Speedy Wireless

by Steve Bennett

Merlin Wireless PC Card For Ricochet
Rating 89

Sick of intolerably slow wireless connections when you travel? If so, Merlin’s new Ricochet PC card modem might be your salvation. Just pop this little gem into the Type II slot of a laptop or CE device, and enjoy high-speed wireless data access — provided you’re traveling.

How fast is fast? That depends. The Merlin modem is boasted to achieve 102KBPS. Speeds of 300KBPS can be realized under optimal coverage conditions, but they can also be less than 100KBPS thanks to other factors that affect radio networks. In comparison to CDPD or CDMA cellular modems that run at far slower speeds, Merlin’s Ricochet modem is a stellar performer.

The Merlin PC card modem installs easily. It also travels well; it fits nicely with the card in the supplied slip case although the integral antenna is a bit clunky.

So where’s the Kryptonite that brings down this electronic super hero? The weaknesses are twofold. First, it’s dead in its tracks if you’re not in a Ricochet service area. Also, high-speed wireless access comes at a high cost. The unlimited service will set users back about $75 per month. The modem itself starts at $100, depending on the type and length of the service plan.

If you travel within Ricochet service areas and must have high-speed mobile access, Merlin’s modem is a winner.

Novatel Wireless
$299; varies with activation plans

PROS: High-speed access on the go

CONS: Cost; limited to certain markets

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