Dynalink VoiceDesk56 Pro modemReview date: 22 April 1999.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
When you buy a cheap 56K modem these days, it still often comes with Rockwell K56flex firmware installed, which you have to upgrade to V.90 yourself if your ISP uses the proper 56K standard (see the sidebar at the right if you'd like an explanation of what all this means). Upgrading the modem firmware requires a special utility, and woe betide you if you get halfway through the process and the power goes out.
Dynalink's poetically titled V1456VQE VoiceDesk56 Pro solves the problem. Out of the box, it supports both V.90 and K56flex, and it automatically detects which of these, if either, is being used by whatever you dial with it. If your ISP still uses the unpopular X2 standard then this is not the modem for you, but for pretty much anyone calling a 56K-compatible ISP, the VoiceDesk56 Pro will suit you down to the ground.
It retails for $155 (Australian dollars), and comes with a five year manufacturer's warranty.
What you get
In days past, modems often came with one or another of the important cables missing. Like every decent modem these days, the VoiceDesk56 comes with a double-header 25 and nine pin cable to suit any PC, and the correct phone cable for use in Australia, with our big, quaint plug on one end and the usual sensible modular connector on the other.
You also get another plugpack AC adaptor for your collection, a Quick Set-Up Guide that leads you through the simple process of getting the modem working, a copy of Australian NetGuide, a software CD and and a free AOL CD as well. And AOL don't give those things away to just anybody.
The retail version of the modem, which I checked out, comes with Cheyenne Bitware v3.30.11. This package, like most software that comes free with a gadget, is somewhat elderly. It dates back to 1997, and uses a Windows 3.1 style installer and file requesters. Bitware works fine, though, and provides perfectly acceptable voice mail functions (your computer has to be on for this to work) and faxing, via the time-honoured fake-printer-driver technique.
The voice mail supports multiple mailboxes and remote access via a touch-tone phone and, of course, fully configurable outgoing messages. You can also choose for sound input and output to go via the phone handset (for remote operation), or your computer's sound card, or the modem's own 1/8th inch microphone in and speaker out connectors. The modem's internal speaker is hopelessly tinny, but the speaker out connector works perfectly.
Bitware comes on the single CD that comes with the modem, which also contains the modem driver and documentation, in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. There's a tiny installation manual and a proper modem manual, with all of the AT command and S-register information that used to be so important but, these days, can be ignored by practically all users, as the driver takes care of all that stuff for you.
As Dynalink's current flagship modem, the VoiceDesk56 Pro has the usual fancy features, if you care to use them. Its Rockwell chipset supports fax at 14400 bits per second (many fax machines don't, but many modems do), it does Simultaneous Voice and Data (SVD), so you can send files while talking to someone if you're using the appropriate software, and if you're using it as a speaker phone it's got echo cancellation features and programmable microphone gain. This, in English, means it can actually work as a pretty darn good speakerphone, when hooked up appropriately.
This is a good, solid product for the money. If you regularly dial one ISP that uses K56flex and another that uses V.90, this is definitely the modem for you. This doesn't describe most users, though; for everybody else, it just offers the convenience of working with either of the two most popular 56K standards without any fiddling. For the money, it's an excellent choice.