WiFi duel

Building a wireless network from scratch requires that you buy a central access point or router, in addition to however-many WiFi network cards you need for each machine in your home. If you’d rather not select these ingredients individually, you can now opt for networking kits, which include everything you need to get your network off the ground.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  May 11, 2007

|~|WIFI-DUEL---m.gif|~||~|A number of vendors offer these solutions and though the two kits on test here target the same users, they differ slightly in terms of what’s offered. The Netgear’s router for instance includes a built-in DSL modem whereas the US Robotics router will need to be hooked up to an external, Ethernet-based modem for internet functionality. The Wireless MaxG Networking Kit is a complete solution from US Robotics in that it offers one wireless adapter and a router all within a single box, which you can buy off the shelf. With the Netgear hardware, it is the regional distributor who is actually bundling the products (desktop card, PCMCIA card and router) together, so while you can buy it as a kit, the adapters and router come in separate boxes. In terms of ease-of-use, the US Robotics is the better choice for novice users because its wireless adapter is a USB model. This means installation is literally just a case of plug-and-play, whether you have a PC or a notebook. Installing the desktop-designed Netgear adapter however requires that you physically open up your machine, locate a vacant PCI slot and then install the adapter. Simple Set-up Past the hardware installation stage, both kits are supremely simple to set-up. There is ample documentation supplied both on paper and on the installation CDs, and both routers feature clean, browser-based graphics interfaces. The Netgear’s interface is more functional however as it offers far more settings to tinker with, as far as its firewall, port forwarding and other features etc are concerned. This is great for ‘in-the-know’ users who wish to fine-tune their kit. The MaxG router on the other hand is less tweak-friendly and will better suit beginners. Coming to performance, the Netgear is the clear winner. Based on MIMO (Multiple Input/Multiple Output) technology (branded as RangeMax), it managed far quicker transfer speeds than the MaxG kit. Whereas our 238Mbyte transfer test took one minute and 40 seconds to complete on the Netgear network, the US Robotics set-up took two minutes and 32 seconds. If you plan to stream high quality video or frequently transfer huge data files between your machines then, the Netgear kit is the best option. The Netgear also offered more coverage as we experienced strong signal strength, and thus no performance degradation even when we were 30 metres away from the router. The MaxG kit struggled slightly in that its signal strength dropped, which also impacted its performance. In terms of gaming, both kits performed within a hair’s breadth of each other. The Netgear maintained a three-millisecond advantage over the US Robotics in our Quake 3 ping time test but this difference was not noticeable when actually playing the game over the network. If gaming is your only concern then, either WiFi kit will suffice. ------------------------------------------------------------------ Verdict The Netgear kit combines all-in-one broadband functionality and lighting fast performance, which ultimately makes it the better buy. Price: $167 Contact: +9714 214 9543 Web: www.netgear.com ------------------------------------------------------------------ ||**||

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