3Com’s “Internet gaming modem”: Nothing special?

Reader CapZap wrote in with a mention of 3Com’s new “Internet Gaming Modem,” which should be available soon. In case you missed 3Com’s announcement about this one, here’s the press release.

The question is: what is this 3Com gaming modem, and how could it be better than any other plain ol’ modem out there?

The answer, near as I can tell, is two-fold. First, this is not a software modem. A huge portion of the modems out there these days use a software driver and the host PC’s processor to get the job done. Software-based modems don’t play well with alternative operating systems, but so long as you plan on running Win9x, they generally work well enough for web surfing and e-mail. However, run a CPU-intensive 3D game (or anything else, for that matter) at the same time, and there’s the potential a software-based modem could introduce serious latency. (I mean, even beyond the usual lagginess of a dial-up connection.)

These “winmodems” are one of the few compromises of the sub-$1K PCs I really can’t stomach. If your modem says “Windows 9x required” or something along those lines in the manual, you’re probably saddled with a software modem.

Second, 3Com’s new baby is one of the few “real” modems that fits into a PCI slot. For 56K-class connections, external modems–which are always “real” modems and are generally a bit better than their internal counterparts–hit a theoretical peak when they’re coming in over the serial port at 115.2Kbps. Because a 56K modem may compress text or other simple data types to about 1/4 of original size, there’s the possibility of bottlenecking at the serial port UART. Internal modems get around this problem by having their own UART (or emulated UART) on board, many of which are capable of 230Kbps transfer rates. Since ISA is going away soon and almost all the other internal PCI modems out there are software jobbies, the 3Com does stand out from the pack a bit.

So is 3Com giving it to us straight here? Well, not exactly, but they are targeting the right segment of folks–gamers–with a product that may have some value for them. Just don’t throw out a perfectly good, “real” ISA modem for this thing expecting a huge drop in latency. To get that, you’ve gotta use my favorite type of modem: cable modem.

Comments closed
    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@proxy.icgcomm.com<]* #17 you ignorant piece of shit! \" It\'s not my modem\'s fault, it\'s not my isp\'s fault. It\'s their backbone, the gameserver\'s backbone, their isp, and possibly their connection. \" Any idea how many hops there can be between your ISP and the game server? As a server operator I constantly get barraged by poeple claiming that the server sucks, or the connection sucks or \"why this\" or \"why that.\" The server and connection are fine. Just ask the thousands who play there each month. As a server op I cant control the \'Net any more than you can as a client. If you cross ten routers to get to my server and one or more drops a packet, is that MY fault? Is it your modems fault? Neither... it\'s the INTERNET. Nothing is guaranteed here.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@cboi083p11.boi.micron.net<]* Hey \"err head\" you are a fucking idiot you know.... For your infomation there is a lot of people out there, including myself that do not have cable access and I live in an area that has almost 500k people in it. And DSL is only available if your the right distance from the phone company. And as die hard of an online game as I am, I am not going to pay out my ass to get ISDN. So why put down a something that could help the masses.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@dialup-209.246.79.16.NewYork2.Level3.net<]* Oh come\'on... Its a fucking PCI modem. I dont know about you guys, but I like haven\'t my PCI slots for cards that actually use some of the bandwidth like SCSI cards, NICs, etc. Why put a modem (which clearly belongs either on the ISA bus, or USB) in a PCI slot? Its like ATI\'s *NEW* Rage IIc on an AGP board. Hardly worth the effort of a driver install...

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@cboi142p06.boi.micron.net<]* You say that the only way to game is with a cable modem, well what about the many.... many!!!! people out there that don\'t have access to to cable modem\'s or DSL?? You say Nothing special? with out even testing it. I hope you don\'t make money off of this site, because it is crap to spit your opinion like that with out even testing it and letting everyone know if it is realy worth it compaired to a regular 56k.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@imago.com.au<]* Guys, you all have no idea (except for the 27th post by Incubus). The reason WHY 3com could make a better modem for gaming is easy to explain; 1. General modems have be configured to achieve and maintain the highest possible connection speeds at the expense of retrains. This is because most consumers are stupid and will only read the initial connect speed when making a judgement of a modems performance. I have purchased and returned 4 hardware V90 modems that I thought of replacing my aging Hayes K56flex modem. Initially I thought hey, these V90 modems are getting a 51k connection! whilst my k56flex only got 49k. But to my disappointment it was soo laggy. So I changed the init string to keep the modem speaker on the whole time and discovered that the modem was retraining almost every 5 minutes. So, a gaming modem could be designed to provide sacrifice a little bandwidth to gain alot more reliability. 2. The speed of the DSP\'s or CPU in the modem has a effect on the latency. For general modems, Joe Blow consumer doesnt really care about an extra 10-20ms of latency, so the chipset manufactures probably havnt concentrated on it either. So, a gaming modem could be provided with faster DSP\'s and reduce the latency. 3. Protocol usage and optimisation of the modulation characteristics could also be changed to minimise latency instead of maximising bandwidth. For example, although you may not want packets retransmitted if a error occurs, you still might like to use the bit-stripping feature of MNP4 and V42 which provides a 110% efficiency. 4. The PCI interface should provide a lower latency than ISA bus, and certainly less than an external modem. I have tested the difference between ISA bus modems and external modems, generally see about 8-12ms difference. 5. The interface speed can give a small improvement. With tests on ISA bus modems, I found that if I could get the UART to 230k instead of 115k, I got a drop of about 3-5ms. So, maybe even faster interface speeds will provide a little bit more ? So, if 3com had just provided all of these types of features as a default, instead of the crappy compromises most modems are set too. Add all the small improvements up and you can see that a reduction of say 40ms latency could be possible. Couple this with a reduction in retrains, and I think you\'d have every right to say your modem was optimised for gaming. So stop just saying \"I reckon\", or \"I cant see how\" when you clearly have no understanding of how a modem works.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@ip96.little-rock4.ar.pub-ip.psi.net<]* For those of you looking for a decent PCI non-software based modem. I believe that the new actiontec call-waiting modem is a full hardware modem in a PCI slot. Plus... you get the added benefit of not having to pay for a second phone line... Hey... If you want to get into some serious fragging... just enter the old *70, so some credit card company doesn\'t interupt with their 2.9% balance transfer deal. :)

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@MIAMB405-39.splitrock.net<]* Does anybody know where you can buy an affordable PCI hardware modem today? I want to know because I\'m interested in switching to Linux and paying as little as possible to make the transition, my computer doesn\'t have USB and I don\'t have a lot of desk \"real estate\" to spare anyway. I\'m sure that the mere existence of the word \"Gaming\" in the title of this product will bloat the price higher than anybody should have to pay for it. Also, Scott says in the review that WinModems are something he really doesn\'t like about \"sub $1k PCs\" but the sad thing isn\'t that WinModems are in sub-$1k PCs, but rather that they are regularly found in the $2k+! PCs. Nearly every OEM PC today uses a WinModem, sadly. WinModems aren\'t all that bad for $1k computers... if you\'re buying a computer for less than $1k, performance/gaming is probably not a top concern of yours anyway. Some WinModems are pretty reliable and fast and their limitations are, for most people, are made up for by the money saved. Also, I have to agree with the people who\'ve told some of the broadband-touters to cool down. :) Nobody who knows anything about computer b[

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[http://rescomp.stanford.edu/~cheshire/rants/Latency.html<]§ ): \"In order to decode just one single bit, a 33.6kb/s modem needs to take not just a single reading of the voltage on the phone line at that instant, but that single reading plus another 79 like it, spaced 1/6000 of a second apart. A mathematical function of those 80 readings gives the actual result. This process is called \"line equalization\". Better line equalization allows higher data rates, but the more \"taps\" the equalizer has the more delay it adds. The V.34 standard also specifies particular scrambling and descrambling of the data, which also take time. The theoretical best round-trip delay for a 14.4kb/s modem (no compression or error recovery) should be 40ms, and for a 33.6kb/s modem 64ms. The irony here is that as the capacity goes up, the best-case latency gets worse instead of better. For a small packet, it would be faster for your modem to send it at 9.6kb/s than at 33.6kb/s!\" Indeed if gaming is your can of broth you may find that old 14.4K modem faster than the new 50K modems. If the game in question is using very small packets just lower the connect speed on your quasi 56K modem to the older standards and see if you get better lag performance. Best of all this costs you nothing but some time. Turn any modem into a gamer modem: 1)Shut off \"error control\" 2)Shut off \"data compression 3)Lock your port spead at 9600 or 14400 baud 4)Disable hardware and software flow control 5)Set your comm port spead to 9600 or 14400 baud to match 3 above

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@73.albuquerque-01-02rs.nm.dial-access.att.net<]* Unfortunatly not everyone in the wotld will have access to a Cable Model or DSL/ADSL line in the near future. Here in New Mexico the local phone company (USWorst) has not as of yet deployed DSL and the local cable company (comcast) has not made any statements of when or if cable modems will be available. So I have ordered one of the Internet gaming modems to try and see if it will help with the Lag and packet loss problems that I experience here. I have tried several different ISP\'s and have found the most reliable connection and lowest ping to be with AT&T. That and the fact that they have not screwed up my billing like MCI worldcom and copmpuserve did. Those 2 companies both like to keep billing you for months even after you cancel service. When you like to play quake and have no choice but to use a modem then you try to do whatever you can to make it better. The money i save by not having a DSL line has more than made up for the cost of a new modem.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@drazen.dsl.speakeasy.net<]* ok now.... you can buy nice hardware modem for $30...duh! second of all, DSL & Cable are not avaiable in all areas...true... but then again who cares? I have my own and I love it! As for the cost... $80 per month for 768kbs ADSL isnt too much - I mean, poor american kids, they dont have $80 per month :) (p.s. if I ever move, I would check avaiablilty of high speed access in my area :))

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@1Cust51.tnt1.lafayette2.in.da.uu.net<]* Uh, to the technician who can\'t spell and others who believe winmodems are just as good as a regular \'hardware\' modem. Wake up out of your dream. I have worked with several winmodems in the past few years and they\'ve always been far behind the hardware modems. Ping/packet loss/latency all suffers drastically, not to mention the fact that winmodems have short life spans and have been known to mysteriously die.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@ro02-24-29-229-80.ce.mediaone.net<]* I have just one question to a select few of you. Why is everyone here so worried about taking up a slot? No mater what type of connection you use to connect to the Internet, odds are you will use one of your computers built in slots. For instance, a cable modem, t1, dsl, or any other \"high speed\" connection requires a network card connected to you pc. Just like a modem requires a slot inside you pc. If you are worrying about pci slots in your pc, you need to buy a i[

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@proxy2-external.wyn1.pa.home.com<]* The last two posters need a bit of updating... First off, yes, most all modems these days ARE winmodems, particularly those sold as OEM equipment bundled with systems. You may not be aware of it, but just about any modem under $100 is a winmodem. The poster before \"Your modem for most part don\'t mean jack. I\'m a computer technitian that has worked on\" : You\'re too damn illiterate to even take seriously- why don\'t you go back to school and learn how to spell? Not to mention that you\'re dead wrong. Winmodems WILL take CPU cycles, and while that may not affect ping, it may well affect PACKET LOSS. Ping ain\'t everything folks.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@andr19-24.resnet.Colorado.EDU< ]* Maybe I\'m just way behind the times, but I\'ve never seen a software modem (and I\'ve seen a LOT of modems). Just because a modem says it requires Windows doesn\'t mean it does all the signal processing on the host CPU. The idea seems pretty silly when DSPs cost a few bucks at most. Out of curiosity, how do you recognize a software modem? What process starts when you turn on the modem? How much CPU time does it suck down? Did you examine the chips on said modems? None of them have DSPs, flash ROMs, etc.? -Thomas.Kerrigan@Colorado.EDU

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@hyper3-120.wctc.net<]* Your modem for most part don\'t mean jack. I\'m a computer technitian that has worked on many systems with many different modems. Whenever I see one I havn\'t used before, I quickly benchmark it to see what it\'s capable of. I\'ve gotten better ping times with \"winmodems\" on an isa slot than hardware based external voice USR\'s. The only modems that I have tried that really suck are the diamond supramax, now that is total crap. Any time of the day I can ping my server at 78ms with zero packet loss. I\'ve let it run on a 5000 ping loopback and still maintain that average. Now when I go online to play Q3 or the lag-o\'-death Unreal TE, my ping times greatly vary. I know it\'s not my isp, it doesn\'t drop from me to them, but somewhere, hopping down the line, I drop packets and the pings fluctuate. If I play between 1am and 10am I can kick most anyone\'s ass, lpb or not with a 160-180 ping. Anytime during the day, that goes up to 300-600 with huge packet loss. That new modem won\'t do crap for this problem. It\'s not my modem\'s fault, it\'s not my isp\'s fault. It\'s their backbone, the gameserver\'s backbone, their isp, and possibly their connection. Any for all these jackasses that say 56k is dead, they need to wake up. My town is getting DSL within 2 months and cable modems within a year, but there are MANY towns and cities around the country that will be waiting multiple years for anything better than 33.6 service.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@proxy.mirage.com<]* Just to fill some of these peope in.... not everyone has access to a cable or DSL connection. And believe it or not many PC users will NEVER have this option available for them unless they move. Many posts here say \"with DSL and cable coming in everywhere....\" Well its not like that stuff gets put in over night. Two years from now, there will STILL be a lot of areas that dont have either one. We arent getting cable for another 6 months(projected, but Im sure it will be longer) and god knows when DSL is coming in. And for a real life example, my co-worker who lives about 5 miles away is NEVER getting cable access. So a modem is not a \"useless\" piece of hardware and a waste of a slot.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@gateway.topeka.k12.ks.us<]* Jello for the masses!

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@208.219.99.94<]* Well, the way I see it, the only reason you need to use the PCI slot is because the ISA slot is going south. ISA has more than enough speed and bandwidth for what you can max-out on a 56k. I have a 3COMM Faxmodem (no voice) 568703 and with the proper tweaks (compression disabled, the right init string, network tuning) I play a 150 to 200 ping 30miles from my ISP!! It would take a helluva lot more modem than that to beat what mine does now. And yes, if we had cable out here, then I would get a cable modem. Some of you need to realize that cable modems aren\'t everywhere, nor ADSL or other line types, so we make do with what we can. On the note of \"gaming mode\" and \"normal mode\" if you know anything about modem tweaking, you know you will lose a bit one way or the other when you tweak your modem for one set thing. If you go for \"normal use\" you will lose a bit on the gaming side, namely in higher ping. And if you go for gaming, you might suffer from slower downloads. I have mine set to a trade off, I get 5k/sec download and play a 150 to 200 ping. Anyways....I am happy, and I don\'t think this new \"Gaming Modem\" is anything but a pre-tweaked, normal faxmodem, that wastes a PCI slot. I hope they don\'t put a high price on it (over $120) or else you would be better off with a normal faxmodem and a little effort towards tweaking it.

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@hurricane.mph.msu.edu<]* <P>The article here seemed to dismiss the idea of USB modems. These externals do not have the bottleneck issue presented by the author. My Viking USB modem uses approximately 10% CPU dowloading at around 44Kbps. My recently dismissed Creative PCI WinModem used about 44% while my Diamond ISA non-WinModem posted about 22% usage.</P <P>As far as I can see, the only means to increase the transmission rate and/or drom the ping time of a modem is to re-work the protocols used (software), enhance the connection (sotware), or re-work the core modem architecture (HW). The first two approaches can be acheived by streamlining your net connection (packet size and protocols) and getting the latest drivers for your modem (which dropped my ping by 10-20 ms on my Viking). A hardware solution would most likely make your modem impotent when connected to another non 3COM gaming modem. It sounds to me like 3COM is refining drivers and calling it a new modem.</P> <P>I am truely sceptical that 3COM has anything new or exciting to offer here. USR modems are the best that can be acquired retail, for a price, but this gameing modem sounds like a hoax.</P> <P>I will believe it when I see it</P> <P> <P><FONT SIZE=+5 COLOR=#FF0000>E</FONT><FONT SIZE=+4 COLOR=#AA0000>I</FONT><FONT SIZE=+3 COLOR=#770000>D</FONT><FONT SIZE=+2 COLOR=#550000>O</FONT><FONT SIZE=+1 COLOR=#330000>L</FONT><FONT COLOR=#110000>O</FONT><FONT SIZE=-1>N</FONT>

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@max01-fy-98.fy.anc.net<]* This \'product\' should have been released 4 years ago. Even before 56k was announced. Modem companies are always touting their bandwidth when that is not the problem with games. I have a 128k ISDN and im using a ROUTER for my connection. I\'d say a very High Performance setup. I get virtually zero PL and my pings go as low as 70. ( A server at my isp would ping me 30-50). I\'d prefer ANY digital line from the phone company if I had the choice between that and cable. The cable companies dont have the money or technology (or they are just greedy) to update their technology and bandwidth. (IE you will see Cable users with 50PL) If you already have a INTERNAL modem you will probably want to skip this new modem. GO DIGITAL ...

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@m4.c2.telstra-mm.net.au<]* My gaming modem which is not a 3com gaming mode = no modem compression, no error correction (if your line is good quality) mtu of 576 then run your rate as a multi of 576 example 4300 gives me a 95-100 ms ping to gaming servers on my isp as for all the hype its still not a true gaming modem as 56k modems give you frame rates of below 70 any serious gamer would want cable dsl etc with a 75+ frame rate

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@r96a011070ag.atw.cable.rcn.com<]* \"So you didn\'t do any real-world latency comparisons between this modem and standard modems? And still posted this?\" not that im criticizing the reviewer or the person who posted this but once you have a cable modem... you realize what a sham \"56k\" really is. no matter what they do its still gonna suck :P

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@208.49.213.107<]* So you didn\'t do any real-world latency comparisons between this modem and standard modems? And still posted this? Kerry

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@mia1-wc2.atlas.digex.net<]* how much is it supposed to cost?

    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

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    • Anonymous
    • 20 years ago

    *[Anon@cs2735-163.austin.rr.com<]* Here\'s an additional tidbit about the 3com modem based on nothing but the press release and ignorance: :) <snip> \"This CD contains the 3Com Gaming modem configuration tool, which allows users to either enable or disable the modem

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