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Wireless Features

Introduction

Update 12/12/2007: Removed 2dBi comment, Pg 1

Can one of these adapters improve your WLAN performance?

A reader recently wrote and asked if changing his wireless adapter could improve the range of his 802.11b/g wireless network. Whenever I've looked at wireless adapters that claim to improve performance in the past, I've always come away with mixed results. But part of the reason for my ambivalence was the limitation of the five-location walk-around test technique I used.

But now that I use the Azimuth ACE 400NB Channel Emulator, Director and Radio Proof enclosures for wireless LAN testing, I decided to use them to take an unprecedented look at performance differences among wireless adapters. The focus of the exercise was to see if changing a wireless adapter could make a noticeable performance difference when used with a standard 802.11g wireless router.

The Adapters

I chose six WLAN adapters from my lab shelves as the test subjects, including a mix of 802.11g, draft 11n, internal notebook and "high-powered" adapters.

Linksys WPC54G V3 Wireless-G Notebook Adapter

Probably one of the most widely-available 802.11g adapters, the Linksys WPC54G is now up to V8. But I had to use the V3 that I had, since Linksys has been unable to provide me with a V8 for about six months now.

Figure 1 shows that the V3 uses a Broadcom BCM4318 Single Chip 802.11g radio chip matched with a SiGe power amp.

Linksys WPC54G V3
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: Linksys WPC54G V3

EnGenius EUB-362 EXT High Power 802.11b/g /Adapter

The EnGenius EUB-362 [reviewed] is an 802.11g USB 2.0 "high power" adapter. In addition to being the only adapter with higher-than-normal power in this test, it's also the only one with a 2 dBi dipole antenna like the ones used on access points.

Figure 2 shows the 362's board. The pictures taken from the FCC ID filings aren't clear enough to tell for sure, but I guessing that's an Atheros AR5005UG USB 2.0 chipset - since AR5523 drivers (the MAC / Baseband part of the AR5005UG chipset) are supplied.

The 362's maximum transmit power is spec'd at 25 dBm (320 mW) EIRP, but I suspect that is taken care of by an external power amp vs. the AR2112 2.4 GHz Radio-on-a-chip.

Note that this adapter is also available as the EnGenius NUB-362 and Trendnet TEW-445UB.

EnGenius EUB-362 board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: EnGenius EUB-362 board

D-Link WNA-2330 Rangebooster G Notebook Adapter

The D-Link WNA-2330 is actually a copy of an Atheros reference design (FCC ID: PPD-AR5BCB-00051) using one of its single-chip 802.11g Super-G radios. This is the same design that I found used in the Netgear WPN511 RangeMax Notebook card [reviewed] and D-Link DWL-G630.

D-Link WNA-2330 board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: D-Link WNA-2330 board

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