HPLX.NET REVIEWS Megahertz AllPoints Wireless Modem with RadioMail

This is a review of the Hewlett-Packard 200LX palmtop and how it works with the Megahertz Allpoints Wireless Receiver card. First, some pictures.

As you can see, it's not that big. The Allpoints card, that is. Well, in reality, neither is the HP200LX. Here's a picture of the configuration when the card is installed:

Now, this one is obviously much better, because this picture has the screen open. Also notice the flash RAM card in the left of the picture.

First, the basics. There are three different things you need to be able to do wireless e-mail on your palmtop. First, you need the modem hardware. That would be the Allpoints card, in my case. You need to choose which network you like better; there are two. The card's hardware is built to use one of these networks-- not both. So, depending on which modem you get, you've already decided your network choice. (Or, depending on which network you like, you limit your modem choice.) Finally, you need somebody to actually send you your mail and give you an e-mail address. This is your "service provider."

The Allpoints card work with the Mobitex radio network. This network is also known as the RAM mobile data network. It has fairly widespread coverage, at least in urban areas. Check out their web site at http://www.ram.com for further information about that network. Their main competitor seems to be the ARDIS network, which was created by IBM and Motorola, to my understanding. I don't have any experience on the ARDIS network myself, but I do know that their prices are higher. I've been told unofficially by a company that uses both that RAM seems to be more of an "on-the-go" network designed for quick access from a taxi or outdoors, while ARDIS has better in-building coverage. However, mine usually works fine from in a classroom or at home. So the jury's still out. The Motorola cards use the ARDIS network, and those cards have a lot of nice features. For more information on the ARDIS network, go to http://www.ardis.com and see what they have to say. I remember that the RAM site had a very interesting feature--you could enter a zip code and have it tell you what sort of mobile, on-street, and in-building coverage the RAM network had in that zip code. Very handy!

So, with my setup, I have already selected two of the three things needed: a modem and a network. Finally, I needed a service provider. I chose Radiomail service because of the many conveniences it offered. Radiomail offers service over both the RAM and ARDIS networks, so you can use any modem with it. Basically, Radiomail sets you up an Internet e-mail account that will send to your wireless modem when you get mail. Your e-mail address is youruserid@radiomail.net, where youruserid is whatever you want. That way, anybody with an e-mail account can just send you mail anytime, anywhere. You can also send faxes. If somebody doesn't have e-mail, they can call an 800 number and dictate a message to an operator, who will then send it to your modem. There is generally an extra charge for this, as well as faxing.

The coverage with this setup seems quite sufficient for most needs. It will not work away from major metropolitan areas, so it's no good for long cross-country trips. However, if you're only going a few miles from the city, you may still be able to get access. Transmission speed across the RAM network is not all that speedy; it maxes out at around 8kbps. ARDIS is designed to be faster with a max of 19.2kbps, but it's general speed is around 4.8kbps. In any case, you don't want to be e-mailing large files back and forth. Somebody once accidentally sent me a 10K bitmap and it took quite a long time to download. But for small messages, even large paragraphs, it works quite well.

The Radiomail software for the 200LX is all right. It works quite well and displays graphs of battery levels, signal strength, incoming data, and outgoing data. It allows you to store messages in folders and thus organize your mail. It has a rudimentary address book so you don't have to type in chipj234@dogbert.vax.mainframe.cs.uhq.edu every time you want to send mail to your friend. It also allows you to send a fax (text only) to any fax machine. However, there are numerous improvements that could be made. There is no mode to let you watch data transfers as they happen, for one thing. The address book and folder structures could stand to be redone. The latest version is from March 14, 1996, so hopefully a new version will come out soon. If not...sigh...

Finally, the pricing. With the plan I'm on, you pay $49.95 a month for up to 100 messages or 100K. After that, it's $0.32 a message or a kilobyte. There is a $19.95/month plan as well, but that includes no data and you have to pay $0.50 per message or kilobyte. There is also a $149.95/month plan which includes unlimited messages and kilobytes. 100 is sufficient for me, but there may be people who need more. Also, there's a $9.95/month "Power Plan" add-on to your regular account you can get which includes unlimited free operator pages (for people without e-mail) and unlimited free faxes (normally $0.99/page, I think.) Note that, while there is no charge for these services with the "Power Plan", you still have to pay for the data you transfer if you're over your limit. The billing runs by calendar month, and you don't get credit for any "unused" messages. ARDIS is $63.95 for 150K of messages, but you have to pay for faxes and operator-assisted paging. Prices have narrowed since I began my service.

So that's about it about the Allpoints card and my wireless e-mail solution. More information will be added as I think of it.

Copyright 1999, David Sargeant.
Last Updated 1-2-1999

Return to main page Product Reviews Editorials Downloads Contests FAQs Hardware Hacking HPLX.NET Affiliates Home