Windows Phone Thoughts: Use your PC Cards in a Type 1 CF Slot

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Friday, January 24, 2003

Use your PC Cards in a Type 1 CF Slot

Posted by Anthony Caruana in "HARDWARE" @ 08:00 AM

The Compact Flash to PC Card Adapter lets you use PC Cards, such as Wireless LAN Cards, with the iPAQ Compact Flash sleeve and with devices like the HP Jornada that donít have support for PC Cards. In this review I take a look at this product and let you know if it's worth it.



There are a great many PC Card peripherals available. In general, these are cheaper and easier to find that their Compact Flash equivalents. The CF to PC Card adapter lets you use Type 2 PC Cards with any device that has a Type 1 CF Slot.

Where To Buy
The CF to PC Card Adapter costs USD $25.99 from Semson and Co. plus delivery. Mine took about a week to arrive from when the order was confirmed. Pretty good response as I am in Melbourne, Australia.

Why do we need a CF to PC Card Adapter?
I recently bought an iPAQ 3850 and have been looking to accessorize. I acquired a CF sleeve and was looking for a way to add PC Card functionality without the bulk of a PC Card sleeve. This adapter lets me carry just one expansion sleeve and use my PC Card peripherals. This adapter also allows devices that are limited to a Type 1 CF slot to use PC Card peripherals. This is a great solution for Jornada 54X users and at just 17 grams this device adds a lot of value to my iPAQ without adding much to the weight and size.


Figure 1: The adaptor in an iPAQ 3850

Installation and Use
Installing the adapter is the easiest thing in the world. Just slide it into your CF slot and voila! There are no drivers to install. The adapter is a passive interface that basically connects the appropriate CF connection pins to their PC Card counterparts. As far as I can tell it does not have any effect on battery life until you connect a PC Card peripheral to it.

The connecter between the CF part of the device and the PC Card interface is made of a very flexible rubber material. This allows the PC Card to be folded back onto the back of the Pocket PC. As you can see from the picture below, the connector is very flexible. When you hold it in the palm of your hand you can hold the card hard against the back of the Pocket PC.


Figure 2: The adaptor with a WLAN card in an iPAQ 3850

I have used the CF to PC Card adapter with a Compaq WL100 WLAN card and a DLink DWL-650 Wireless LAN card. Both cards work exactly as if they were in my old PC Card sleeve. The vendor also states that the adapter is compatible with memory card adapters, PC Card hard drives, ATA Flash PC Cards, Modem cards, LAN Cards, GPS Receiver Cards, GSM/GPRS Cards and Communications Cards. The keep an updated compatability list on their Web site.

Gotchas
There arenít any real problems with this product. However, be aware that PC card devices can drain a battery quite quickly. The Compaq PC Card sleeve counters this with its built-in battery. The CF to PC Card adapter is a compromise between portability and battery life. As my iPAQ CF Sleeve lacks a card eject button I have to pull the adapter out with my fingers. The connection between the rubber interface and the CF card feels pretty strong but Iím not sure how long it will last. If you live in a particularly dry climate Iím not sure how well the rubber will last before it starts to perish. However, I doubt that this will be much of an issue in most environments.

PC Card hard disks, while compatible with this adapter, may not really be suitable. The flexibility of the interface means that it may be difficult to keep the hard drive still. However, I doubt that youíd have any problems if you held the drive against the back of your Pocket PC.

Conclusions
I used to own a PC Card sleeve for my iPAQ and recently sold it in favour of this adapter. The battery life issues arenít much of a concern for me. Its portability makes it a winner in my opinion. It is cheaper than a CF sleeve for an iPAQ and it has the advantage of being usable in my old Jornada 548. If you are looking for a cheap way to add PC Card functionality to your CF equipped Pocket PC then I recommend this product. If battery life is a major concern for you then you might be better off with a different PC card solution such as the iPAQ PC Card sleeve.

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