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Review: palmOne SDIO WiFi Card
By: Ryan Kairer
August 17th, 2004

The new SD WiFi card from palmOne is a long overdue wireless accessory. The card enables the Tungsten T3 and Zire 72 handheld to connect to 802.11b/g WiFi networks though the secure digital expansion slot. With the huge growth of home wireless kits and public WiFi hotspots being deployed, this SD card opens up another wireless solution.

The WiFi card is 53 mm long and a mere 3 mm thick and fits into the SD expansion slot, which is most commonly used for memory cards. When seated, the card extends about three quarters of an inch out of the top of the SD slot. The card is branded with a deep red and orange palmOne sticker has a single small green LED that indicates use and connectivity.

Before using the card you have to install the setup files. The drivers require 4MB of free space on your handheld. Once installed, the drivers occupy less than 1MB of RAM. After hotsyncing the prc file over, an installer runs on the handheld, installs the drivers and resets the unit. The WiFi software is permanently loaded and can be setup and controlled from the preferences panel or via the WiFi setup application. The drivers also add a WiFi strength indicator to the command bar (drag your stylus from the bottom left to the top right) which shows the current strength and also acts as a shortcut to the WIFi preferences.

WiFi setup will search out available networks and will display the options it finds. It reports back with a list of access points in range with signal strength and wether the AP is encrypted. You can also manually setup WIFi network connections as well as setup connections to stations that do not broadcast the SSID.

The card supports WEP encryption and will accept 40 and 104 bit keys. These can be either ASCII text, a hexadecimal number or a pass-phrase. My Linksys AP router only had options for 64 bit and 128 bit keys, so I had to use the pass-phrase option. The card also supports both Infrastructure (to an access point) and Ad-hoc (peer to peer) connection modes.

The WiFi card preferences is by default set to conserve power, selecting no will use full power continuously, which will improve performance but shorten battery life. it also has a nice roaming setting that be be configured to seek out the strongest AP when your signal gets weak. That is ideal for corporate and campus networks that typically have multiple APs working together.

Once the card is setup and your network connection is established, you can now take full advantage of your wireless connection. For my review I used the card with a Zire 72. The wireless range was very good, it even seems much stronger than the Tungsten C's range. Because the card sticks out of the top of the handheld about an three quarters of an inch, I'm nervous about leaving it inserted while stored away in my pocket where it could easily snap.

palmOne states that users can expect at the low end a minimum of one hour of continuous usage. During my testing I found I get about 90 minutes to 2.5 hours of wireless use, when using it for a couple times a day for short periods of time. In short, it definitely draws a lot of power and will make a big impact on your handheld battery life. If you want to get more juice out of the T3, there is the palmOne power to go battery expansion sled.

I had some issues with it not wanting to connect to my particular access point. It would only make a connection about 75% of the time. I was unable to conclude if it was an issue with the SD card or my access point but it definitely had a hard time connecting every so often. I do use a number of other PDAs with WiFi and have not had issues, but I wasn't able to resolve the problem. While it was not a major problems as it was usually overcome with a reset, it was something worth noting.

So why is the card only available for the T3 and Zire 72, and not other models with SD slots? The official answer from palmOne is: Following market and development-cost analysis, palmOne wanted to develop a Wi-Fi card that will be applicable to its Zire 72 and Tungsten T3 handhelds.  These solutions require very tight integration between hardware, firmware and custom software, as well as access to propriety technologies for the level of tight integration necessary to give the customer an excellent experience. In other words it sounds like the differences between other models SD slots and other factors such as power draw and battery capacity, made is cost prohibitive to develop it for other handhelds.

The SD WiFi card for the Tungsten T3 and Zire 72 brings another level of wireless use to these two bluetooth models. The card works well, is extremely easy to setup, configure and provides excellent range. However, it is a tad pricey and is definitely a power thirsty addition.

The Palm SD WiFi card is now available now for $89 USD (Originally debuted at $129). It is also compatible with the Treo 700w.

PIC Bottom Line

PROS
CONS
  • Good Range
  • Easy setup & configuration
  • Small, Portable WiFi Addition
  • Power Hungry
  • Tad Expensive
  • Should have been released years ago

Overall Rating: 7.5/10

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Finally...

Selbstlade @ 8/17/2004 2:25:56 AM #
"Should have been released years ago" is a terrible understatement. Not to make little of Palm's development efforts, but to only support the two latest models seems a bit insincere. Feels like they're trying to force users into a shorter upgrade cycle. Atleast Sandisk made the effort to support Z71 with their latest offering.
RE: Finally...
2xs @ 8/17/2004 3:19:11 AM #
This Z71-Thing is part of a deal between SanDisk an PalmOne, i bet !! >-(

Anyway this is a musthave for me. Just Include a PalmOs6 - Update an i wont cross the divide ;)

gr33tz 2xs

RE: Finally...
JonathanChoo @ 8/17/2004 5:54:08 AM #
Now the question is will it work with future Zires or Tungstens?

--
PalmOne Tungsten T3/256Mb Panasonic SD; HP h4150/512Mb Sandisk Ultra-II, Sony Ericsson T630
Next: PalmOne Treo 610/HP hx4700
RE: Finally...
Selbstlade @ 8/17/2004 8:44:55 AM #
If the past is any indication, probably not (think OS4's bluetooth card). Especially if the next iteration is OS6. As a consumer, I don't see how Palm can justify half-assing things like this. If you look on the PocketPC side, the SDIO wifi card works with pretty much any 2002/2003 PPC.

-----

Palm Professional, Palm IIIx, Cassiopeia E-105, Palm m505, Sony Clie SJ-10, Palm Zire 71.

RE: Finally...
edeab220 @ 8/17/2004 9:07:05 AM #
Ok, so it's officially released. Where is it on palmOne's site? It's not in the store and its not listed in their accessories page.

----------
Technology Editor at www.dailygadget.com
RE: Finally...
hkklife @ 8/17/2004 10:25:09 AM #
As far as the OS6 rumors go, I will go on a limb and say that this is targeted at OS6 handhelds MORE SO than OS5 units and all necessary drivers will be available. Why? Improved battery capacities on the OS6 models will mean longer continuous usage with this card, for one. Also, if the T4 rumors are correct, dual SDIO slots will be adopted by PalmOne and one of these will be intended to sit next to a SD memory card in a dual-slot Palm.

What I'd like to see next is the shorter-length, improved battery life BT card (and new drivers) Toshiba promised us, what, 2 years ago? I personally cannot stand ANYTHING protruding out of my PDA like this or the BT card! I broke a Veo camera that way! (and yes, I know this thing would have zero range if it didn't extend out like that).

RE: Finally...
Sleuth255 @ 8/17/2004 12:20:58 PM #
Bingo. August. My January prediction for this release date falls in line.

I'll jump for this because I've got a T3.5 with a 5 hour battery. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I did the conversion.

Next: It would be nice to see a case with a modified slot that can hold this card appear too sometime soon.

RE: Finally...
Altema @ 8/17/2004 3:35:11 PM #
"I'll jump for this because I've got a T3.5 with a 5 hour battery. In fact, this is one of the reasons why I did the conversion."

Would you care to elaborate? My original T3 could get 4 or 5 hours (proper initial charge, conditioning), but that was sent back for a screen defect. The refurb unit was not so fortunate and only gets 2 to 3 hours, which has made keep my eyes open for upgrades or a new replacement battery. Did you install a higher rated battery?

RE: Finally...
hkklife @ 8/17/2004 4:24:47 PM #
Head on over to the Brighthand Tungsten forums to read the, oh, 30 page thread on this miraculous feat! If we prod sleuth nicey, he may post an "at your own risk" how-to guide with pics. I did the process myself on my T3 (without actually installing the battery!) just to see how difficult it was (at least the disassembly and reassembly parts). It wasn't bad at all if you are patient and have good lighting and nimble fingers.

RE: Finally...
tooele @ 8/17/2004 5:39:35 PM #
I thought this day would never come finally we're not limited to the tungsten C for WI-FI. Finally we can have a palm with bluetooth and WI-FI since sony stopped making new PDA's.

Hell froze over finally!

Gmon750 @ 8/17/2004 3:11:32 AM #
Palm finally pulled that proverbial rabbit out of the hat. It's unfortunate they limited the number of handhelds this will work with. But fortunately, I own a T3 and I'll be first in line to get one.

I was really losing hope so now, maybe I'll stick around with Palm hardware a little longer now.

Thanks to everyone for raising a stink to get Palm to create one!

RE: Hell froze over finally!
Altema @ 8/17/2004 3:42:09 PM #
Where's my ice skates!?

What will be the price on eBay?

Patrick @ 8/17/2004 3:38:41 AM #
For a while, the Palm Power To Go sled was selling officially at $100 through Palm and unofficially for $50 on eBay. These were not scams. Lots of folks bought it at that price. Eventually, Palm's official price dropped to $50 as well.

I always wondered how those eBay dealers could sell at that price and make a profit. From whence did they obtain their stock? Seems that there were too many of them selling too regularly for them to be stolen merchandise.

Now we see a similarly overpriced WiFi card and I can't help but wonder what price we'll see for it on eBay in the coming weeks and months.


So is there memory on board?

just_little_me @ 8/17/2004 3:47:22 AM #
Crap review! Doesn't even mention if there is memory on the card... However, this suggests there is:

http://www.upcdatabase.com/item.pl?upc=805931010643


JLM.

RE: So is there memory on board?
JonathanChoo @ 8/17/2004 8:49:50 AM #
Why should a review be crap if it does not mention something that does not exists?

InfoSync has a review up too and they did not mention anything about 128Mb onboard memory.

http://www.infosyncworld.com/reviews/n/5234.html

--
PalmOne Tungsten T3/256Mb Panasonic SD; HP h4150/512Mb Sandisk Ultra-II, Sony Ericsson T630
Next: PalmOne Treo 610/HP hx4700

RE: So is there memory on board?
Admin @ 8/17/2004 12:47:37 PM #
There is no memory on the card.

-Ryan

RE: So is there memory on board?
just_little_me @ 8/17/2004 6:01:25 PM #
Jonathan,

Well considering other sites DO mention the memory, and it's a fair question to rule in or out, that's why I said it was crap. SD devices CAN support up to 7 devices.. but no-one has released anything with more than 1!

Bummer about the memory... another expensive, half-arsed wireless solution hits the market... :-(


JLM.

RE: So is there memory on board?
Strider_mt2k @ 8/22/2004 9:34:05 AM #
Welcome to the SD consortium hype machine!

You done been took son, now pay up and move along...

Not that I can say any better, I got empty pockets and Memory Shtick!


Seems like the CF guys make out pretty well though.

I guess I need to find a handheld that supports CF next time I purchase one.



Well, I am excited!

millydog @ 8/17/2004 5:21:46 AM #
I am excited to see the release of this card. I do know that it has been a long time coming, but at least it is here now. I will be getting the card ASAP.
I have WiFi in my laptop, at home and at work. I am also hearing about free WiFi spots that are finally popping up in my local area.
I use bluetooth with my T68i but the access costs me money each time I connect, plus more for the downloads.....so the card will be great for me, meaning that I no longer have that added charge and I am sure that the initial outlay of the cost of the card will be worth while for me.
RE: Well, I am excited!
Altema @ 8/17/2004 3:48:28 PM #
If the places you frequent charge for WIFI access, it may be more cost effective to see if your carrier has an unlimited data plan for a reasonable rate. It can be used for access on the phone itself, your PDA, or your laptop.

Welcome to WIFI!

Strider_mt2k @ 8/17/2004 5:37:35 AM #
It's interesting and cool, but not without it's downside, as you will soon see.

-have to pay for access in airports.

-I've personally stayed at two hotels with free access, but one had network problems, and the other lost signal as I walked into my room.

However when everything works, it's great! it's a whole new dimension to the handheld experience.


RE: Welcome to WIFI!
Altema @ 8/17/2004 3:44:54 PM #
Plus, I can use WIFI in those places where high speed GPRS is out of range like in remote campsites in the mountains! Oh, wait...


Just kidding. I'm interested in this too, as my office is one of the few places where I cannot get a GPRS connection.

WEP Keys

achitnis @ 8/17/2004 6:59:25 AM #
"The card supports WEP encryption and will accept 40 and 104 bit keys. These can be either ASCII text, a hexadecimal number or a pass-phrase. My Linksys AP router only had options for 64 bit and 128 bit keys, so I had to use the pass-phrase option."

ahem.

"64 bit" and "128 bit" keys are really marketing-speak. In reality, the keys are 40 and 104 bits in length. In short, a "64 bit WEP key" is actually 40 bits long, and "128 bits key" is actually 104 bits long.

So setting to a 40 bit key will happily work with an AP that is set to a 64 bit key (and ditto 104 to 128).


Atul Chitnis
http://atulchitnis.net

RE: WEP Keys - WPA support
palmato @ 8/17/2004 8:19:29 AM #
Not closely related to the above, but I just wish to note that apparently WPA (PSK or Radius) is not supported. Unlike the Sandisk card fot the Zire71 and the latest PPC offerings (both internal and cards).


------------------------
Tired of PPC? Get a TT!

RE: WEP Keys
markgm @ 8/17/2004 12:30:48 PM #
I agree. I wish they had WPA, especially since this thing is new. I finally picked up a wireless card for my NX80 on Sunday (clearance of $28 at Circuit City) and had to relax the security on my router to use it. I am still looking for more useful applications for this, so far I'm just using Netfront, the built in email, and AIM 2.1 (whichever the old free version was.) I really hope that the release of this card will cause more network applications to be written.

I guess what I really can't wait for is the next generation of Palms!

RE: WEP Keys
Altema @ 8/17/2004 3:55:03 PM #
LEAP is also not supported.

RE: WEP Keys
achitnis @ 8/18/2004 3:23:10 AM #
palmato> Not closely related to the above, but I just wish to note that apparently WPA (PSK or Radius) is not supported. Unlike the Sandisk card fot the Zire71 and the latest PPC offerings (both internal and cards).

Yep, that is a baddy. But what are the chances that this can be remedied with a software update at a later stage?


Atul Chitnis
http://atulchitnis.net

RE: WEP Keys
jorang @ 8/18/2004 3:33:51 AM #
Hello

Just a question - is the WPA support hardware or software related.
Is this such a drawback that the card should be avoided, or is this just a software/driver issue?

JoranG

JoranG

RE: WEP Keys
palmato @ 8/18/2004 9:01:10 AM #
> Just a question - is the WPA support hardware or software related.

Most likely this is just a driver issue. However since I don't know what chipset is being used, I can't be 100% sure.
The real caveat however might be the commitment of Palm1 in making software updates available. Or will they release a different updated card ?


------------------------
Tired of PPC? Get a TT!

RE: WEP Keys
dgarbis @ 8/18/2004 1:40:55 PM #
pardon my ignorance, but what do you mean by:

"Tired of PPC? Get a TT!"

?

DennisG

What are they thinking!?

Alric @ 8/17/2004 9:13:34 AM #
Axim X30 with BT and WiFi= $250

T3 + SD WiFi card = $480

You must be joking palmOne..

RE: What are they thinking!?
edeab220 @ 8/17/2004 9:23:07 AM #
That's the sacrifice to pay for a wonderful Palm OS PDA :p.

----------
Technology Editor at www.dailygadget.com
RE: What are they thinking!?
mclaughlinc @ 8/17/2004 9:54:23 AM #
So have you tried to run the SanDisk 256 MB memory card + WIFI with the driver included with the PalmOne WIFI card?

RE: What are they thinking!?
edeab220 @ 8/17/2004 10:48:23 AM #
mclaughlinc, that's actually an interesting idea. Maybe someone here can try it...although I really don't think it will work since the SD slot may not have enough power to do so.

----------
Technology Editor at www.dailygadget.com
RE: What are they thinking!?
Rome @ 8/17/2004 12:06:56 PM #
Porsche 911 - 315 horsepower, Flat 6 - $70,000

Corvette - 400 horsepower, V8 - $44,000

What was Porsche thinking? Overpriced and underpowered!



RE: What are they thinking!?
sub_tex @ 8/17/2004 12:37:42 PM #
Axim X30 with BT and WiFi= $250

Seriously. If that Axim had a higher res screen I'd be all over it.

PPC vendors are destroying Palm vendors on bang for the buck.

Right now it really comes down to OS preference to keep you in the Palm camp. Try explaining to someone that they will be getting a whole lot less and paying a whole lot more for their PDA just becuase it's Palm.

It's like Mac pricing.

RE: What are they thinking!?
Admin @ 8/17/2004 12:49:28 PM #
I have the socket SD WiFi card for pocket pc's, it is supposed to be the same as the SanDisk, and the Zire72 does not recognize the card at all with the palmOne drivers installed. I'd expect the exact same to happen with any other non-palmOne SD WiFi card.

-Ryan

RE: What are they thinking!?
tooele @ 8/17/2004 11:04:16 PM #
the axim x30 is so cheap compared to the TT3 because it's screen is only half as good and it has a slower processor. Plus it's not a palm and Palm is better.

RE: What are they thinking!?
JonathanChoo @ 8/18/2004 1:58:13 AM #
I rather have the Porsche 911. Pure German genius of a car. And awesome to drive too.

--
PalmOne Tungsten T3/256Mb Panasonic SD; HP h4150/512Mb Sandisk Ultra-II, Sony Ericsson T630
Next: PalmOne Treo 610/HP hx4700
RE: What are they thinking!?
Alric @ 8/18/2004 9:00:41 AM #
Good is a relative term. For reading text and browsing the web I haven't even noticed the lower resolution of the axim. A lower resolution for three times the battery life is a compromise I gladly make.

That car analogy does not hold with Palm and PPC. I've used the PalmOS for 10 years and I don't miss a thing after switching to PPC.

Cheers,

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