they claim that connections are possible from up to 6 feet away.

The notebook's infrared port and the NetBeamIR then negotiate the highest mutual speed. Afterwards, you are prompted to insert the device's driver diskette. After installing the driver, you load some Windows 95 files, then set your protocol stacks as if you were using a regular Ethernet card and reboot.

When I placed my laptop in the NetBeamIR's range, an LED on NetBeamIR blinked for about three seconds. The blinking stopped upon connection. My laptop then went through the normal network log-on scripts. The device supports NetWare, Windows NT, LAN Manager and IBM LAN Server network operating systems.

The unit performed flawlessly as I moved my laptop about my office. When you interrupt transmission of a file, either by moving your notebook out of range or by placing something between the two units, thereby blocking the flow of communications, you have 16 seconds to move back into range before permanently loosing the connection.

By once again pushing the envelope of wireless office communications, HP has made connectivity simpler and more convenient.

Info File
HP NetBeamIR
Pros: Wireless connectivity to networks; installation
Cons: Slower than standard network connections
Hewlett-Packard Co.
800-752-0900, 208-344-4809
WinMag Box Score: 4.0
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