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IOGEAR Wireless USB combo

At a Glance
Product IOGEAR Wireless USB Hub and Adapter (GUWH104KIT)
Summary Wireless USB hub that replaces the cable to your computer with a UWB wireless link
Pros • A little bit better performance than "Cable Free"
• Simple setup
Cons • Expensive—Estimated retail price $199.95
• Still slow compared to wired USB

Last winter, Belkin finally started to ship its "Cable Free USB" Hub that the company announced at the 2006 Consumer Electronics show. The delay was caused by Freescale’s quiet exit from the UWB market, which left Belkin (and other companies) scrambling to redesign products based on "Cable Free" UWB technology, which Freescale had been championing.

But the long wait hardly seemed worth it, since the first-generation hub-and-dongle Cable Free USB products operated at speeds around 1 MB/s—about 10x slower than wired USB.

Fast-forward to almost one year later, and the alternative technology that killed "Cable Free"—Certified Wireless USB (CWUSB)—is finally making its market debut. Of course, CWUSB, which was championed by Microsoft, Intel, HP, and other members of the WiMedia Alliance, isn’t interoperable with Cable Free, but this hardly matters, since "Cable Free" devices will disappear as existing inventories are depleted.

So what exactly is Wireless USB? Here is how the USB-IF (USB Implementers Forum), the industry association for USB that is similar to the Wi-Fi Alliance for wireless LAN technology, describes it:

Certified Wireless USB is the new wireless extension to USB that combines the speed and security of wired technology with the ease-of-use of wireless technology. Wireless connectivity has enabled a mobile lifestyle filled with conveniences for mobile computing users. Certified Wireless USB will support robust high-speed wireless connectivity by utilizing the common WiMedia MB-OFDM Ultra-wideband (UWB) radio platform as developed by the WiMedia Alliance.

Restated without the marketing spin, CWUSB replaces the cable that normally attaches a USB device to your computer with a wireless link that uses UltraWideband technology. The first generation CWUSB products typically consist of two pieces:  a "dongle" that plugs into a USB port on your computer or notebook, and a hub—typically with four downstream ports—that you plug into your computer. 

The CWUSB hub can supposedly be located up to 10 meters from the USB dongle. Once all of the drivers are installed and you’ve set up your security, your computer/notebook has wireless access to USB peripherals connected to the wireless USB hub. The specification includes multiple data radio rates up to 480 Mbps—the same raw (PHY) speed as "wired" USB 2.0. We’ll talk about our performance test results later in the review. 

"Certified" WUSB products get to sport the logo shown below in Figure 1. However, the Certification process is looser than the Wi-Fi Alliance’s, since manufacturers may self-certify.

Wireless USB logo

Figure 1: Wireless USB logo

While a few companies have announced CWUSB products, including IOGEAR, Belkin, and D-Link, IOGEAR was the first to ship. Therefore, we’ll be looking at the IOGEAR Wireless USB Hub and Adapter kit (model GUWH104KIT) in this review.

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