HP NetBeamIR

Look Ma, No Wires!

There's no mystery about the usefulness of NetBeamIR. Just plop down your notebook right in front of the device, and without fussing with wires, you're network-bound.

NetBeamIR handles speeds up to 4Mb per second and is backward-compatible with 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 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 into the connector applicable to your network.

After you set a couple of parameters within the Monitor utility, place your laptop within three feet of the unit. Though HP recommends this distance, it claims that connections are possible from up to six feet away. You can move your laptop to different locations without losing the connection, as long as you keep the IR parts pointing at each other.

When we placed our laptop within range of the NetBeamIR, an LED on the unit blinked for about three seconds. The blinking stopped upon connection. The 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.

HP NetBeamIR LAN Access Point
Price: $289
Pros: Wireless network connection; installation
Cons: Slow speed
Platforms: Windows NT, NetWare, LAN Manager, IBM LAN Server
Hewlett-Packard Co.
800-533-1333, fax 800-333-1917
WinMag Box Score 4.0

ViewSonic Opti-UPS 1000E

Buck Up Your Line Voltage

Spikes, sags and surges. No, these aren't the guys who play guitar for the latest Seattle grunge group. They are dastardly things that can disrupt your system's power, and just a few examples of the conditions that the ViewSonic Opti-UPS 1000E can handle.

The Opti-UPS 1000E is an uninterruptible power source that protects your equipment from power changes, including blackouts. It monitors voltage, performs buck and boost regulation functions automatically, and controls temperature, line voltage and frequency.

The unit is heavy (35.3 pounds) but unobtrusive, at 5.5 by 16.8 by 7.7 inches. It can keep most desktop systems up and running for a minimum of five minutes after the power quits. The Opti-UPS 1000E has six status-indicator lights and a test/silence button that lets you test the battery or silence the power failure alarm. On the unit's back are four 5-15R output receptacles, one 320 inlet, a circuit breaker, a phone/data line surge suppressor (yes, phones and modems are susceptible to power surges, too), a comm port and the main power switch. The battery is user-replaceable.

The included Opti-Safe+ software provides UPS monitoring and management, and can be used with Windows 95, Windows 3.x, DOS and NetWare.

In the event of a power failure, the software saves your work automatically. The 1000E's unattended recovery and replaceable battery make it a smart choice.

ViewSonic Opti-UPS 1000E
Price: $489
Pros: Ease of use; software
Cons: Weight
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95, NetWare
ViewSonic Corp.
800-843-6784, 909-869-7976
WinMag Box Score 4.5

BusLogic FlashPoint LT

Lots of Features For Little Dough

BusLogic's FlashPoint LT PCI SCSI controller pushes the envelope with features comparable to those in cards costing four times as much.

The FlashPoint LT complies with the newest standards for SCSI hardware, including Ultra SCSI (which ramps up transfers across the SCSI bus from 10MB per second to 20MBps) and SCAM (SCSI configured auto-magically) compliance. The kit version of the card, available for $259, gives you everything you need to get started: internal cables, software drivers and manuals. Drivers are provided in the box for Windows 3.x, Win 95 and NT.

Installing the PCI 2.1-compliant card takes little more than finding an open slot and connecting the proper cables. After booting, the card's built-in AutoSCSI configuration firmware lets you modify every card setting on screen, including boot and spin-up parameters for attached devices. All the menus are clear and intuitive, with push-button, context-sensitive help available everywhere.

Installing drivers for Windows 95 (and NT) is totally uncomplicated. When Windows 95 is booted, it detects the adapter immediately; the user inserts the provided driver disk and clicks on OK. Every conceivable inch of the installation and configuration process is covered in the manual, with screenshots, diagrams and, above all, clear directions.

BusLogic FlashPoint LT
Price: $199
Pros: Power; price; installation
Cons: Features like SCAM don't have much compliant hardware
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95, NT
800-707-SCSI, 408-492-9090
WinMag Box Score 4.5

Tripp Lite TouchMaster UPS TM-420

Power Insurance In Tiny Package

Space-saving design and high-level protection capability have come together in Tripp Lite's new TouchMaster UPS TM-420. Weighing in at 17 pounds, the TM-420 measures 2.25 by 13.25 by 11.75 inches and comes with a six-foot power cord. It's designed to be placed between your computer and monitor, and will easily support a standard 17- or 20-inch monitor (up to 175 pounds).

In addition to the master switch, there are four push-button switches and LED indicators on the TouchMaster's front panel to control the Printer, Monitor, Accessory and Auxiliary functions of the rear-mounted outlets. Four diagnostic LEDs relay the TM-420's operating status: low battery, battery on, line on and line fault. An audible alarm alerts you to power problems. All outlets are surge-protected; the computer, monitor and accessory outlets have battery backup.

Another nice feature is the included pair of RJ-11 phone input/output connectors, which will protect modems and fax machines against spikes and surges on telephone lines.

The TouchMaster's 420VA capacity will supply backup power for a typical desktop system for 17 minutes at half load and six minutes at full load, with a transfer time of 2 milliseconds to 4ms. Surge and spike protection handles up to 120,000 amps with 1,500 joules of energy absorption. For your fax and modem, there's a clamping voltage peak of 200 volts, plus or minus 10 percent.

Tripp Lite TouchMaster UPS TM-420
Price: $199
Pros: Versatility; integrated control switches
Cons: Can't use with transformers
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95, NT
Tripp Lite
312-755-5400, fax 312-644-6505
WinMag Box Score 4.0

APC Back-UPS Office

UPS with A Difference

American Power Conversion's Back-UPS Office looks like an oversized power strip. It has two plugs that are spaced to accommodate those big, ugly power transformers (that you have to use with some external peripherals) without blocking any of the remaining four plugs.

The unit offers six AC surge protection plugs with multistage surge suppression and EMI/RFI filtering. Three of the plugs (two regular and one spaced for a transformer) are also protected with battery backup. If you lose power, the Back-UPS Office unit kicks in, sounds an alarm and lights the Using Battery LED, while providing enough power to let you save your data and safely log off or power down your system.

Battery life depends on what you have running: The company says it can last from seven to 13 minutes. Since our load was light, we tended to get about 10 to 12 minutes of protection on average, more than enough to safely exit applications, stop tape backups and so on.

APC claims the battery will last, in normal use, from three to six years. But the battery is user-replaceable so there's no need to purchase an on-site service contract or another power backup unit. The unit checks its battery every 14 days and turns on the Check Battery light six to eight weeks before the end of the battery's life. Recharge time is less than 12 hours.

APC Back-UPS Office
Price: $169
Pros: Good battery life; design
Cons: None significant
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95, NT
American Power Conversion
800-877-4080, 401-789-0204
WinMag Box Score 4.5

Xircom CreditCard Ethernet 10/100

Versatile Ethernet For a Notebook

Xircom puts your notebook into networking's fast lane. The company's CreditCard Ethernet 10/100 PCMCIA NIC (network interface card) hooks into your LAN in a snap and then delivers a blazingly quick data connection. The CreditCard adapter works on networks still laboring under the relatively slow 10BaseT Ethernet configuration as well as those in lickety-split 100BaseT environments.

Installing the model we tested under Windows 95 couldn't have been simpler. The card slipped into a notebook's slot, and Win95 recognized it and requested the card's drivers, which installed from a diskette without a hitch. Next, configuring the notebook's networking properties and restarting caused the machine to promptly log onto our lab's 10BaseT network. The NIC performed well, with no discernible difference between its operation and one installed in any desktop PC.

We tested the card's high-speed capability on a small Fast Ethernet (100BaseT) network, consisting of a hub, the notebook and one desktop machine. Under Win95, the adapter determined the connection speed and configured itself appropriately. Again, the CreditCard worked flawlessly, providing a connection so quick that it let us copy 38MB of data in 8.17 minutes-very fast indeed.

The CreditCard not only installs easily and performs well, it also operates as either a 10BaseT or 100BaseT adapter, making it an all-around attractive networking solution for portable computers.

Xircom CreditCard Ethernet Adapter 10/100
Price: $215
Pros: Easy connectivity; compatibility
Cons: None significant
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95, NT
800-438-4526, 805-376-9300
WinMag Box Score 5.0