Putting Bluetooth to the test
In CNET Labs' tests, the 3Com PC Card performed well. Our small network consisted of two notebooks equipped with 3Com's Bluetooth PC Cards, a desktop equipped with 3Com's Bluetooth USB adapter, and an HP DeskJet 995C Bluetooth printer. The computers found each other and the printer quickly and automatically. We sent print jobs across a distance of about 30 feet and through three walls. Bluetooth radios are generally rated for a range of about 10 meters, and 3Com's excellent antenna design appears to promise every inch and then some, even in the face of a little RF obstruction. As expected, data throughput for 3Com's Bluetooth adapter pales in comparison to that of 802.11b devices.
3Com also offers one of the better support plans in the business. The Wireless Bluetooth PC Card comes with a limited lifetime warranty, compared with the standard one-year warranty offered by competitors. Toll-free phone support is available for only 90 days, but you can probably find most of the answers you need on the 3Com Web site, which offers drivers, manuals, and a searchable knowledge base.
WPAN, WLAN, and home networking
3Com's Wireless Bluetooth PC Card performs capably within its limits. If you want to network two or more computers, we recommend a cheaper WLAN solution. But there are scenarios in which Bluetooth makes sense; you may want to access the Web through your Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone or, perhaps, set up a simple wireless-printing connection with a Bluetooth printer. If a WPAN solution is what you need, 3Com's PC Card adapters are a good choice. They are well designed and competitively priced (compared to other Bluetooth cards), and they conform to the latest Bluetooth specification.
| Bluetooth/802.11b comparison throughput test |
Practical throughput measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
How we tested |
For practical-throughput-rate tests, CNET Labs ran a series of hand-timed file transfers. The Bluetooth PC Cards were set up to transmit at short ranges and at maximum signal strength.