Mini-PCI slot wireless card?

Discussion in 'Wireless Networking' started by MS, Jul 24, 2004.

  1. MS

    MS Guest

    I just realized, in looking at the manual, that my NEC Versa Daylite
    Notebook Computer has a mini-PCI slot. I have never used such a slot before,
    don't know much about it.

    I see on the net, however that there are mini-PCI wireless cards. This
    notebook did not come with built-in wi-fi, although it has a built-in wired
    NIC. In fact, recently I purchased a PC card wi-fi card for it.

    I believe the PC card I purchased is still within the return period,
    however, so if the mini-PCI card is a better option, perhaps I should get
    one of those and return the PC card.

    For instance, following is the URL for one of the mini-PCI wireless cards I
    found on the net:

    The part name is:

    Intel Pro/Wireless 2200BG Centrino Mini PCI card

    I wonder about the word "Centrino" in it. Does that mean that such a card
    would only work with a notebook that has the CPU called "Centrino"? (My CPU
    is Pentium 4M.)

    (If the Centrino part is a problem, there are also other mini-PCI wireless
    cards without the word "Centrino".)

    Should such a card work on any notebook that has a mini-PCI card slot?

    If it would work, it looks more convenient to me than the PC card, as it is
    fully inside the computer, like those that have wireless capability
    built-in. The PC card types stick out of the computer, the part sticking out
    acting as an antenna. I guess the internal type, like the mini-PCI card,
    must have an internal antenna. Does that work as well? Any disadvantages to
    the internal, mini-PCI card wi-fi card, as compared with PC card or USB
    external cards?

    I only end up sticking the PC card in when I am going to use it, as it
    sticks out, and also I figure must be a drain to the battery. But then I
    have to remember to take it with me, in case I have an opportunity to use
    wireless. Might be more convenient to have the capability built-in, ready
    all the time. Is the internal kind also a battery drain? (I guess one could
    disable it in Control Panel when not using it.)

    I would appreciate any input into this soon, as I think I only have a few
    days left in which I could return the PC card.

    What other peripherals are available in mini-PCI format? I saw a dial-up
    modem-NIC combination, but I already have those built into the notebook? Are
    there any other good kinds of peripherals I might consider for that slot
    instead? Sound cards that are better than the built-in notebook sound cards?

    Thanks in advance to anyone who has some feedback on this issue. :)
    MS, Jul 24, 2004
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  2. I just realized, in looking at the manual, that my NEC Versa
    There are three questions you need to find out the answers to:

    1) Is your notebook "wireless ready", that is, does it have wireless
    antennas installed?

    2) Is the mini-PCI slot open, or is it already occupied by another device
    such as the "built-in" Ethernet or modem?

    3) Does the NEC's BIOS allow you to use wireless cards other than the ones
    that NEC supplies? Some notebook manufacturers have started to restrict the
    use of wireless cards other than the ones they provide, presumably so that
    they can certify that the entire system meets Part 15 FCC requirements.

    You can answer the first two questions by removing the panel that covers the
    mini-PCI slot and taking a look. There should be two cables with tiny round
    connectors on the end. A mini-PCI card is about 2" by 2.3", with an edge
    connector on one of the longer edges.

    For the third question, you would have to ask NEC or someone who has
    experience with these machines.
    Yes, as long as the machine meets the other requirements above. Centrino is
    an Intel marketing name that refers to a machine that has their mini-PCI
    wireless, a Pentium M processor, and a specific system chipset.
    Generally, mini-PCI cards work better because they have better antennas,
    typically two antennas in the LCD housing instead of the single antenna
    found on a PC Card. And they are certainly more convenient too.

    Depending on the specific card, there may be a utility that lets you turn
    the radio on and off without having to disable and enable the card in Device
    Manager. (It's quicker to turn the radio on or off.)


    Michael Geary, Jul 24, 2004
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  3. MS

    Andrew Guest

    Mike pretty much nailed it - do what he says. I'll add that I
    installed a mini-PCI WiFi card in my Toshiba and am glad I went that
    way. In my case, the laptop does not have USB 2.0 so I occasionally
    need to plug USB2.0 card in one of the PC Card slots. If I had the
    external WiFi card, I'm not sure the two would both fit at the same
    time. In any case, it is nice not to have something else sticking out
    the side of the computer.

    Installing the mini-PCI card was easy in my instance: one screw to
    expose the slot, and the Agere card I bought (I think it's Toshiba's
    OEM card) works great. It took me about 15 minutes to install but
    only because I was being extremely careful in installing the antenna.

    ----> Portland, Oregon, USA <----
    ----> <---- Photo Albums and Portland Info
    ----> To Email me remove "MYSHOES" from email address
    Andrew, Jul 25, 2004
  4. MS

    MS Guest

    I don't know. I don't recall seeing any designation to that effect,
    "wireless ready", in any flyer, or on the unit itself, or in the manual.

    Don't the wireless antennas come with the wireless card?
    I haven't yet opened it, but the manual has a section about how to install a
    device into the mini-PCI slot. If that were already occupied by one of the
    built-in devices, I don't think that section woudl be there, they probably
    would not mention the slot.

    In the picture of the bottom of the laptop, in the manual, with the
    descriptin of the various ports, etc., it lists "Mini PCI Module
    Bay---Contains a socket for the installation of an optional Mini PCI module
    (when available)".

    That doesn't say much. What do they mean by "when available"? I looked on
    the NEC web site, and couldn't find any info on it. I called tech support,
    and the message said no support on the weekend. I'll probably try again
    Monday, but quite likely I'll wait a long time, and finally speak to someone
    who knows nothing about it. (Seems to be a common occurrence with "tech
    support" these days. Someone in India or China answers the phone, getting
    paid 10 cents an hour, they don't understand you, and know nothing about the

    That "when available" statement sounds like they were planinng to make an
    accessory (like a wireless card?) that could go into that slot, but perhaps
    they never did. I don't see anything like that on the site. (And the model
    has been discontinued.) (Versa E120 Daylite)

    As I asked in the original post, are there other kinds of peripherals that
    could go in a mini-PCI slot? Or only--modems, LAN, or Wireless LAN?
    MS, Jul 25, 2004
  5. MS

    Andrew Guest

    : : > There are three questions you need to find out the answers to:
    : >
    : > 1) Is your notebook "wireless ready", that is, does it have wireless
    : > antennas installed?

    : I don't know. I don't recall seeing any designation to that effect,
    : "wireless ready", in any flyer, or on the unit itself, or in the manual.

    : Don't the wireless antennas come with the wireless card?

    No - with an internal mini-PCI WiFi card, the antenna is inside the
    laptop. You have to connect up the antennas to the card. This is the
    hardest part of the installation.

    If your laptop doesn't have the antenna wires already installed for
    a mini-PCI WiFi card, I wouldn't bother trying to install one.

    ----> Portland, Oregon, USA <----
    ----> <---- Photo Albums and Portland Info
    ----> To Email me remove "MYSHOES" from email address
    Andrew, Jul 25, 2004
  6. Don't the wireless antennas come with the wireless card?

    No, the antennas are installed in the notebook at the factory.
    Best not to assume anything. :) I don't know about the NEC, but on a
    ThinkPad, there's just one door to remove on the bottom of the machine, and
    then you can see the mini-PCI socket and the antenna cables. That's a sure
    way to tell if the machine is "wireless ready".

    But even if it's "wireless ready", no promises about a third-party card
    working. For example, my (relatively) old ThinkPad A30p will work with any
    mini-PCI wireless card, but the newer ThinkPads only allow you to use cards
    that IBM provides.
    Mostly modems and networking. I haven't seen any other types of mini-PCI
    cards, but that's not to say there aren't any.

    Michael Geary, Jul 26, 2004
  7. MS

    MS Guest

    What do they look like? Wires inside the card slot?

    Since there was no notation of "wireless ready", or any mention of putting a
    wireless card there, I suspect not. But I'll take a look.

    No way to get the antennas with the card? They have to be pre-installed in
    the computer?
    Then, if the notebook is not "wireless ready", I wonder why they even
    include an empty, user-installable mini-PCI card slot, mentioned in the
    manual. The computer already has a built-in modem and LAN. If the slot is
    only for modems and networking, and wired versions are already built into
    the computer, one would think that the mini-PCI slot would be for a wireless
    LAN. But then, one would think it would be advertised as "wireless ready",
    and the possibility of a wireless card being installed there would be
    mentioned, etc.

    I'll take a look inside, and perhaps contact NEC about it as well. I am
    thinking it was perhaps an oversight, that maybe they originally planned to
    make the notebook "wireless ready", included the slot, but changed their
    mind later and didn't include the antennas.
    MS, Jul 26, 2004
  8. Don't the wireless antennas come with the wireless card?
    You won't see the antennas themselves, only the antenna cables: Typically
    two thin round cables with small round connectors at the ends, at a right
    angle to the cable.
    The cables run to another part of the computer, typically up inside the LCD
    housing. If they aren't there, you'd have to take the whole computer apart
    to install them, and they are different for each computer.
    Imagine that you are a manufacturer building two models of the same notebook
    computer, one with wireless and one without. For whatever reason, you have
    chosen not to preinstall the wireless antennas in the non-wireless model
    (cost, perhaps). Now, do you design, build, test, and inventory one system
    board for the two models, or two different ones? True, you'd save a few more
    cents by not including the mini-PCI slot on the non-wireless model, but that
    saving would be overwhelmed by the cost of having to support two different
    system boards.

    Also, mini-PCI slots are used for other network devices and modems, not just
    wireless. It's possible that your "built-in" network or modem actually
    occupy the mini-PCI slot.

    Michael Geary, Jul 26, 2004
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