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Wireless Reviews

Introduction

At a Glance
Product PePwave Surf Home Wi-Fi Access Point (AP200)
Summary 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g range extender that works with any AP / router.
Pros • Doesn't use WDS
• Easy to set up
• Independent WAN and LAN wireless encryption settings
• Very good receive sensitivity
Cons • 9 - 10 Mbps maximum throughput
• Can't use as Ethernet-connected AP
• Limited routing options

It seems that every time that I try a product intended to increase wireless range, I end up at the same place—uncertain whether it provides enough improvement to be worth the hassle and expense. So when PePwave asked me to try one of their Surf "Wi-Fi" modems, I wasn't in any hurry.

But the more I looked at the Surf, the more it looked like PePwave has taken a different approach. Actually, PePwave doesn't really pitch the Surf as a WLAN range expander or extender. That's probably because the primary application for the Surf series is as CPE (Customer Premises Equipment) for wide area Wi-Fi installations in (a dwindling number of) cities and campuses.

The Surf series actually comes in six different flavors, but two basic platforms. The two non-AP models don't have the "AP" function and the four "AP" versions do. Figure 1 illustrates how the Surf AP's work. They actually function as 802.11b/g wireless routers, but with a WAN port that connects to any 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network (the "Citywide Wi-Fi" shown in the diagram) instead of using an Ethernet connection to a cable or DSL modem.

How the Surf Works

Figure 1: How the Surf Works

But you don't have to use the Surf AP with a "citywide" Wi-Fi network; it will connect to any 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g wireless LAN. And if you'd rather be away from the crowd in the 5 GHz band, the AP 205 connects to 802.11a networks. Even though it has a dual-band chip in it, PePwave has limited it to operating in the 5 GHz band only.

Figure 2 shows the front panel indicators, which provide an at-a-glance view of the Surf's operating condition. The handy signal bar display that shows the wireless WAN connection is nice and bright and has a wide viewing angle. I wish I could say the same for the other four indicators— they are only clearly visable when viewed straight-on.

Front panel
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: Front panel

The rear panel is a model of simplicity with 10/100 Ethernet, RP-SMA antenna connector and 5V power socket. There is also a Reset-to-factory-defaults button that you need a paperclip to push and a slot for a cable-type lock.

Note that the Surf AP does not support Power over Ethernet and that the Ethernet connector is for configuration only. The Ethernet port does not provide a wired WAN or bridged LAN connection, so you can't use the Surf AP as a "classic" wireless router or AP.

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