Do they still make notebooks with DB-9 serial ports?
March 15, 2007 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone still make laptops with serial (RS232) ports?

I'm in the market for a new laptop. I have one major requirement: an actual, physical db-9 serial port.

I'm afraid a docking station isn't an option. I need a built-in port for mobile use.

From previous experience, I'm leery of usb->serial converters. That might be my only option, but I'd much rather have a "real" serial port.
posted by Symeon to Computers & Internet (15 answers total)
I know that Dell does. I have to buy laptops with serial ports for work. The most recent one I bought was a Latitude D820.

They don't list a serial port anywhere on the spec for the machine, but I called up Dell sales before my purchase to verify that it had a serial port. And I can confirm that it does indeed have one.
posted by contessa at 1:28 PM on March 15, 2007

When I was looking to find a laptop with a serial port a couple years ago, the only ones I could find were from Dell. You might want to check them... I don't know if they still offer it as an option on their website, but you could always call and ask.

I understand your leeriness of usb/rs232 converters. I never could get one to work reliably...
posted by cgg at 1:29 PM on March 15, 2007

Just out of curiosity, have you considered (or has anyone else used) a PCMCIA serial port adapter? I've heard anecdotally that they're a lot more reliable and more like a "real" RS232 port than the USB adapters, but I've never used one.

I use a Thinkpad T41 and although it does have RS232 on the motherboard, it's not accessible except through the expansion/docking port on the bottom, via a port replicator.

I've heard the brand to buy is "Socket" and they may be getting hard to come by, although I found them here for $150, which depending on your other hardware requirements might be less than the cost of a laptop with one built-in. They seem to be popular for marine/weatherfax use with PACTOR radiomodems.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:40 PM on March 15, 2007

I also have a large need for a serial port on my laptop due to work needs, but I decided that getting the right laptop was more important than being pigeon-holed into a laptop that didn't work for me just for the port. So after a lot of research, the Keyspan USB to Serial converter was recommended by all of my systems that I program with and was the highest rated to boot.

Just thought I'd add my 2cents.
posted by wile e at 1:46 PM on March 15, 2007

just buy the right USB->serial converter and you'll be fine. I have the need to use them all the time, and they work well, even with Linux.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:04 PM on March 15, 2007

Just out of curiosity, have you considered (or has anyone else used) a PCMCIA serial port adapter? I've heard anecdotally that they're a lot more reliable and more like a "real" RS232 port than the USB adapters, but I've never used one.

This is good advice -- a PCMCIA serial port is essentially a "real" serial port, in that it connects to the system bus and uses a UART and typically requires no drivers. I've got a Socket brand one that works well -- the SIIG brand card also works fine (though it has a weird dongle). Both of these are suitable for high-speed/driverless serial applications that may not work with a USB-serial adapter (such as scientific equipment that requires software which runs under DOS, et cetera).
posted by j.edwards at 2:13 PM on March 15, 2007

I also have a keyspan. It's worked fine for my Windows PC and my Mac. Before dismissing them out of hand, go pick one up at a store that has a return policy and try it out.
posted by chairface at 2:24 PM on March 15, 2007

Don't forget ethernet to RS232 converters, as well.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 2:46 PM on March 15, 2007

My Dell Latitude D810 has a real Serial Port. Just as another data point.
posted by stovenator at 3:06 PM on March 15, 2007

One more data point - I have a Thinkpad T30 and it has a real serial port too. No need for a docking station.
posted by wanderingmind at 4:31 PM on March 15, 2007

I have a pile of Thinkpads that all have serial ports. If you don't need new, consider a used A31 (1.6 GHz, etc.) and you can get fairly zippy peformance for a 3-4 year old laptop.

ALso, Panasonic Toughbooks:

Standard d-sub 9-pin available.
posted by FauxScot at 4:37 PM on March 15, 2007

The Toshiba Tecra A8 has a serial port, at least the Canadian models do.
posted by Mitheral at 6:43 PM on March 15, 2007

We use all Dell Latitudes where I work for this exact reason, but I always find myself needing multiple ports. I've used USB to RS232 adapters from Belkin, Keyspan, and some generic piece of junk, and none worked reliably all the time (connected to multiple embedded systems for debugging several hours a day). I've used Socket's dual PCMCIA to RS232 adapter and had much better luck. A coworker uses a Black Box terminal server which is IP enabled and has 4 RS232 ports and has for years and has been quite happy with it, but I think it was pretty pricy (like most of their kit).
posted by kableh at 7:24 PM on March 15, 2007

I second YoBananaBoys RS232<>Ethernet converters. Perhaps not appropriate, depending on your needs, but they worked great at my old company: rather than have dedicated PCs scattered around the building just to run some RS232 devices we just used these converters (around $100 for two ports) and had one secure PC tucked away in a server room chatting to all the devices.

Cheap and makes support a breeze (one machine).
posted by NailsTheCat at 7:58 PM on March 15, 2007

Response by poster: I just wanted to say a quick "thank you" to everyone who commented. I still haven't decided how I'm going to proceed (time for more research!), but all of the above info will be very useful. Thanks!
posted by Symeon at 5:46 AM on March 16, 2007

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