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Navas 28800-56K Modem FAQTM 

(Answers to Frequently Asked Questions)

[Modem Picture]

Cable modem/DSL users: see Navas Cable Modem/DSL Tuning GuideTM

F. PURCHASING

Copyright 1999-2008 The Navas GroupSM, All Rights Reserved.
Permission is granted to copy for private non-commercial use only.
Send mirror and commercial license inquiries to John Navas.

Posted as <http://modemfaq.navasgroup.com/faq_f.htm>.

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Which 28800 modem should I buy?

See also Navas' Best of the BestTM!
(For other hardware recommendations, see "Hardware Recommended by John Navas")

In the opinion of the author, 28800 modems are too variable in quality to shop on price alone -- there can be performance and interoperability problems. (To avoid interoperability problems you may want to purchase the same brand as the modem you will be most frequently calling.)

Take magazine modem reviews with a grain of salt -- few if any magazines perform the kind of thorough interoperability and real-world tests that are needed to properly compare modems. (See "What about magazine reviews?")

In the opinion of the author, potential or claimed upgradability (e.g., to 56K technology -- see "What are 56K modems?") is not a significant consideration when purchasing a modem, since upgrades often prove to be uneconomic at best. Assume that you will get a new modem if and when it is time to upgrade.

Furthermore, like software, modem preferences are a highly personal matter -- a terrific modem for one person may be a dog for another person, and vice versa. That noted, the personal assessment of the author is as follows:

Medium-High End

USRobotics Courier V.Everything
In the opinion of the author, this is quite simply the best reasonably-priced data modem available. (It is not as good for fax -- see "How can I make fax work better?") It's a particularly good choice if you have poor phone lines, if you have to make difficult connections, or if you have to connect to a wide range of modems. A strength that the Courier shares with the Sportster is that its DSP code is stored with its firmware (in Flash in the Courier, ROM in the Sportster), so that it can be easily updated (unlike most modems, which have fixed "datapumps"). A firmware update (7/5/95 or later for USA modems) that supports Selective Reject and draft V.34 speeds up to 33.6 Kbps is now available. The Courier is a good choice for a small BBS, and USR has an attractive SYSOP program. Otherwise the best way to get a good deal may be to find a cheap used 9600 bps or above Courier and take advantage of the USR upgrade program.
Motorola
An excellent company with ISO 9001 registration and a reputation for excellent products. Not evaluated by the author:

*326XFAST: V.34 modems designed for networking.
*V.3400: A reputation as an excellent, if pricey, modem. Does not support V.FC.
*V.34R: Similar to the V.3400, but without the LCD display.
*Premier 33.6: Positioned to compete with the USR Courier. Firmware in Flash. Claimed maximum compression is 8:1. Does not support V.FC and only supports Class 1 fax.
Microcom
A reputation for very good modems. Not evaluated by the author.
Bay Networks/Penril
A reputation for excellent, if pricey, modems. Not evaluated by the author.
Telebit
A reputation for excellent, if pricey, modems. Not evaluated by the author. Does not support V.FC.
Zyxel
The Elite 2864 is feature rich (although it does not support V.FC), Flash upgradable, and has the added advantage of being user-upgradable to ISDN (Elite 2864I). However, in the author's tests it does not yet measure up to other modems in connection speed and reliability.
AT&T Paradyne
A reputation for excellent, if pricey, modems. Not evaluated by the author. Does not support V.FC. Supports a proprietary V.34 extension for speeds up to 33.6 Kbps. (Note: Paradyne is reportedly up for sale, so its future is uncertain -- see "AT&T Seeks Buyer For Paradyne" and "PC Magazine Newswatch for Thursday, October 19, 1995")

Consumer Grade

Motorola
An excellent company with ISO 9001 registration and a reputation for excellent products. Reports on the PowerClass and Lifestyle modems (distinguished from each other only by features) are mostly positive. However, there have been reports of a few problems (e.g., Motorola's Customer Note of July 27, 1995, which Motorola is to be commended for publishing). Limitations include a maximum speed of 28.8 Kbps, no V.FC, and no Class 2 or 2.0 fax.

Newer models include:
*VoiceSURFR: V.34 28.8 internal modem with data, fax (Classes 1 & 2), voice and full-duplex speakerphone.
*ModemSURFR: V.34 28.8 internal/external modem with data and fax (Classes 1 & 2).
*OnlineSURFR: ModemSURFR with bundled Internet software.
USRobotics Sportster 28800/33600 and 56K
The popularly-priced Sportster is a good data modem. (See "SHOOTOUT: Sportster vs. Courier") (It is not as good for fax -- see "How can I make fax work better?") A strength of the Sportster is that it supports several optional V.34 features (notably split speed) that are not supported by some other popularly-priced modems. Be sure to get firmware dated 4/18/95 or later for USA modems; if necessary, call USR (847/982-5151) to get an upgrade. Certain 28800 Sportster models can be inexpensively upgraded to 33600 (including Selective Reject). Current versions of the Sportster do not support V.FC.

* The "Vi" model includes voicemail capabilities. It is otherwise the same as the standard model.
* The "Voice" model includes voicemail and speakerphone capabilities. It is otherwise the same as the standard model.
* The "DSVD" model includes Flash (like the Courier V.Everything) and DSVD (simultaneous voice and data over the same connection) capabilities.
*Warning: The Sportster "WinModem" is a proprietary design that requires special USR drivers that work only under Microsoft Windows. Make sure that you are willing to live with the attendant risks and inherent limitations before purchasing any proprietary product.
*Warning: The Sportster Si is essentially a Rockwell "Glue 'n Go" clone (see below); worse, it uses software (RPI) rather than hardware protocols. Make sure that you are willing to live with the attendant risks and inherent limitations before purchasing any proprietary product. (See "What are 'RPI' or 'WinRPI' modems?")
*Warning: USR has indiscriminately slapped the "Sportster" name on so many different products that the author no longer feels it is a reliable product guide. For example, recent "Sportster 28800" modems have considerably different S-register settings as compared to the original "Sportster 28800" product. This invalidates a good deal of advice, including some of the material in this FAQ.
Diamond/Supra
In the opinion of the author, Diamond/Supra is the probably the best bet among the Rockwell chipset-based modems, particularly now that it has released firmware that supports split speeds. All 28800 Diamond/Supra modems can be upgraded to 33600.
Hayes
Although Hayes has made excellent modems in the past, of late it has been slipping, and its 28800 products have exhibited interoperability problems. Because Hayes (inc. PPI) has now emerged from Chapter 11 (Bankruptcy) protection, the author no longer recommends against the purchase of Hayes products, but still advises caution for at least the next few months.
Practical Peripherals Inc. (PPI)
PPI is owned by and has been folded into Hayes. The same general comments apply.
Multi-Tech
Although high-end Multi-Tech modems have a good reputation, the author cannot recommend the popularly-priced MT2834ZDX. In the author's head-to-head real-world tests against the USR Sportster 28800, the MT2834ZDX was consistently one step slower, worse on difficult connections; in addition, operational idiosyncrasies caused problems with certain comm apps (e.g., HyperACCESS for Windows).
Zyxel
The Omni 288S is the consumer grade version of the Elite 2864. Not evaluated by the author.
AT&T
AT&T has bailed out of consumer modems. Although good liquidation deals may be found, support could be a problem. Also be warned that there were two completely different AT&T consumer modem lines with similar names. The Dataport was based on AT&T's own modem technology; the low-cost Dataport Express was essentially a Rockwell "Glue 'n Go" clone (see below).
"Glue 'n Go" clones
In the opinion of the author, companies that simply slap a modem chipset on a board are a poor bet.

Additional Information

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Navas' Best of the BestTM!

These products received the highest overall ratings in the author's testing and evaluation, based on the criteria of quality, reliability, performance, and value. While there are other good products on the market, in the opinion of the author, these products stand out.
Navas's Best of the Best logo

Navas's Best Runner-up logo

Navas' Best of the Best and Navas' Best Runner-up are trademarks of The Navas Group, and may only be used with permission. Manufacturers whose products are listed here may use these symbols for product promotion purposes on the Internet without charge. Click here for specific requirements and sample HTML code. Manufacturers are invited to submit products for review. These ratings will be updated periodically.

Desktop external/internal serial/parallel:

Best modem for data (all-around)
3Com Courier V.Everything (not without flaws, but still the best)
Runner-up: Diamond SupraExpress 56
 
Best modem for fax
ZyXEL Elite 2864

Runner-up: Diamond SupraExpress 56

Universal Serial Bus (USB):

N/A

PC Card (PCMCIA):

Best modem for data
TBA
Best combo (modem + Ethernet)
TDK Global Networker 3410 (excellent modem/good networking)
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What about magazine reviews?

Take magazine modem reviews with a grain of salt -- few if any magazines perform the kind of thorough interoperability and real-world tests that are needed to properly compare modems.

Note that the apparently diverse computer magazine publishing field is actually dominated by a relatively small number of publishers, particularly Ziff Davis. Reviews from different magazines owned by the same publisher tend to have a shared editorial bias, if for no other reason than that testing is often done by a shared facility (e.g.,ZD Labs). The publisher is noted in parentheses.

Analog Modems:

ISDN:

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Where can I get a good deal on a modem?

In the opinion of the author, 28800 modems are still too immature to shop on price alone. If you run into (all too common) performance or interoperability problems, the best way to deal with them may be to return the modem and try a different brand, which may not be possible with a low price source.

The author recommends WH Networks Communications.

Other sources on the Internet include:

Low-price Internet search engines: Please note that the author has no connection to any of the sources listed here.
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Where can I get a 16550 UART?

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Where can I get multi-modem cards?
Where can I get multi-port serial cards?

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Where can I get PCMCIA/PC Card cables?

  1. Try the manufacturer of your PCMCIA/PC Card modem.
  2. Try the manufacturer of your cellular phone.
  3. 1-800-Batteries.com (TDK)
  4. MobilePlanet
  5. PCMCIAcables.Com
  6. SupplyNet
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Where can I get a good telephone line surge suppressor?

Many surge suppressers, particularly the inexpensive ones normally found at retail, can interfere with modem communications. They also tend to do a poor job of protection. Surge suppressors built into quality uninterruptable power supply (UPS) products (e.g., APC) tend to be better. For best results, use a commercial grade surge suppressor -- more expensive, but worth it. Good sources of commercial grade surge suppressors include: Good sources of power line only commercial grade surge suppressors include: At a minimum, make sure that any point of use surge suppressor is UL 1449 Second Edition listed/recognized at a suppressed voltage rating (SVR) of 330 volts. For endurance, the surge suppressor should also be Classified in Accordance with ANSI/IEEE C62.41-1991, Recommended Practices. UL 1449 listed products are not necessarily classified for endurance.
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