Get Your Modem Running

When you're out on the highway, make sure you're going as fast as you can ...

You'll never keep pace with e-mail traffic if your modem is a Model-T. As more people use the Internet for a variety of business purposes, the attachments and files you receive get larger. One way to cut your time online and increase your productivity is to use the fastest modem available. Most online service providers support faster modem connections, so make sure you're cruising with at least a 14.4 KBPS modem. Additional horsepower is available in the modems listed below.

Your Cyberlife: The Desk Jockey

The Challenge: Handle a large volume of e-mail without spending hours online.

Power Tool: Practical Peripherals's ProClass PC288 LCD V.34.

Most external modems are enigmatic little black boxes with blinking lights that don't tell you what's going on. The ProClass PC288LCD V.34 keeps you informed with a big, bright liquid crystal display. It features more than 50 different status messages, including the connection speed and the number of fax pages received or sent.

The ProClass delivers speedy 28.8 KBPS performance and kicks out faxes at 14.4 KBPS. It's one of the more reliable modems I've tested. Practical Peripherals markets this model in versions for PCs and Macs.

Coordinates: $459. Practical Peripherals, 770-840-9966; http://www.practinet.com

Your Cyberlife: The Road Warrior

The Challenge: Hook up to a phone line anywhere, anytime.

Power Tool: Megahertz XJ3288.

Almost all laptop computers use internal modems these days. But even internal PC Card modems can require special cabling. Forget the cable on a trip, and you can't get online.

After lugging various laptop computers around the country, I've found the best modem by far is the Megahertz XJ3288. Adhering to the V.34 communications standard, this PC Card fax/modem delivers top error correction and 28.8 KBPS performance. It features the patented XJACK, a pop-out connector that accepts a standard telephone jack plug -- no more extra adapters or special cables. It's also automatically recognized by most PCs and comes in a version for Mac PowerBooks.

Coordinates: $389 (includes cellular cable). Megahertz/Mobile Communications Division of U.S. Robotics, 800-527-8677; http://www.megahertz.com

Your Cyberlife: The Cybernaut

The Challenge: Cruise the Web or exchange massive files online with ease.

Power Tool: Motorola's BitSURFR Pro.

If waiting for a file to download raises your stress level, you need a digital phone line and a digital modem (a.k.a. terminal adapter). Most regional phone companies now offer ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) for as little as $20 a month. That gives you bit-curdling speed.

The package comes with all the information your local phone company needs to configure the ISDN line for the BitSURFR Pro. Once that's accomplished you plug it into your PC or Mac. Because it has a built-in analog-to-digital converter, you can plug in a regular phone, fax, or modem and use it online as well -- your computer polls for e-mail, while you're on the phone.

Coordinates: $495. Motorola Information Systems Group, 800-365-6456; http://www.mot.com/MIMS/ISG