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Minstrel m500 Wireless Modem Review
By Davy Fields
Buying the modem is something many people are concerned about. OmniSky has yet to support the m500 Series modem, and doesn't answer requests on when they will do so. Many articles have been written about this, and OmniSky itself announced it would support the modem in August. August came and went and now into the middle of October they have still made no announcements. So I was forced to purchase the modem from buy.com for about $330 with free shipping, which is a tad pricey, but the price is minimal compared to the use one could get out of it.
I popped the CD into my Mac's CD drive, only to discover it didn't have any Macintosh software on it. Fortunately, the only file you install I found hidden in the 'Palm' folder of the CD. I installed the 67k file, and popped the modem on the back of my m505. Attaching involves sticking the bottom of the m505 into the modem and then pressing up on a switch, attaching the modem fully, and releasing the switch.
I plugged in the charger (which conveniently charges both the m505 and the modem) and let it sit for a little while. During this time, I contacted AT+T Wireless and signed up for an unlimited service plan for it, costing only $30 a month. (Note: Service plans vary from place to place. Do some research in your area before you purchase the modem. -Ed)
After entering the information they gave me (telling the modem where to look for service) into the Minstrel Control Application, the modem was installed.
The modem goes the fastest when downloading one big image, around 2-3k a second. Although it's advertised at 19.2 kps, I found the speed to be higher than that.
The modem worked everywhere I went, which wasn't a huge surprise since I live in the world's technology capital, Silicon Valley. The only time I found the performance to slow was when in a high speed moving object. The modem would continue to work when cruising around in a car going 20-30 mph (me not being the person driving, mind you) but when we got on a highway it would slow significantly and sometimes disconnect.
Many people found the Vx modem to have lots of disconnects, even just standing around, but I can assure you this doesn't happen nearly ever with the m500 Minstrel. I never had a disconnect anywhere (except going 60 mph on a highway). The service was always excellent, and the connection was rock-solid.
In terms of battery life, the m500 modem dominates the Vx. My Vx modem's battery life is very short, and requires constant recharging. It also has no pass-through charging feature, so it's a common occurrence to sometimes have a charged modem with a dead Palm, and vice-versa. The m500 modem's battery is huge. I've never come close to draining it, even with heavy use. My m505's battery dries out sooner than the modem's, and my m505 has about a 10 hour battery life.
Both of these modems are still very svelte so you can still comfortably hold the Internet in your hand. If you have big pockets, you can still carry the Palm in it, just don't plan on using it with tight jeans.
You can use AOL Instant Messenger, ICQ, many kinds of online e-mail accounts, and all types of POP3 e-mail. It can download 16-bit color pictures, and can even download software programs straight from the web using PalmGear's PQA.
You can buy plane tickets, look up movie show times, you can even send a fax. Unless you've used one you wouldn't know how cool this can be.
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