Pros:Simple setup, fast connection, compact design
Cons:None I've found
The Bottom Line: None I've found
There comes a time in every mans life when he has to embrace the future rather than hide from it. I had always sworn by my tried and trusted wired internet connection and in turn it had never let me down. However, time and tide waits for no one, and it was whilst I was considering the setting up of a wireless Xbox live account for my console I took the plunge and make my whole PC/console setup a wireless hub of entertainment mastery. The time had come to cut the strings (or wires) that bound me and head fourth on a trip of wireless wonder!
Upon looking into the whys and wherefores of going wireless I discovered it was a lot easier than first feared. I already had a Netgear Router (albeit the wired variety) so I only needed to purchase a wireless access point and plug that into the router to make that end of the concern wireless. My console was taken care of which meant all I needed to complete the transition was a wireless adapter or PCI card to plug into the PC. I knew that I wanted to stick with Netgear as I feared compatibility problems should I dare to mix my wireless brands! After a little reading on the Netgear website I decided on the Netgear WG111 USB wireless network adapter (henceforth to be known as the dongle). The appeal of this particular dongle was two fold - first - it was a compact little piece of equipment (about the size of a cigarette lighter) and second - it plugged straight into a USB 2.0 port, negating the need to open up the computer and install a card.
What's in the box?
Opening the package revealed the boxed dongle and assorted accessories. Included along with the dongle in the pack is a small USB cable in case your USB ports are internal or hard to reach, an installation guide and a CD containing the relevant drivers and setup programs. I purchased my dongle as a reconditioned unit and as such the warranty was not a Netgear one, but I understand if purchased new a one year warranty protects from any problems.
Setup was simplicity itself - a big warning sticker told me not to plug the dongle in until I had installed the software - which took about five minutes. I had to tick a few option boxes during installation but for the most part it was an automated process. When the time came I was asked to plug the dongle in after which the software detected and then loaded the relevant drivers to make it operate as it should. During installation I was given the choice of using the supplied wireless network software or Windows XP's version, since Netgear recommended using the bundled software I took that route and encountered no problems. Once installed the software performs a search for available networks, and I was a touch surprised when it returned two results - my AOL account plus a sky account! I guess one of my neighbours has an unprotected wireless setup using sky as their ISP. Not wishing to jeopardize neighbourly relations I did the decent thing and selected my own aol account, another thirty seconds of installation and the job was done. The dongles small blue light flicked when data was being sent or received and I was up and running on the internet in a wireless capacity. No additional changes were required when signing onto AOL; it really was simplicity itself.
So is it any good?
It's more than good, it's great! I was dreading the setup process and had visions of countless hours wasted trying to get a connection, but with the SmartWizard software every step is explained in an easy to understand manner so that any technophobe should not feel out of their depth. The unit itself is compact and stylish looking while the software takes up just 2MB of hard disk space. An icon sits in the system tray and flashed green when the connection is operating. Clicking the icon brings up the SmartWizard box where you can check your current speed, connection strength as well as sorting out security settings to insure nobody else can share the connection. With my Wireless access point and router a good thirty feet away from the computer (and a few thick walls in-between) I was concerned about signal strength, but at the time of writing the signal is running at 64% strength, with It never having dropped below 60% thus far. Mbps (Mega-bytes per second) fluctuates but has never dropped below 24.0 - way above the 8.0 my AOL connection tops out at! As mentioned above I purchased my dongle as a reconditioned unit from eBay, this cost my just $20 - purchased new the cost is about double that. All in all a great buy and a painless introduction into wireless computing - four stars out of five.
Tech specs and requirements
Dimensions (l x w x h): 3.72 x 1.19 x .6 in (94.5 x 30.2 x 15.2 mm).
Weight: 1.13 oz (32 g).
Frequency 2.412 ~ 2.472 GHz.
Wireless Speeds - 1, 2, 5.5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 54 Mbps
64- and 128-bit WEP encryption.
PC: USB 2.0 Compliant, Windows® 98SE, Me, 2000, and XP.
802.11g wireless standard.
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