By James E. Powell
Communications is at the forefront of computing these days, mostly due to the exploding interest in the Internet. But connecting to a service provider at 14.4Kb per second may seem like slow torture. Supra and Archtek have each released new 28.8Kbps modems that will have you communicating at the highest speeds possible (short of an ISDN line, of course).
This unit combines a sound card and modem on a single ISA board. The DocuPal supports telephony with a version of QuickLink Message Center, which provides voice and faxing capabilities as well. The package also includes a full-duplex microphone. QuickLink, like Supra's FaxTalk Messenger, directs incoming fax and voice calls to the appropriate function.
The unit includes ArchShare, software that offers shared whiteboarding so you can take advantage of the DocuPal's DSVD (digital simultaneous voice and data) capability. Archtek technicians told me that the product can also support a video camera (with an additional video capture board) that transmits images at about 7 frames per second, a feature I didn't test.
IBM's Mwave audio chip produced good sound with .WAV files, but MIDI audio was sadly mediocre-everything sounded like a harpsichord.
Installation took longer than expected because you're installing both a modem and a sound card. The Windows 95 setup program took three reboots before everything was properly recognized and functional. It also took me some time to understand why the modem wouldn't work. The answer: The board isn't Plug and Play-you can use any COM port you like as long as it's COM2. A tech rep said the drivers from IBM will be updated shortly and available on Archtek's Web page ( http://www.archtek.com/).
The SupraSonic is part of a new line of high-speed fax modems that boast exceptionally reasonable price tags. This unit is compact, measuring just 1 by 4.6 by 6.5 inches-small and light enough to carry with you.
The modem includes two lights on the front to indicate data transfer (send and receive), and the LCD readout gives you all the other information you need. When you're connected, the messages change to explain the protocol established, the transmit and receive speeds, the error-correction protocol and the data compression being used.
The SupraSonic requires a 16550 UART on your serial port plus 4MB of RAM.
The SupraSonic features FaxTalk Messenger, a telephone answering system that supports remote access to messages. Included in the box is a headset that plugs into the back of the modem for hands-free phone calls. You can record messages through the headset, a regular microphone or a telephone handset. There's a speakerphone feature that lets you speak into a microphone and listen to the caller through the speakers plugged into your sound card.
There were no Windows 95 drivers supplied with the system, a real disappointment. Win95 recognized the modem as a "standard modem," but using the Supra Faxmodem 288 setting worked just fine.
Both modems offer solid performance. I connected to a variety of online services and remote modems, and both units were able to maintain the connection and transfer files at their best rates.
Archtek SmartLink DocuPal V.34 DSVD Mwave Multimedia Fax Modem
Pros: Multifunction; reliability
Cons: Installation; uses COM2 port only
Archtek America Corp.
WinMag Box Score:3.0
Diamond SupraSonic 288V+ Faxmodem
Pros: Size; reliability
Cons: Telephony software
Diamond Multimedia, Supra Communications Div.
WinMag Box Score: 3.5