Pros: Easy setup, and configuration, 24/7 toll free tech support
Cons: The latest WAP11 version needs new firmware to be compatible with all network cards
The Linksys Wireless Access Point WAP 11 can provide a "access point" for one or several wireless devices to connect to an existing ethernet network (a wireless "hub"), or two WAP 11's can serve as a wireless "bridge" between two networks. The WAP 11 is a IEEE 802.11b device operating in the 2.4GHZ spectrum, with a maximum data rate of 11Mbps. Linksys claims the maximum range indoors is about 300 ft, and about 1100 feet outdoors with no obstructions (an unlikely scenario). One member of our family recently received a WiFi enabled PocketPC, and we decided to purchase this access point to allow the PocketPC and a laptop to connect to our home network. Linksys has a couple of versions of the WAP 11 in stores now, the newer, labeled 2.2 on the box, and the older model, version 1.1 with no version number on the box. I originally purchased version 2.2, but later exchanged it for the older model based on advice of Linksys tech support, who indicated the firmware in the older model was more stable and worked better with the Linksys WPC11 PCMIA wireless network cards.
In the box you'll find the WAP 11, a power adapter, a setup cd, a quick start guide, a 6' USB cable, registration card, and manual. A network cable is not included with the older WAP 11 models. (Only a digital version of the manual is included with the WAP 2.2, and a ethernet cable is substituted for the USB cable). I found the electronic manual to be lacking, at several points it in the manual it refers you to your network administrator, rather than walking you through all the steps of setting up different types of networks. Similarly the Quick Installation Guide does not contain enough detailed information to walk casual computer users through the process of setting up a network. For example, one step of the setup process is explained as follows .... the IP settings screen will appear. Unless your network has a DHCP server, you will want to click the button beside SET IP configuration manually to select this option. Enter an IP Address and IP Mask appropriate to your network..... If you have a put together a network before, you can work through these types of instructions, but if this is the first time, I suspect you will be frustrated by the lack of specific instructions for different network setups. Linksys has made the WAP 11 about as easy to set up as possible, I wish they had put as much effort into the documentation.
The WAP is blue and black, about 6" X 6" X 2" high, with two 4" adjustable antenna's on back, and with red (power), green (communicate/active), and yellow (link) leds on front. The power supply and ethernet connections are on the back of the WAP 11.
Why Would I Need the WAP 11?
Anyone wants to connect to an existing wired network with a 802.11b "WiFi" device could use the WAP 11 to add a wireless access point to their network quickly and easily. Alternatively, two WAP 11's are capable of bridging two wired networks. The WAP 11 is also capable of implementing up to 128 bit WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol) security (the WAP 11 version 2.2 is capable of 256 bit WEP), to help keep your wireless connection secure.
In my case, I wanted to be able to tie into my wired ethernet network and share the existing Internet connection with a Toshiba E740 PocketPC, which comes with a built in wireless network adapter, and with a Toshiba laptop. I chose the WAP 11, plugged it in to my network hub and ran the configuration program. After an extended trial and error period trying different settings on my PocketPC, it was up and running connected to my network. (It turned out that the PocketPC WiFi adapter did not work well until I turned off its power saving features). I also purchased a Linksys WPC11 network card, which I installed in my laptop. My laptop was never able to access my network through, the WAP 11 version 2.2, and Linksys tech support said this was known problem for some users with the latest versions of the WAP 11 (version 2.2) and WPC11 (version 3). Linksys did send different updated drivers and firmware patches for both units, including a new "beta" firmware upgrade for the WAP 11, but in my case they never solved the problem, and Linksys finally recommended exchanging my WAP 11 for an older model. The older WAP 11 version 1.1 worked perfectly. Both versions of the WAP 11 worked well with the WiFi adapter in the Toshiba Pocket PC.
Installation and setup of the WAP 11 will not be difficult if you are familiar with networking. The steps to set up the WAP 11 are
- Connecting the Category 5 ethernet cable from the back of the WAP 11 to an open jack on my network hub
- Connect the power adapter
- Connecting the USB cable from the WAP 11 to a PC on the network. The computer will recognize the new USB device and request drivers. After inserting the cd, the drivers and configuration utilities for the WAP 11 are installed.
- Launching the USB setup utility allows you to change any of the default settings for the WAP 11, including the network name for all your wireless devices, the channel to operate on, whether on not to enable WEP security, and the IP address of the WAP 11. I chose to change the default wireless network name and IP address, but the default settings should work for many users. The manual briefly explains what each of the settings does and what settings should work for most users.
Linksys offers 24 hour free technical support to assist you with any technical problems with your WAP 11 if it is not working correctly, such as the inability of the Linksys WPC 11 network card to connect to the WAP 11. But if you have problems determining how to setup your network, ie how to set up Internet Connection Sharing to share an internet connection, Linksys tech support will refer you Microsoft rather than tell you how to best set up Windows to use their equipment.
I have the WAP 11 installed in a room in one corner of my house and I can access my network from anywhere within my 1 story home, a range of about 60 ft through as many as 4 walls. The WAP 11 was also connected via ethernet cable to a linksys 4 port hub on my network, which was connected to a PC with a a cable internet connection. The USB cable was connected from the WAP 11 to a PC running Windows ME, through with the WAP 11 was configured. (This USB connection is not needed or included with the newer WAP 11). Signal strength is "very low", but adequate outside my home, but I lose the connection when I stray more than ~10' away from my home at some points. Data transfer speed seems more than adequate, web pages pop up almost as quickly as they do on the computers connected by ethernet cable, and running data intensive applications over the network, such as watching video's with windows media player, works very well. The connection is very stable, and use of 2.4 ghz cordless telephones does not interfere with network performance. I was able access my network through my laptop just as effectively as I could any computer connected by ethernet cable, including web browsing and file sharing. WEP security is easy to setup, as is adjusting most of the network settings with the USB configuration utility. I was only able to test using two wireless devices at a time, but this did not seem to impact performance.
The older WAP 11 includes a SNMP configuration utility through which you can access the WAP 11 from any wireless device and monitor statistics about the all the connections to the WAP11, as well as all the settings available through the USB configuration utility. Use of the SNMP configuration utility requires setting a permanent IP address on the computer, and most users will never need to use this utility.
Hardware and Technical Support
Linksys technical support is as good or better than any of the other network hardware manufacturers. 24 hour toll free support lines, offered by Linksys are very uncommon. Wait times for a tech support is usually only a few moments, and the personnel I spoke to were knowledgeable about the Linksys hardware. The website offers downloadable drivers, firmware upgrades, manuals, FAQ's, and datasheets. Linksys appears to do a reasonably
good job of updating firmware and drivers as needed. The manual for the WAP 11 is disappointing in its lack of detail, but what it does contain is well written, and is good enough for someone knowledgeable in networking. Linksys (and other manufacturers) desparately needs to include more information helping inexperience computer users to set up a wireless network.
The WAP 11 is easy to set up and works relatively well. Most will be able to add a WAP 11 to their wired network and connect one or more wireless devices in an hour or less. The range is adequate for home use, but not much more than that. (An unofficial firmware hack is available which boosts the range of the older WAP 11) Setup is easy, at least with respect to the world of networking. The newer WAP 11 version 2.2 is easier to set up than the older WAP 11 models, but the firmware does not appear to be as stable and bug free as the older model. Fortunately, Linksys is trying to address compatibility problems experienced by a few users with their own network cards, through downloadable firmware upgrades, a work still in progress. Included documentation is adequate for experienced computer users, and online and telephone support is very good. If you want to add a wireless access point to your home network the WAP 11 is a good choice. If you choose to purchase the newer version 2.2, be sure to purchase it from an store that offers exchanges in case you run into compatibility problems like me.