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USB HotSync & Charger Cable Review
By Robert Zach
Like the Joker says to Batman, "Where does he get those wonderful toys!" That's the same kind of response I have to the neat Palm accessories that Brando continues to bring to the market.
One of Brando's latest offerings is a USB HotSync cable that doubles as a Palm V series charger! This cable has a gold plated USB connector at one end and a clip on Palm V serial port connector on the other. In between is a small bulb containing three LEDs and a button. The green button launches a HotSync operation and houses a green LED that indicates the Palm is recharging. The two red LEDs indicate "TX" (transmit) and "RX" receive allowing the operator to visually see a HotSync is in progress (or help debug one that isn't!).
Installation was very simple. The included mini CD-ROM houses drivers for Win95/98/ME/W2K and Mac. Simply attach the Palm to the serial connector, then connect the USB port and Windows/Mac will auto-magically detect the device and search for the appropriate drivers on the CD-ROM.
Unfortunately, after reading the directions on the back of the package I realized that I wasn't going to have true USB HotSyncing. As it turns out the included driver software emulates a COM Port. While this works just fine, it leaves HotSyncs at 115K max (serial port speed). I suppose though, that this is a moot point since I don't believe the Palm serial port can run any faster.
Also, I usually Sync via IR. Since I am now running W2K and the latest (v4.01) of the Palm Desktop and Palm HotSync, IR is natively supported. This means that for me I have set the USB driver to emulate COM5, when HotSync starts up in my system tray, and the USB cable it not attached, it does not find COM5 but this does not impact my Hot Syncing and I do not have to manually change any COM ports to IR HotSync. Simply plugging in the USB cable then allows me to Sync via USB. Essentially I am "hot swappable" between USB and IR. Although this works just fine for me, I do wish I didn't get the annoying "COM 5 unavailable" warning every time HotSync starts without the cable present. Minor nit-pick.
About the only real problem I had with the cable is that the green charging indicator LED did not seem to work but the Palm was being recharged. I would suspect that the charging indicator would glow green when charging then turn off when complete - or indicate nothing then glow green when fully charged. Neither of these things happened for me. I hope that the former is how the LED is supposed to work not the latter.
All in all, I found this cable to be a very convenient, all-in-one, way to carry a HotSync cable and charger in a highly portable fashion. Now when I perform those long HotSyncs with all my AvantGo infomation I use this cable. No more do I have to worry about lengthy HotSyncs via IR killing my Palm's battery. Very nice Brando!
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