New buyer looking for answers

Posted on 1998-10-14
Last Modified: 2013-12-27
I have a couple of questions therefore I'm assiging a lot of points to this post.

First,  is there any speed differences between an external modem and an internal modem.  I am thinking about upgrading my modem to a 56k but I don't want to remove my current modem for several reasons.  However, I don't have any open ISA slots and I'm having a difficult time finding a quality modem that fits into a PCI slot.  I know they are out there but apparently no stores around my area want to carry them.  During my search I cam across the US Robotics external modems which seem like a great idea but I am not sure sure if there would be any NOTICEABLE speed differences.  Are there?

Second, how difficult is it to have two modems in a computer at the same time.  Could there be any serious hardware or software problems?  I have a Micron 133mhz with 80mb of RAM, an 8.5 GB hard drive and I'm using Windows 98.  

Third, if I find a cheaper brand modem that fits into a PCI slot, is there a real difference between it and a more expensive model such as a US Robotics or a Supra KFLEX?

And Finally,  my ISP uses the new V.90 standard which they just upgraded from the old X2 technology.  Should I buy a modem that supports both the X2 and V.90 or will a modem that supports KFLEX and V.90 work the same?  Since the new standard is V.90, I think it won't make a difference as long as my ISP supports it but I've been told otherwise by friends.  Please set the record straight.

Thanks for your help!

Question by:mkelley
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Expert Comment

ID: 1145120
The bottleneck on all high speed modems is the phone line.Transfer rate from modem to system is 115,200 baud for 28.800 modems and up.So even if an external was slower,it's still a case of 'hurry up and wait'.In theory an internal ISA modem has the capability of transferring data to the bus faster,as does a PCI internal over an ISA internal;but as mentioned this capability is not used.Two advantages that an external has are the LEDs for a quick visual status,and the ability to cycle power on it if you suspect it's hung without bringing the system down.

Two modems in the same system is no problem,as long as they have thier own unique resources (COM port and IRQ).Win9X is especially suited for this.

PCI modems let the CPU do more of the work,but once again the extra overhead pales in comparison to the phone line 'soda straw'.However,as far as branding is concerned,you usually get what you pay for.Even with the same chip set,a quality modem will most times beat (as in more consistant high speed connections and less drop-outs) a cheaper one due to differences in firmware and support components.Not to knock all of the no-names.We've used some that we're very happy with,and others that range from fair to just-don't-work.Lately,the TI chip set generics are our favorite.

As for multi-protocol modems,as long as they support V.90,it makes no difference what the other protocols are.But once again,here's a case where quality may count.

Accepted Solution

jdornan earned 600 total points
ID: 1145121
The PCI slot is preferable but it probably wont be a noticeable difference. The two modems is no problem if you have the resources for them. They must not conflict and can be alittle tricky to configure sometimes. The big payoff if you have two modems is that the new shotgun technology will allow you to use two modems to connect to your ISP at twice your modems speed IE 2X56K =112K Cool  huh?? V.90 is a standard once a modem is flashed to V90 it is no longer a flex or X2 they are all the same

Author Comment

ID: 1145122
It sounds like the best choice for me is to go with the external modem for two reasons.

1.  The installation is much easier for an external modem since I won't have to open up my tower case plus I don't need to worry about tracking down a PCI modem which I been having trouble finding.

2.  I won't see any difference in speed by using an external modem compared to an internal modem.

Is there anything I need to know about an external modem's setup that might make it more difficult than setting up an internal modem?  And would you recommend using an external modem?  And finally, do you have any preferences of brands other than US Robotics and Diamond Supra that perform as well as the expensive brands?

LVL 12

Expert Comment

ID: 1145123
> Is there any speed differences between
> an external modem and an internal modem.

Possibly.  If you have an older motherboard,
or I/O board, you may have a slower chip on it.
So, connecting an external modem through this
slow chip creates a problem; an internal modem
will have the "faster" version of this chip,
thus bypassing this potential problem.

> I find a cheaper brand modem that fits into
> a PCI slot, is there a real difference between it
> and a more expensive model such as a US Robotics or a Supra KFLEX?

Sometimes, there isn't.
For example, the Cardinal Connecta internal X2 modem
uses the same board & chip-set as the USR V.90 Sportster,
i.e., obtained from Texas Instruments.

> my ISP uses the new V.90 standard which they
> just upgraded from the old X2 technology.
> Should I buy a modem that supports both the X2
> and V.90 or will a modem that supports
> KFLEX and V.90 work the same?

V.90 is V.90, although you may get slightly-better results
with an X2/V.90 modem, when connecting to an X2/V.90 ISP.
The "quality" of the telephone-company's copper-wires
between your modem and the telephone-company's digital
network is more important, and will have a greater effect
on "speed" than your choice of modem.

> do you have any preferences of brands other
> than US Robotics and Diamond Supra that
> perform as well as the expensive brands?

The Cardinal (Hayes) Connecta X2 modem is my current recommendation,
at about 1/3 of the price of the identical US Robotics mdoem.
It's "flash-upgradeable" to V.90,
via Cardinal's web-site (


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