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-- by Joel T. Patz
Cardinal Technologies often produces reliable, high-quality modems. I've tested several of them that I liked. But the company's latest offering, the MVPV34XSP 33.6 modem, doesn't make the grade.
The packaging for this external modem prominently highlights a voice-mail feature and promises "a complete voice, fax and data messaging center." But while the fax and data messaging worked fine in my tests, the Cardinal 33.6 couldn't manage voice mail successfully. It repeatedly cut off a caller's message after 8 or 9 seconds. Even after tweaking a combination of settings, I could only record up to 17 seconds of the message before being disconnected. The problem is not isolated to the provided FaxTalk software; the modem also malfunctioned using Global Village's FocalPoint telephony product and a variety of microphones and cables.
The Cardinal 33.6 also promises the user full-duplex speakerphone capability. It tries to deliver on that promise, but the muffled audio quality for both you and your caller, while passable, is no substitute for a regular telephone call's clear sound.
The MVP reliably connected to a variety of online services. It supports all the standard specifications: 33.6Kbps V.34 data transmission with built-in V.42 and MNP2-4 error correction. The Cardinal modem also features V.42bis and MNP5 data compression for throughput rates up to 115,200bps.
The product supports Caller ID and distinctive ring. You can simultaneously exchange data and documents during a phone call using the modem's AudioSpan support (with the -SMS command) or alternate between voice and data with its built-in VoiceView support. Unfortunately, there is no accompanying software that exploits either technology. Instead, the CD-based applications focus on sign-up with InternetMCI, InterGO (Internet Access with parental controls), Televox (an Internet telephony application) and an Internet tutorial.
Plug-and-Play setup was simple under Windows 95. The beige-colored external unit I tested measured 1.75 by 5 by 5.5 inches. The front panel provides the standard lights (off hook, send data, receive data) and a power button; on the back you'll find a plug for the power supply, a 25-pin serial connector, line and phone jacks, and inputs for an external speaker and microphone (supplied). The package also includes a patch cord for connecting the modem to your sound card. The Cardinal 33.6 is also available as a 16-bit ISA card if you prefer an internal unit. Setup documentation is just adequate, and a reference guide provides only the basics.
Given the quality of Cardinal modems I've used in the past, this one is surprisingly disappointing. It does fine making high-speed 33.6 modem connections, but if you're expecting to set up a speakerphone or voicemail system, you'd be better served by another product.
Copyright © 1997 CMP Media Inc.