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SanDisk ConnectPlus 128MB CompactFlash + Wi-Fi review: SanDisk ConnectPlus 128MB CompactFlash + Wi-Fi

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MSRP: $129.99

The Good Wi-Fi certified; includes 128MB of storage and a PC Card adapter; easy to install.

The Bad Lacks WPA support; no external antenna connector; not yet supported by common sniffer apps, such as AirScanner or MiniStumbler.

The Bottom Line This is the most versatile CompactFlash Wi-Fi adapter we've seen, and it's the best option available for adding wireless to a PDA.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.4 Overall

Review Sections

The SanDisk ConnectPlus CompactFlash card is a must-have if you want to add a wireless adapter to a PDA running Pocket PC 2002 or 2003 (Windows CE 3.0 and above). This single CompactFlash card gives you extra storage and an 802.11b adapter all in one unit. Plus, the SanDisk card comes with a PC Card adapter that lets you use the adapter and the storage with notebooks running Windows Me, 2000, and XP. If you switch between a PDA and a notebook, you can save yourself a bundle getting two devices in one for both of your mobile units.

SanDisk's card is easy to install, too. In fact, you don't even need to install a driver to use it for storage. When you insert it into the slot on a Pocket PC device, the SanDisk card's storage appears as a new folder named CF Card on the Pocket PC under Start > Programs > File Explorer. On a Windows PC, it appears under My Computer as a removable disk with a new drive letter.

You will, however, need to install drivers to use the SanDisk card's 802.11b adapter. A CD that ships with the ConnectPlus includes drivers for PCs running Windows Me, 2000, and XP, as well as for PDAs running Pocket PC 2002. If you're running Pocket PC 2003, you'll need to download the &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Esandisk%2Ecom%2Fconsumer%2Fconnectplus%5Fwifi%2Easp" target="_blank">latest drivers from the SanDisk Web site. The software installation routine begins automatically when you insert the CD and asks you to do no more than click through a few onscreen prompts. Next, you simply insert the card and configure wireless security to access a network. The ConnectPlus supports 64- and 128-bit WEP, but it lacks support for the newer WPA encryption scheme. SanDisk claims that WPA support will soon be available for the Windows platform, to be followed by WPA for the Pocket PC.

The PC version of the software includes a Wi-Fi Settings Utility. The Utility lets you establish, save, and recall profiles for each Wi-Fi network you use, making it easy to switch between networks. You use the utility to monitor SSID, network type, network channel, signal strength, and data rates available for nearby access points. Unfortunately, you don't get a utility with this functionality for the Pocket PC, leaving you with Windows CE's meager Wi-Fi features. Even worse, third-party utilities such as AirScanner or MiniStumbler also lack support for the ConnectPlusÂ's Prism2 chipset, making it hard to use the adapter for PDA-based site surveys.

CNET Labs tests showed that the ConnectPlus is a strong performer, delivering solid 802.11b throughput over a long distance. The CompactFlash card adapter edged out the Linksys WPC11 in maximum throughput at close range with a remarkable 5.4Mbps. At 175 feet, its range was not as good as our best 802.11b performer, the Linksys WUSB12, but this is to be expected because of the small form factor of the antenna. Still, 175 feet is in line with most wireless PC Card-based adapters, and in informal testing, we found that the ConnectPlus could hold signal strength and transfer rates with the same range and reliability as a Linksys WPC11 PC Card.

The ConnectPlus comes with a three-year limited warranty. It took two days to get a response to an e-mail support question we submitted through the company's online form. Phone support is available for the life of the product via a toll call, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT. On the whole, this is a far weaker support package than that provided by most networking-gear vendors.

CNET Labs throughput tests  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
SanDisk ConnectPlus CompactFlash card
Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter
SpeedStream wireless USB adapter
Note: Throughput in Mbps.

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