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Action Link
Score: 80%
Developer: ActionTec
Device Type: Miscellaneous


Function:

The ActionTec Action Link is an interesting device which allows networking of computers using the wiring in your house. The technology behind it is similar to ADSL -- the networking cards use frequencies that normal phone usage (including internet access) doesn?t utilize. Translated, this means that you will be able to network two computers through a phone line and use that same phone line to make a phone call or access the internet. Furthermore, you can set one of the computers up to access the internet and share the access with the other computer with the included ?DynaNat? software. Of course, if your fastest connection is not all that great, then sharing this connection will not make it any better... it only keeps you from tying up multiple lines. Really, the best feature of the Action Link is the fact that it utilizes pre-existing wiring to connect the two computers, without disturbing the lines? original function. That, in and of itself, is pretty slick.

Specifications:

  • Operating Systems: Windows 95/98/NT(4.0)
  • Interface: 32-bit PCI bus interface
  • Data Transmission Speed: 1 Mbps
  • Max. Home Network Transmission Distance: 500 ft (between all nodes)
  • Internet Tools: Supports all common browsers, e-mail programs, news readers, and other tools
  • Automatic IP addressing: Supported
  • Internet Gateway Selection: Supported by DynaSygate software with DynaNAT technology, automatic with manual override
  • Firewall Security: Built-in
  • Connections: Standard RJ-11 phone wiring and modular jacks
  • Operating Temperature: 0-50 Celsius
  • Humidity: 10%-90% non-condensing
  • Compliance: FCC, UL, IC
  • Warranty: Five Years

Performance:

I find that using the ActionTec Action Link to share internet access is incredibly useful. At the same time, you have access to shared files from either system. (You select what drives you want to share during the installation process.) One advantage of this is the ability to download a program onto one computer and then ?drag and drop? it to the other system. This allows you to install a program (for instance, a multiplayer demo game) on both PCs after downloading it to just one of them.

The ?DynaNat Manager? has a neat activity monitoring feature that will show graphs in real time of the server?s internet activity, as well as client RX and TX speed. This can be helpful in diagnosing where a slowdown or problem is occurring.

?DynaNat? is designed to select the most internet worthy computer and use it as a gateway to access the internet. If that computer is to be turned off, then ?DynaNat? determines the next best computer and dials in with it. While this is an efficient, unique approach in theory, there are a few problems in practice. If you have a fast ?alternative? access, such as a cable modem or ADSL line, you obviously would not want to have every computer in the house with its own costly modem. So, one computer would need to be selected as the ?Server,? and the clients could come and go as they please. If you want to use this dynamic selection feature with computers with normal modems, all of the modems have to be on the same phone line.

I attempted to have two computers with their own modem lines hooked up to the network, both being designated as server capable. When I did this, both PCs dialed up my ISP (the same account). This will get you in trouble with your ISP. From their side, it looks like you are sharing your access with another person -- and, for all intents and purposes, you would be. I find the best setup is to designate one computer as ?Server Capable?, and the others as ?Client Only?. You can dial out normally on the client computer if the ?Server? is not on. If the ?Server? is on, then you dial out with it and share the access.

The Action Link allows you to share the internet access that you already have. This is great... if you have adequate access to begin with. Think of it as two cars sharing a gas tank. If you have enough gas, that?s great -- you only have to fill one tank. If you don?t have enough gas for the first car, however, when a second car shares the gas you DO have, both of them have less than they need.

If you just want to play multiplayer games locally, you will get the best results if you close all other programs except for the ?DynaNat? and the game itself. This may be obvious, but unless you are planning to play a game online, the internet will only slow down your computer and increase your ping times. I found that pings were as low as around 36 when playing across a LAN using the Action Link. This makes for very fluid gameplay. Ping times and gameplay on the internet will, of course, be dependent on your connection rate and how many PCs are playing.


Features:
  • Uses existing phone lines for LAN data transfer
  • Allows Internet access sharing
  • Networking does not interfere with phone line usage
  • Includes ?DynaNat? Dynamic Server Management Software
  • Included trial version of multiplayer games
  • Allows for easy relocation of PCs

Drawbacks & Problems::

The software that shipped with my review unit had some issues. After downloading newer software (big download), the networking worked much better. The version of the software I am currently running is giving me no problems, so you may want to make sure that you are running at least DynaNat version 3.10.

If the ?Server? computer is interrupted by an energy saving mode or an error message, the client(s) could temporarily lose their connection. This can be remedied for the most part by disabling any of the energy saving modes though the ?Power Management? settings in Control Panel. With this done, the client can maintain a strong connection to the server and the internet. For quite some time, I had a problem with the client computer losing its internet connection and, at times, losing its connection to the server itself. After trial and error, we determined that the problem occured when the server was interrupted by an energy saving mode. With all energy saving settings turned off, however, the network worked perfectly, with the client keeping a connection to the server and to the internet as long as the server was connected.

If you have pretty good internet access and want to be able to share it between two computers, or you just want to play multiplayer games against a friend on a LAN, then the Action Link could be an excellent solution for you. This is especially true if one (or both) of the computers are subject to being relocated frequently. Simply find the nearest phone jack to the PC?s new location, and plug it in. VOILA! You have LAN. With the software that?s included, you may add up to two additional PCs (for a total of four systems) by purchasing additional Action Link Home Network Interface Cards. If you want to get ridiculous, you could choose to upgrade the software to support up to 25 PCs. (That would require a whole lot of phone jacks, though -- not to mention computers! And for those who might consider this, allow me to add that the Action Link will work with a single to dual phone jack adapter.)


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Windows Saitek Cyborg Evo Force Windows EagleMax

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated