What is a Bluetooth PC Card?

R. Kayne

Bluetooth® is a wireless technology that connects personal electronics together to create a personal area network (PAN). The great advantage of Bluetooth® over other wireless technologies is that it is extremely simple to add devices to a PAN with just a few clicks, thereby making them interactive. Interactive devices can swap files, photos or music, synchronize data, or send print jobs to Bluetooth®-enabled printers. If your mobile computer does not have a Bluetooth modem built-in, an aftermarket Bluetooth® PC Card might fit the bill.

Bluetooth connects personal electronics together to create a personal area network.
Bluetooth connects personal electronics together to create a personal area network.

Most mobile computers are equipped with an expansion slot, formerly known as the PCMCIA Card slot, or PC Card slot for short. The specifications and form factor have evolved through the years along with the name, with the newest iteration being the ExpressCard® slot. Products made to utilize these slots are referred to as PC Cards, but it is important when buying a PC Card to make sure it is compatible with the specific slot type of your laptop.

A Bluetooth® PC Card will allow you to effortlessly create a PAN between your mobile computer and office equipment, cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), or digital player. The only prerequisite is that these devices also have native Bluetooth® or Bluetooth® adapters installed. Using a PAN you can send print jobs wirelessly from your laptop to the printer, synch your calendar and PDA, transfer photos from your cell phone to the laptop, or pass music files from your hard disk to your digital player to name just a few examples.

There are two main classes or standards of Bluetooth® commonly used — the relative difference being how far each broadcasts and how much power it uses. Since Bluetooth was designed for battery operated devices like cell phones, Class 2 is the most ubiquitous standard with a modest but adequate range of up to about 33 feet (10m) and low power consumption. A Bluetooth® PC Card, however, is also available as a Class 1 product, extending that range to about 328 feet (100m) since power consumption is not an issue in this application.

If your PC Card slot or ExpressCard® slot is occupied, or if your machine did not come equipped with an expansion slot, you might opt for a USB Bluetooth® modem instead. This product will provide the same functionality, though some people find it a little less convenient because the modem will protrude from machine. Modems of both types are fairly inexpensive, though the Bluetooth® PC Card form factor might be costlier than USB models, and Class 1 modems will be more expensive than Class 2 modems.

You can get a Bluetooth® PC Card anywhere computers and personal electronics are sold. Remember to check the type of expansion slot your machine has, to ensure compatibility.

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