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Posted: July 22, 2003
Written By: Dan "Tweak Monkey" Kennedy
Supplied By: Compex
iWavePort WLU11A USB Network Adapter
An easy solution to networking a PC?
I used to be skeptical of USB network adapters. Perhaps it was because CPU utilization could be an issue, or because it just makes sense to install a device directly into a PC's case. However, With wireless, installing a network adapter inside a PC can hurt its signal strength. Even with an antenna that exits the back of the case, some signal is going to be lost. Also, if you ever want to swap the device, it requires removal of the side panel, a screwdriver, and shutting down the PC. Now the benfits of USB become very apparent...
USB wireless network adapters have grown on me considerably over the last few weeks, thanks to Compex's iWavePort WLU11A USB Network Adapter. One of the many PCs in my apartment was located in the opposite corner of my access point and router, and running a Cat5 cable to it was simply not an option. I had tried a few different devices with little success, so I had a pessimistic attitude toward the whole situation.
WLU11A 11Mbps Wireless USB LAN Adapter
Type: USB Wireless LAN Adapter
Industry Standard: IEEE802.11b
Frequency Band: 2.4GHz ISM
Frequency Technology: Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS)
Media Access Method: CSMA/CA
Transmission Rate: 11Mbps
Supported Architecture: Infrastructure & AdHoc
WEP: 64 & 128 Bit
Configuration Utilities: Windows Software
Warranty: 3 Years
Combining wireless connectivity with USB convenience, Compex iWavePort WLU-11A delivers the industry-leading 11Mbps wireless LAN standard via the Universal Serial Bus (USB) for your wireless desktop clients. With selectable 64-bit or 128-bit private encryption, iWavePort WLU-11A ensures data privacy while transmitting over the 2.4GHz frequency band. Only the wireless clients configured with the same encryption key are able to retrieve the data from the open air iWavePort WLU-11A supports both type of wireless architectures as specified by IEEE 802.11, the AdHoc and the Infrastructure architecture. It can either be configured in a Peer-to-Peer environment (AdHoc) without the use of any Wireless Access Point, or to work in conjunction with a Wireless Access Point (Infrastructure).
Performance and Analysis
It's small, looks good and is well constructed.
Installation for this product was a breeze, as could be expected of most USB devices. I plugged the device into a USB slot at the rear of the case and when prompted by Windows, installed the drivers from the installation CD. It worked right off the bat with an excellent signal. A notebook was also an obvious choice for a USB adapter, but we assume most people would prefer the convenience of a PCMCIA card, so this device was installed on a desktop PC for testing.
The two-inch antenna was attached to the side of the adapter and could easily be raised for a better signal. The power and link LEDs ensured that all was going smoothly. In our case, there was always smooth-sailing. The little antenna did a great job and the signal strength was never anything less than 'Excellent'. Transfer rates were exceptional and the adapter has not shown a single problem yet.
The antenna is easily adjusted for optimal signal.
The adapter was installed on a PC that sees a ton of abuse, as it gets used by everyone that visits our apartment. It's sort of a guest computer for some of my friends, to keep them away from my main PCs and notebooks. It's an aging dual P2-333 system with some once high-priced ASUS motherboard, and loads of SCSI drives. It's pretty fast for an ancient Klamath P2 system, too, but it usually only sees e-mail, web browsing, and old games.
Considering what kind of wear and tear this PC sees and its decrepit motherboard, it's amazing that this device worked at all -- let alone as well as it did. The PC has been solid on our local network since the day we installed the device. It never gave up, even when the adapter was accidentally kicked off the case (three times now, maybe four?), or water was spilled on it (not recommended!). It used almost no CPU power, and performed very well. Packetloss in games was shown to be nearly 0%, and ping times and transfer rates were on par with the best wireless in the apartment, despite its location relative to the access point.
If you're looking for a very simple way to add 802.11b connectivity to your apartment or house, the WLU11A is a great solution offered at a generous price.
Overall Score: 9 / 10