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                       REVIEW: Supra 28.8k FaxModem
                           By:  Jason Compton 
===========================================================================

28.8k modems are getting cheap enough to give them a serious look.  Supra
is one of the most respected names in the business, so when they wanted me
to review their modem I was all for it.

Months of using it later, I'm FINALLY getting around to writing the review.

The Supra comes as two different packages: A Mac or a PC bundle.  You'll
want the PC bundle as that one will come with a 25-to-25 serial cable
compatible with the Amiga.  As cables go, it's nice.  The modem also ships
with some PC telecom and fax software, but you're on your own as far as
getting Amiga software goes.

Note, however, that you're not entirely on your own as an Amiga user when
it comes to this modem.  Supra sold a number of Amiga-specific hardware
products in the past and unlike many other companies, they haven't
forgotten the business of the Amiga community.  You'll find an Amiga tech
support number listed in the manual, and they have Term on their
ftp.supra.com FTP site, as well as GPFax drivers.

The modem itself is housed in a small rectangular case, virtually identical
to their 14.4k model.  The power button is front-mounted, as are four
flashing LEDs and a small LED letter display, used for a variety of
purposes.  The letter display indicates your state of connection, any
errors that arise, and updates you on the current connect rate and
compression.

The internal flash ROMs are constantly being updated.  While Supra has in
the past created Amiga-specific flash programs, a recent revision of the
romcode gave the modem a special self-flashing mode which allows you to
upload new ROMs TO THE MODEM itself.  The latest ROM is nearly two months
old and still has no Amiga flasher, and the FTP site encourages Amiga users
to either use a different machine to flash or use the built-in mode.

The Supra supports the official v.34 high-speed protocol.

The built-in speaker is about as annoying as any modem's, but recent ROM
updates have made the speaker act more "silent" while truly off.  (Earlier,
even an atm0 would not stop the modem from clicking when dialing was
initiated and hangups were made.)

As far as connections go...well, real world usage is the best way to test.
Real world use of the modem in an MLink network setup to Xnet at 28.8k
tends to give me in the range of 2700-3000 usable CPS.  (That is, I can
have an FTP session pull down 2600-2800 CPS while text-based clients
continue to update).

Real world benchmarks:

Machine 1 is an A3000, 030/25, with Supra 28.8k FaxModem, running
Terminus, using artser.device.

Machine 2 is an A1200, 020/14 stock, with Supra 28.8k FaxModem, running
VLT, using serial.device.

Thanks to Steve Judd for Machine 2 for testing.

Tests are done on crosstown phone lines of questionable quality, which
resulted in a connect rate that fluctuated between 26 and 24kbaud.

Machine 1 -> Machine 2 at 57.6k serial rate
-------------------------------------------

File Type                          Time of Transfer    Average CPS
---------                          ----------------    -----------

283529 byte file, LZX'ed                1:43              2753
Result reflects 3 errors in transfer.

We then set the serial rate down to 38.4k.

Machine 1 -> Machine 2 at 38.4k serial rate
-------------------------------------------

File Type                          Time of Transfer    Average CPS
---------                          ----------------    -----------

282285 byte file, text                  1:20              3529

755549 byte file, LHA'ed                4:13              2986

Machine 2 -> Machine 1 at 38.4k serial rate
-------------------------------------------

File Type                          Time of Transfer    Average CPS
---------                          ----------------    -----------

113549 byte file, LHA'ed                0:44              2581

282285 byte file, text                  1:21              3485


Remember that the rates reflect a very non-ideal situation, in which our
modems were unable to negotiate a true 28.8k connection to each other over
the phone lines.  The modems do renegotiate on the fly, and watching the 26
and 24 displays flip is not an uncommon sight for me.

Is the Supra a high-performance product?  In my experience, yes.  I'm
certainly getting significantly increased transfer rates over a 14.4k
modem.  Our benchmark test between two Amigas returns some results that may
be lower than you'd expect, but the A1200 was hampered by a lack of
accelerator or fast RAM.  (It's in the shop.)

The company is still well aware of the Amiga and makes an effort to
accomodate its users.  At the same time, they put out a high-quality piece
of hardware at a decent price--I've seen mail order offers around US$190.
If you're looking to give your Amiga a communications boost, and want to
get continued support for your machine, the Supra 28.8k FaxModem is a good
choice.

Supra Corporation
7101 Supra Drive SW
Albany, OR, USA  97321-8000

(503) 967-2400  Main line
(503) 967-2493  AMIGA & Other Products {9A-12N M-F}
supratech@supra.com, amigatech@supra.com