Sony Ericsson GC79

  • Editors' rating
    8.8 Outstanding

Pros

  • Slick installation and good software client/manager
  • WLAN and GPRS in one device
  • good performance
  • surprising bonus on the WLAN front

Cons

  • Second SIM required
  • expensive

Unveiled back in the spring at CeBIT, Sony Ericsson’s new GC79 wireless PC Card has finally seen the light of day. But the wait has been worth it: the GC79 adds wireless LAN functionality to the feature set of the card it supersedes, the GC75, a tri-band GSM/GPRS PC Card. Plug the GC79 in to your notebook, and you now get the best of both wireless worlds -- fast Internet access when you’re in a Wi-Fi hotspot and decent (but not quite so fast) Internet access when you’re elsewhere.

The GC79 supports all three GSM bands (for global voice connectivity) as well as GPRS class 10. The GC79 additionally supports the GPRS CS-3 and CD-4 coding schemes, which -- when implemented by the network operators -- will give 62 and 85Kbps download rates respectively. At present, the fastest download rate it supports is HSCSD’s 57.6Kbps. So, no complaints about its mobile capabilities.

The GC79 is also notable for being one of the first mobile devices to support the upcoming EAP-SIM standard, based on the 802.1x Extensible Authentication Protocol. This lets network operators bill for Wi-Fi hotspot usage via their GSM network billing system. At the moment it can be a bit of a palaver to access a ‘pay-for’ Wi-Fi hotspot. However, with EAP SIM-enabled devices running on EAP-SIM-compliant networks, users will be able to access Wi-Fi networks transparently, the charges being added to their normal phone bill. It should also permit automatic, seamless transitions from GPRS to Wi-Fi and back, considerably simplifying roaming.

Compared to the GC75, the GC79 has largely lost its protruding antenna and only projects a modest 15mm from a PC Card slot, which means you can now leave it inserted all the time. Aside from that, the GC79, like all PC Cards, is a rather plain affair, lacking even an activity or status LED. Like the Vodafone Mobile Connect, the GC79 is purely a data device, so there’s no provision for a headset. However, we can’t imagine anyone having the patience to boot their notebook just to make a mobile phone call, so this isn’t really an issue.

Installation in an old Windows 98-based Gateway notebook proved remarkably hassle-free -- the thing just ‘worked’. We simply extracted the GPRS SIM from an Orange SPV, slid it in to the pocket on the side of GC79 and inserted it in the notebook. The supplied front-end software, GC79 Manager, made it simple to get connected – we were online within a couple of minutes. You can also configure the GPRS and Wi-Fi settings and compose SMS messages from the same utility.

The GC79 worked well when using GPRS. It also worked well on Wi-Fi, although there was an unexpected bonus here. Despite being clearly labelled as an 11Mbps 802.11b device, our GC79 had no problems connecting to our Linksys and Netgear 802.11g 54Mbps access points at speeds considerably in excess of the promised 11Mbps!

Specifications

Phone Features
Voice Dialing No
Cellular
Band GSM 850/1800/1900 (Tri-Band)
Details
Antenna Fixed-length
Display
Display Indicators Voice message waiting, Text message waiting
Battery
Installed Qty 1
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty

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