V.92? V.90? V.34? 56K Modems? Baloney? Winmodems = Controllerless Modems and assign controller functions to the computer processor. Controllerless modems are cheaper. There is one lower level yet, and that is the Softmodem, where the both the controller and Data pump functions are handled by your Windows Software, leaving only the Data Access Arrangement on the tiny little modem card.. The U.S. Robotics website doesn't admit to selling a Softmodem, but their model USR5660A is listed on there. They seem ashamed of it.
Being a softmodem, it was dirt cheap: equivalent of £7.00 in Canada after rebate, so I bought one. Waste of time.. The V.90 and V.92 standards that allow 56k connections are only possible on good quality telephone lines, namely ones where the telephone company runs digital links to an analog converter in your nearby neighbourhood. And then your ISP has to have V.92 capability, and there must be no more than one Analog to Digital Converter between your ISP's servers and your PC.
In Toronto, this meant that I couldn't even get a V.90 connection. Her e in London, I can get V.90 and even V.92 connections, but only at connection speeds of 44000 bps. Unfortunately the connections are horribly unstable - they lose carrier within 2 to 15 minutes. On forcing the US Robotics Softmodem to V.34, I actually get a reliable connection, but because it is a softmodem, where ALL the modem functions are carried out by the PC's processor, I was getting better performance on my original 7 year old 33.6k modem.
What a waste of time? Another failure by me, although I now know more about modems than I used to... And more reason to never buy on Brand name alone. So that's why those external modems cost so damn much..