Review Posted January 30, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
The Treo 750 is a great smartphone that comes up short in one area: WiFi. If you need that local area wireless networking technology because you lack fast 3G coverage at home or work or wish to connect directly to your work Intranet over WiFi, then you're in luck. The Spectec miniSD WiFi 802.11b card is a great companion to the Treo 750, Treo 750v and other WiFi-less Windows Mobile 2003/Windows Mobile 5/Windows Mobile 6 Pocket PC and Pocket PC phone and Smartphones with a miniSD slot supporting SDIO (i.e. the Motorola Q and Motorola Q9m).
The 1.5 gram Spectec card is amazingly small and the antenna cap protrudes only a few millimeters out of the card slot. It comes with a CD that includes drivers and a utility for Windows Mobile 2003, 2003SE and Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PCs/Pocket PC phones. It can be used with a miniSD to SD card adapter should you wish to use it in a Pocket PC that has an SD card slot, though Spectec sells SD 802.11b/g SD cards as well.
The software CD includes drivers for a variety of Spectec products, so be sure to select software for the SDW-822 for installation on your Treo 750. You have the choice of installing just the driver, or the driver and a WLAN management utility that's primarily designed for Windows Mobile 2003 and isn't compatible with some Windows Mobile 5 PDAs and phones. In fact, the utility isn't compatible with the Treo 750, giving a "can't open channel" error. No big deal since WiFi support is built into Windows Mobile 5 (though it's well hidden on the stock Treo).
After installing the driver and inserting the card, go to the Palm Wireless Manager application accessible from the right softkey menu on the Today Screen. You'll notice that WiFi has been added to the existing Bluetooth and Phone control buttons on screen, though the WiFi button doesn't actually turn the card on and off. The menu (cleverly labeled "Menu") now lists WiFi settings as an option. This takes you to the standard Windows Mobile 5 wireless card management screen where you can manage your connections. Before you even get there, the little WiFi icon at the top of the task bar on the Today Screen has probably already informed you that wireless networks are in range and is asking you if you wish to connect to one of them. Note that there's a 5 to 7 second delay before the Treo gets the card up and running, and you'll see a very, very small green LED on the card blink when it's active. Don't both going to the Wireless Manager until the card is ready and don't pull it out if nothing happens immediately.
The card protrudes only a tiny bit and the door over the card slot rests behind it on the Treo and hangs loose on the Motorola Q9m.
We found the card and driver to be reliable in our Treo 750. Occasionally if the Treo powered off, it might not find the card so we removed and re-inserted it and were ready to go again. As with all networking cards, the Spectec miniSD WiFi card does drain power. The Treo's standard 1200 mAh battery was taxed a bit and we managed to use up 50% of the battery when using the card to surf the web and test Skype for 1.3 hours. That said, the card consumes only an average of 90mA, which is quite good.
Speeds were decent at 800k as tested on DSL Reports mobile speed test. Ironically, that's slower than 3G speeds with HSPDA enabled in strong coverage areas, and a bit slower than the Cingular 8525's built-in WiFi. But it's not bad and we found media streamed well, email attachments downloaded quickly and web sites loaded fast. Note that the Treo 750 ships with Cingular's proxy enabled for IE only (this is controlled by a registry entry and not an easily accessible setting page). This means that IE will not load pages if you use a WiFi card unless you edit the registry to remove the proxy or use a different web browser such as Opera or NetFront.
Range is acceptable, and we got about 40 feet through walls compared to 65 feet with the Cingular 8525 and even more with a full-sized notebook. Greater range would require both a larger antenna and higher power consumption, neither of which are desirable.
Skype didn't do well with the Treo 750. This isn't Spectec's fault, as it didn't do well using Cingular's HSDPA high speed wireless service either. We tested the high and low (fast and slow CPU) versions of Skype 2.1 and with each we got dropped syllables, 10 second lapses in audio transmission but decent sound (when sound did transmit) using the Treo's included headset. Using the speaker and mic built into the phone yielded lots of echo (even with echo cancellation on) and odd sounding feedback. Skype 2.2 beta (both high and low) crashed when we tried to initiate or receive a call. Perhaps when the final version of 2.2 ships, the Treo will be supported.
If you need WiFi in your Treo 750 or Treo 750v, the Spectec miniSD WiFi card is pretty much your only choice. Fortunately, it's a good choice that works well.
Approximate Price: $60 too $100 depending on retailer
Power consumption: 60 mA receive and 116 mA transmit.
Security: supports WEP, WPA and WPA_TKIP.
Compatibility: Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition and Windows Mobile 5, Windows CE 4 and 5, Linux on the Samsung 2410/2440. The device must support SDIO Now! 1.0. Devices with SD slots that don't support this standard include the Toshiba e400, Toshiba e350, Toshiba e310, Motorola MPx220 and Dopod 818 Pro. Most other devices are supported, see Spectec's web site for additional information.