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AZTECH 56K Turbo Modem Review

Date: 25th December 98
by Matthew Fam Kai Liang

WaveCom 56K Modem Pro

- The Good
- The Bad
- Test System Configuration
- Conclusion
- Rating

- Other reviews
WaveCom 56K Modem Pro

 

AZTECH Singapore has once again, dished out its top-of-the-line modem with the launch of the AZTECH 56K Turbo External modem. Not quite known to many local buyers that AZTECH is actually the third largest manufacturer of modems in the world as of 1997(according to Dataquest), they are also the first company in Asia to launch a V.90 compliant modem. Currently, AZTECH has about 3 model of modems to choose from, and there will soon be a new 'x2' chipset based external modem coming out soon.In this issue,we look into its most powerful packed external modem with a 2MB ROM built-in.

AZTECH modem are available in 1 internal model(2MB) and 2 external models(1/2MB) versions, each with a standard 5 years warranty.In this review,we introduce the 2 external models to you.the 1MB ROM "AZTECH 56K External" and 2MB version "AZTECH 56K Turbo",both of which are powered by the Rockwell chipset.

AZTECH 56K Turbo External modem comes with a fairly usual box like the rest of the AZTECH products. But when it comes to buying a modem, the thing you definitely have to do before rushing into purchasing one is to check out on its pricing and the features the modem is packed with.

Modem Specifications

Modem External
Modem Firmware Version V2.083-K56_2M_DLS/v47.22 (24 Aug 98)
Data Mode Capabilities
  • V.90 ITU/K56flex Standard
  • V.34, V.32bis, V.32, V.22bis, V.23, V.21, Bell 212a, Bell 103, V.80
  • Voice Compression
  • IMA ADPCM
  • TAPI 2.0 Compliant
Data Compression V.42bis, MNP Class 5
Data Error Correction V.42 LAMP & MNP 2-4
Fax Mode Capabilities Send & Receive speeds up to 14.4kbps
Voice Mode Capabilities Telephone Answering Machine Support (TAM) & DTMF Detection
Others Mode Supported VRPI and V.80 - Synchronous access for POTS video conferencing
Caller ID support
Audio Span: V.61 (Simultaneous Voice Data) — optional

 

These are the contents of the box:

The Good

The All in One Modem - V2.083-K56_2M_DLS

Aerodymanically-designed,the AZTECH 56K Turbo is fast and convient.The modem includes the installation drivers in CD-ROM version and also a 9 pin RS232 serial cable,so those guys with a 25-pin port must remember to buy the converter first before installation. Measuring at approximately 5cm by 4cm, the AZTECH 56K Turbo is a pure white modem with a dark plastic LED display at the centre.Come with just a on/off switch for your usual desktop need.There is nothing much you can complain of especially of it sleek and plentiful numbers of LEDS.

The All in One Modem?

Featuring a truely idiot-proof product design for the use with most operating systems in the market,including the popular Win95/98 and Win NT,with the help of the Quick Setup manual that comes with the modem, I could get a internet connection within ten minutes of installation (includes meddling with the software part of course!). Designed to be plug and play, Windows 98 detected the modem immediately. After searching for the various drivers and softwares found on the CD-ROM, the AZTECH 56K Turbo Modem was installed without much hassle.

AZTECH have included a V.90 firmware update for this modem.The V.90 protocol, finalized this past September, puts an end to the K56flex/x2 compatibility issues that have kept consumers confused for over a year. The V.90 standard is the result of a compromise among the x2 and K56flex camps in the modem industry. Most modem manufacturers jumped the gun and began offering V.90-compatible modems last spring.Today, any 56K modem you buy contains either native V.90 code or is flash-upgradable to the standard.
AZTECH ensures that you will be able to surf at 56K speed using the latest code and fully backward compliant with Rockwell's "K56Flex" 56K protocol.It is also nice to know that AZTECH is the first manufacturer in Asia to adopt the V.90 ITU-T 56K standard.If you are among the few AZTECH 56K modem users whom are having only the 'K56Flex' codes on your modem.Kindly visit AZTECH website to download the latest V.90 firmware now.This will ensure that the modem will work with any local ISPs(Internet Service Providers) regardless of what server they are using.

The overall LEDs display found on the AZTECH modem are also quite abundant with most of the necessary displays all incuded.But for the full list of LEDs,LED lights abbrevation are defined as follows:

* AA (Auto Answering) => lights up when the modem is configured to answer the ring automatically.

* TR (Terminal Ready) => lights up when the computer raises the Data Terminal Ready (DTR) line, indicating it is ready to begin communications.

* CS (Clear To Sent) => lights up when the data transfer path is clear for data transmission.

* OH (Off Hook) => lights up when modem is connected to another modem and off hook.

* CD (Data Carrier Detect) => lights up when modem detects a carrier signal over the telephone line.

* SD (Send Data) => lights up when the modem transmits data to the computer.

* RD (Receive Data) => lights up when data is receive by the modem.

And of course a fax modem features does not just ends here, the 56K Turbo has the ability to send or receive faxes. With the accompanied "Microsoft Fax" software bundled with the modem,you can easily access to your friends or send and receive faxes for your company directly under your control.

The modem also doubles up as an answering machine.Installing the bundled "Trio DataFAX Voice 5.1" is a simple task,it integrates all of your communications activities (fax, voice, and DOD) into one simple interface. It is the most comprehensive, easy-to-use PC based fax solution ever. With the fullest selection of fax, voice mail, speakerphone and document-on-demand communication features imaginable, Trio has created a total desktop solution that will have you available around the corner or across the world - quickly and simply..

In the earlier portion of this review,we have mentioned about the 2MB ROM which is onboard this modem.You might be wondering what does it represent? Usually,modem data are collected and stored in their ROM or RAM chip when collected for transferring.With a larger ROM/RAM chip,more data would be able to transfer to the modem at the same amount of time.As such,AZTECH have 2 version of its external modem range.The 1MB and 2MB ROM version,both comes in a indentical white modem case.You might not be able to spot the difference and therefore unable to justify the extra cash you have folk out for the 2MB version.


Aztech modem with 1MB ROM

Singapore Hardware Zone reveals the beauty behind as we explore into the depth of the modem.Here is how you indentify if your modem is the 2MB ROM version of the series.By going into the Control Panel/Modem/Modem Properties, look under the 'Diagnostics' folder,highlight the COM 2(or the particular COM if yours is a internal model) and click on the "More Info" box.It will then show a new windows box showing you the various information about the modem.Look under the white box at the lower part.Under ATI3, you would be able to see the initialising string of 'V2.083-K56_2M_DLS' ,refer to the highlighted '_2M_' which actually refers to the ROM size on your modem.And in this case 2M stands for 2MB ROM.


Notice the more complex box design on the 2MB version which have a 'Turbo' behind the 56K.

Singapore Hardware Zone's Exclusive BENCHMARK

- Refer to 'Test-Bed' table for equipment used in this benchmark.

Singapore Hardware Zone exclusive "BENCHMARK" corner is just right here.We whipped the full potential out of this modem.Cracking out the juice of the chipset to satisfied your desire.Let us now take a closer look.

We made use of SINGNET's extensive servers of Ascend Max 4048 and 3Com USRobotics Total Control Hub to do our benchmarking. These two servers are the reasons why you have been enjoying 56K connections in Singapore all the while.We dial into SINGNET's 4 different dial-up numbers,which are :

1) Toll-Free Dial-up Line (Tel: 5371800) - Ascend Server
2) V.90 & K56Flex Line (Tel: 5379700) - Ascend Server
3) V.90 & x2 Line (Tel: 5379000) - 3Com Server
4) V.90 & x2 Line-2 (Tel: 5379900) - 3Com Server

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- Modem's benchmark scores -

ISP / Standards
Server used
SINGNET-I (x2/V.90)
Ascend Hub
SINGNET-II (x2/V.90)
3Com Total Control
SINGNET (K56/V.90)
3Com Total Control
SINGNET Toll-Free
Dial-up Number 5379900 5379000 5379700 5371800
Connecting Rate(avg) 49.3Kbps (49333) 49333 50.6Kbps (50667) 50667
Connecting Rate(high) 49.3Kbps (49333) 49333 50.6Kbps (50667) 50667
Avg Download Speed* 40.8 - 46Kbps 40.8 - 46 38.1 - 45.1Kbps 38.1 - 45.1
Avg Download Time* 3.40 min 3.42 min 3.25 min 3.36 min
Max D/L speed(Netscape)* 4.7K 4.7K 4.6K 4.6K

Benchmark Dialer/s Location : Toa Payoh (North N6,Singapore)
Phone number/s used : 35x-xxxx / 25x-xxxx

*Download File : Savage 3d Driver Ver 6.13 (1.0 MB) - http://fun.s-one.net.sg
Estimated Download Time for S-ONE users: 9 Seconds
Estimated Download Time for 33.6Kbps Modem users: 5.1 Minutes

 

- Refer to 'Test-Bed' for benchmarking equipment -

AZTECH modem scores rather well in connection rates.At a minimum of 49.3Kbps and a maximum of 50.6Kbps on the SINGNET's Ascend RAS dial-in numbers.Downloading speed are rather average compared to other models.What is outstanding would be the extremely affordable price-tag on the modem.At just S$115** for the 56K Turbo,it offers comparable performance to the more expensive models selling in Sim Lim Square,Singapore.The modem currently also offer Internet package bundled as similar to others brands in the market.But at 20-30% cheaper than competitors.The modem also offer strong points in which all the necessary LEDs and power on/off button are found on this affordable models.Many manufacturers would have cut cost on this to sell at such a price.And for just S$71,the 1MB ROM version will be your cheaper alternative.

The benchmark results are nothing much suprising.We tested the modems using two of the most common remote-access servers (RASs) used by ISPs and businesses, an Ascend Max 4048 with Rockwell digital modems and a 3Com Total Control with 3Com U.S. Robotics chip sets. Both were upgraded to the latest V.90 code. Generally, the Rockwell/Lucent chipset based modems performed better with the Ascend RAS, which may be explained by the RAS types used by modem vendors for their own internal testing. The 3Com modems performed better with the 3Com RAS--not an unexpected result.

A must thing to note is that when purchasing a modem.You must also ensure your ISPs(either Pacific Internet,SINGNET or Cyberway) have the right type of RAS on their side.Notice that SINGNET have 4 different dial-up numbers which deployed the ASCEND RAS on the '5371800' and '5379700' dial-up line and 3Com RAS on the other 2 numbers.The benchmark scores also reflect that when the Rockwell chipset based AZTECH modem dial into the ASCEND RAS,it is able to achieved better average connection rates of 50667bps compared to the 49333bps on the 3Com RAS.Downloading time were also reduced when using the ASCEND RAS.

SINGNET offer such unique 2 RASs for its customers.Being the fact that it tested both of the 'x2' and 'K56Flex' technologies earlier in the year when it held the public trial.Cyberway also offer 2 different dial-up numbers for its customers whom have a 'x2' or 'K56Flex' chip.Although all are V.90 compliant sometime back.It shows how important if you were to dial into the correct RASs as to obtain the best connection and downloading rates.Pacific Internet is the only exception as 3Com's USRobotics modems or the Texas Instruments based chipset modem will have lower connection rates and downloading speed.Due to the fact Pacific uses ASCEND RASs only on their servers.

Although all of Singapore's Internet Service Providers have flashed their servers to be in compliant with the ITU V.90 standards,end users' side modems are still holding the same chipset that powered modems sold several months ago.What V.90 offer is a common standard.Not the best in connecting or downloading speed,it just ensure your modem works everywhere around the world and not just any 'x2' or 'K56Flex' support.In searching for the highest connecting rates and fastest download speed.You have to buy a modem that suit the ISP's end server.

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The Bad

AZTECH have a weak software bundle to this modem,though the price is truely affordable.The accompanied softwares are so minimum,nothing compared to the more expensive offerings.They just ensure your modem power on and life goes on as usual. Another thing about the modem is that because of its casing design, it somehow leaves me an impression that it is very flimsy. But then again, I suppose that explains why the modem bears such a low price tag.

A bad point to note is that AZTECH did not bundled any 9-pin to 25-pin converter for those whom have a 25-pin serial cable port on their modems. Maybe Aztech would like to look into this matter ?

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Test System Configuration

Processor(s) Pentium II - 532
Ram 64MB 100MHz SAMSUNG '-G8' PC-100 SDRAM
Motherboard ABIT BX6
HardDrive(s) IBM Deskstar- 8.4GB
Operating System MS Windows 98 Build 4.10.1998
DirectX Version MS DirectX Version 6
Other software used Nil
Video Card(s) DIAMOND Viper V330 v0.128 (PCI)

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Conclusion

Its just truely a too good to be true bargain for end-users.If you are not looking for any peaks or frills like brands name or classic designs, then this AZTECH modem certainly will be Singapore Hardware Zone's recommended choice for 'Most Value For Money' modem.A feature packed external modem with features like V.90/K56Flex,Digital Answering Machine ,Fax capability,230bps throughtput and a extremely affordable price-tag of S$ 71.00 for the 1MB model and S$ 115 for the 2MB model, it does really seem to be a tempting bargain.

Since analog modem's speed technologies are already on the maximum horizon,this would probably be the last ever analog modem you would ever owned.


MODEM RATING

Overall Rating (Out of a maximum of 5 Star)

Installation ***1/2
Performance ****
Price *****
Software Bundle **1/2
Material Quality ***
Overall Rating ****

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Aztech Systems Limited (SESDAQ: AZTECH)

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Copyright 1998, Singapore Hardware Zone. All rights reserved.
Last updated January 01, 1999.

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