PalmOne's Wi-Fi Card

It's easy to use and has a great price. So why is this card not ready for the enterprise?

September 24, 2004

3 Min Read
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Range was very limited--nominal power output is 25 milliwatts. I was limited to 50 feet in RF-heavy interior environments with an intervening wall. The device has the usual slim SD form-factor, and protrudes about 0.75 inches from the SD slot--not obtrusive in use, but you can't safely slide the PDA in your pocket with the card still inserted.

PalmOne's Wi-Fi CardClick to Enlarge

What It Lacks

The bundled Mergic PPTP client is easy to use, but if you want IPsec support, you'll have to purchase Certicom's movianVPN client. Other than the PPTP VPN, security options for the card are sparse. There is no WPA, no TKIP, no EAP/LEAP/PEAP. The lack of anything stronger than the flawed WEP standard relegates this Wi-Fi card to installations where WEP is judged sufficient.



Wi-Fi Card from palmOne, $129. palmOne, (800) 881-7256.

Basic FTP file-transfer tests with and without WEP encryption gave me speeds in the range of 100 Kbps to 200 Kbps. On the low end of the 802.11b range, this is on par with other low-power client devices, and adequate for sending the moderate quantities of data likely for a PDA, such as Web browsing.

Power consumption, even with the default Wi-Fi power-down setting at three minutes, definitely impacted battery life--between the T3's power-hungry screen and fast processor, and the Wi-fi add-on, you could almost see the battery indicator dropping. Continual use resulted in a disappointing run-down time of less than 2 hours.For those Tungsten T3 and Zire 72 owners who have been waiting for Wi-Fi on their Bluetooth-enabled palmOne device, this new SD card may fit their needs--if they want no-frills Wi-Fi connectivity for home and hotspots (for more on using the card with Bluetooth, see "Palm and Bluetooth"). The price is attractive, but the lack of WPA security, significant impact on battery life and relative lack of wireless range should be factored into your decision.

Richard Hoffman, a former Network Computing technology editor, is the editor of and a freelance consultant. Write to him at [email protected].

Part of palmOne's instructions for its Wi-Fi card specify turning off Bluetooth before use, so you can't use both wireless modes without switching back and forth. When I ignored this advice and attempted to power up the Wi-Fi card with Bluetooth activated, I got the failure message: "The card in the SDIO slot is not a palmOne supported Wi-Fi card." However, I found that if turned Bluetooth off, turned Wi-Fi on and then turned Bluetooth back on, I was able to use Wi-Fi and access a Bluetooth-enabled phone at the same time. PalmOne has some work to do to provide the same enterprise-level wireless features found in high-end PocketPC devices.

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