Belkin Bluetooth Access Point
The popularity of Bluetooth is slowly making its mark on consumer technology, whether it's built into laptops or being introduced into cameras, it's a technology that is trying its hardest to stay in the picture.
While Wi-Fi is slowing taking over on the internet connection side, there are still products that could benefit from a Bluetooth Access Point and usually do so. Enter Belkin with a device that will allow you to access your network and USB Printers through Bluetooth devices.
The size of two CD cases stacked on each other the small, grey plastic unit tries hard to blend in with the desktop environment. Across the front are a series of easy to read indicators displaying relevant connection details such as LAN connection, USB and of course Bluetooth. Like its Wireless G routers and gateway products, the unit only displays a series of lights that blink when data is being transferred although there is no way of telling signal strength from the hardware alone.
Rear-mounted connectivity is comprised of one Ethernet 10/100 port for connection to a network (however you'd need your own cable, you don't get one in the box) and the very useful two USB 1.1 slots for connection to two separate printers.
Setup is all performed via software through a web interface and you will need a network connection to the device to access the web screens. The interface not only looks great but it's functional too, allowing you to get up and running quickly and easily.
Once the unit's working, you can access it using any Bluetooth device. Because of the network connection you can use it to share files with your mobile phone or PDA. Print serving, while possible, is very basic. Don't expect to be able to get detailed stats on what your printer is thinking or doing for that matter, neither can you kill any pending or in-process print jobs from the Access Points interface.
Because of the access to your network you can, as with all Bluetooth devices, encrypt your connection and make your Access Point discoverable to all on sundry or password protect it. If you choose the latter you can opt to have up to seven simultaneous users all sharing the access point and it also supports clients using Bluetooth's 128-bit encryption standard.
The system itself is very easy to use, but why Belkin couldn't include an RJ45 Twisted Pair cable in the box for easy connection to your network is beyond us. This seems especially stingy considering that without a network connection the unit becomes a paperweight (and not even a heavy one at that).
While Bluetooth is becoming a force in the mobile and PDA market, using it as printer server technology may be stretching the technology too far when compared to Wi-Fi and the hardware accompanying the roll out. However if you are one of the many users with Bluetooth on their PDA and haven't yet succumbed to the power of Wi-Fi, this does offer a stopgap solution.