FriendlyNet USB Bluetooth Adapter, by Asante
Posted: 23-Jan-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Asante Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: HARDWARE

Description
Have you started looking at all those cool Bluetooth devices, but bought your Mac before Bluetooth was an option? Or perhaps you have a new Mac but did not include Bluetooth because you thought that you'd never use it. Whether syncing to a wireless mouse or wireless keyboard, or even to your cell phone, Bluetooth is really coming into its own now. Bluetooth devices are getting smarter, more ergonomic, and battery life is improving. With all of the wireless products available, right now is a great time to go wireless. The only question left is how to get your Mac to support Bluetooth. You could purchase a Bluetooth adapter to install in your Mac, but that may be costly, more hassle than its worth, and depending upon your Mac model, it may not even be an option. There is an easier way to add Bluetooth capabilities to your USB Mac running Mac OS X. Simply buy a USB Bluetooth adapter that plugs into your Mac's USB port, and your Mac instantly has Bluetooth capabilities.

One such device is Asante's FriendlyNet Bluetooth USB Adapter. The Asante adapter enables you to transfer and synchronize data between your computer, PDA, cell phone, printer, headset, or any other bluetooth equipped devices.

Product Description
With the growing popularity of Personal Area Network (PAN), Asante is proud to introduce the new FriendlyNET Bluetooth Wireless USB Adapter. With the Bluetooth wireless technology you can seamlessly connect between Bluetooth enabled devices such as computers, cellular phones, PDAs, printers and other emerging personal connectivity devices. The FBT100 Bluetooth Adapter complies with the latest Bluetooth 1.1 standards and supports wireless data transfers of 723Kbps at ranges up to 33 feet. It is compact and portable design makes it ideal for notebook users.

Features

  • Wirelessly connect your Bluetooth-enabled devices mice, keyboards, cellular phones, PDAs, printers and more! (Some 3rd-party software may be required.)
  • Compliant with Bluetooth 1.1 and Plug-n-Play USB 1.1
  • Up to 723 Kbps transfer rate
  • High visibility blue status LED
  • Supports Mac OS X v10.2 (including iSync) and Microsoft Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP


Sounds great, right? But there's an important difference from the more well-known WiFi brand of wireless. As opposed to WiFi, which is considered a Local Area Network (LAN) with a range of 300ft. (in an environment with no solid objects to block/deflect signals), Bluetooth has a range of approximately 30ft (with the same stipulation abaout interference) & is considered a Personal Area Network (PAN). This isn't a bad thing, it's just different. You can surf or grab email with Bluetooth anywhere you have a cellphone signal, for instance, as well as using a Bluetooth Access Point like the FBT100 to connect multiple devices for mulitple purposes.

Pricing
The FriendlyNET Bluetooth USB Adapter retails for $45. Adding an internal Bluetooth module to an iMac costs $50 when ordering a new iMac, so the adapter is not only easier, it's cheaper. Shop around, and you'll find even a better price. I've seen it priced as low as $23 on the internet.

Requirements

    Any Mac running Mac OS X (10.2.8 or higher) with a USB port.


In Use
This FriendlyNET Bluetooth USB adapter comes in a stylish thin green translucent casing with a flashing blue LED. The adapter sent for review is not the same as the blue FBT100 that is displayed on Asante's web site or other retailers. It is the next generation adapter. Unfortunately, you will not see this adapter pictured anywhere because as of this review, Asante has discontinued it's Bluetooth adapters (to focus on routers and other hardware).

The adapter emits two flashing blue pulses at all times (whether a Bluetooth device is detected or not). When the adapter is paired with another device (such as a mouse) and the device is in use, the pulsating blue light changes to a steady blue light (and then goes back to the double pulse when activity stops). The light may seem cool at first, but during periods when you simply aren't using a Bluetooth device, the pulsating light can grow annoying. I would prefer if the light only activated when it was paired with an active device, and stayed off otherwise.

I really liked the thin translucent green casing, which makes it a shame that the adapter has been discontinued. This is the thinnest adapter I have seen. It's just a tad longer than most other Bluetooth adapters, extending 2 1/4" from my USB port.

Using the adapter is incredibly simple. Assuming you are running under Mac OS X, 10.2.8 or higher, all you have to do is plug this into your USB port, and you immediately have Bluetooth support on your Mac. Activate any Bluetooth device within range, go under the OS X Bluetooth menu (or the Bluetooth preferences) and you can immediately sync the device with your Mac and begin using it wirelessly. I tested this adapter with several Bluetooth mice, and they all were paired without any problems. I never lost connectivity in hours of testing, so this is a very reliable and inexpensive alternative to having a built-in Bluetooth module. The only downside versus the built-in module is that the adapter will use up one of your precious USB ports. However, USB hubs are very inexpensive these days, and given the number of USB devices available for Mac OS X, it is likely that you will need (if you don't alread have) a USB hub anyway. I tested this USB adapter in my USB hub, and it runs just as well in the hub as it did in the native USB port.

Summary
The Asante FriendlyNET adapter is a USB Bluetooth adapter that adds Bluetooth wireless technology to any Mac running Mac OS X. It is less expensive than the Apple Bluetooth module, and provides the exact same functionality; albeit, it does take up a USB port. If you are looking to use wireless devices with your Mac such as cell phones, mice, keyboards, and PDAs, this device is an easy and inexpensive way to get there. On the Mac, it requires no software installation at all. The only thing that I didn't particularly care for is the pulsating blue "sensing" light that is on whenever your Mac is on (if it's behind your Mac, this is not an issue). The Asante adapter is the thinnest adapter I've seen. Whether you are looking to add Bluetooth technology to your existing Mac, or are wondering whether you should purchase the Bluetooth module with your new Mac, the Asante FriendlyNET adapter provides a stable and robust Bluetooth interface. It's a shame that Asante discontinued the product, but if you can find one available, it is definitely worth considering.

Pros

  • Reliable Bluetooth support for wireless devices
  • Inexpensive alternative to built-in Bluetooth module
  • Stylish green translucent case with thin design
  • Strong and stable signal

Cons

  • Annoying pulsating light even when no device is paired
  • Uses up a USB port
  • Discontinued

Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice