The good folks at Hayes submitted two modems for evaluation, one internal and one external. This review concerns only the external model for reasons that will become apparent.

The Accura models support both the new international ITU-T V.90 standard and the proprietary Rockwell/Lucent K56Flex standard. The Accura modems are set to auto-detect either standard and adjust themselves accordingly. If need be the user can set the default to either K56Flex or V.90.

Each Accura modem came with a CD-ROM containing start-up software for several prominent ISP’s as well as copies of both major web browsers. The box art proclaims that "Free Internet Accelerator Software" is included but if its there, I couldn’t find it.

The external Accura is housed in an attractive, sleek white case with the appropriate LEDs located at the front. A quality metal power switch is located at the rear of the unit as are all data, power and phone connectors. The Accura does not have an external volume control. An external modem cable is not included with the unit.

Installation

Installation of the external Accura went fairly smoothly. Windows 95 (OSR 2.1) detected it immediately and accepted the included driver diskette. Following installation of the "ACCURA 56K EXT FAX" however, Plug and Play also found a "Hayes Accura 56K Modem" and asked for the drivers for it. Windows accepted the drivers diskette and upon checking the System folder in Control Panel I could only find a reference for the "ACCURA 56K EXT FAX." Where the other "modem" went I don’t know. The unit worked fine despite this glitch.

Along with the driver issue, the test Accura external also has a tendency to keep the red "CD (Carrier Detect)" LED lit even though the modem was clearly off-line. This does not seem to affect the phone line as it remains clear and the Accura will dial out with the "CD" LED lit.

The internal version of the Accura was not as co-operative as its external cousin. Using an Aopen AX5T-3 motherboard the modem was first detected as an "ACCURA 56K INT FAX" and the drivers were installed. Windows then reported finding a "Lucent Venus Modem" and asked for drivers for that device. Windows would not accept the Hayes Accura drivers and this part of the installation was cancelled. Upon entering the System folder I discovered that the modem was not functioning. All drivers were removed and I tried again. The same results were encountered so I switched to a Dell Optiplex system for another kick at the can. The Dell only detected the "Lucent Venus Modem" and again would not accept the drivers from Hayes. I searched for a fix at the Hayes tech support archive without success. I am still awaiting a solution from Hayes and will report on the internal Accura when it is up and running.

The Tests

As I had already established that my phone line is capable of "56K" throughput using the 3Com/USR test line, I immediately dialed up a local K56Flex ISP and began testing. Through 30 dial-ups the Accura consistently achieved a 44K connection, no more, no less. As would be expected I had better overall performance from less heavily-trafficked web sites and during the wee hours of the morning.

The first test I put the Accura modem through was a Smartupdate from Netscape. With a 44K connection the Accura downloaded the 7.4 MB Communicator 4.05 upgrade in an average 25:42, with the best time being 24 minutes exactly and the worst 27:33. An 181K zipped bitmap image from the Canadian Airforce image archive (www.achq.dnd.ca) took an average 47 seconds at 44K, while downloading the compressed 755K Pkzip file from Winfiles.com took an average 2:23. In one memorable blast, the Accura download 384K of the Pkzip file in 3 seconds when a 74K/second burst came through. This just goes to show you what these modems can do under the right conditions! Finally, downloading the 2.1 MB compressed .EXE Stealth II driver update from www.Diamondmm.com took the Accura modem an average 7:58. Through all these tests the Accura external maintained a rock-solid connection.

The Accura 56K loaded web pages much more crisply than the average 33.6 modem. Email was also sent on its way noticeably faster. Anandtech’s front page loaded (cache cleared) in an average 14 seconds and the heavily-graphic laden Diamond Monster review at Tom’s Hardware Guide loaded in an average 1:12 with the cache empty.

Overall the Hayes Accura V.90/K56Flex modem proved a stable and quick performer, albeit one with a few idiosyncrasies. The driver issue may prove a problem on some systems and the unblinking "CD" led is an annoyance. An external volume control knob would make a nice addition for those of us who need to ensure the phone line is free before dialing out. Do avoid the internal version of the Accura modem until I find out whether its driver problem is unique to my test unit.


Hayes V.90/K56Flex Accura External Data/Fax Modem
Website: http://www.hayes.com
Street Price: $160.99

By Colin Saunders

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