The Pitch and Product
|BuffaloTech 54 Mbps Wireless USB 2.0 Keychain Adapter|
|Summary||Flash-stick-style USB 2.0 802.11g client adapter that carries and installs its own driver and client manager application. Supports Buffalo's AOSS auto-install system|
|Pros||• Leave the install disk at home
• Virtually no throughput hit with WEP or WPA
|Cons||• Client Utility doesn't cooperate with Zero Config
• Installs on some Windows versions can be confusing
Buffalo Technology's WLI-U2-KG54-AI 54Mbps Wireless USB 2.0 Keychain Adapter distinguishes itself from the rest of the "keychain" or "USB flash-key" styled wireless adapters by being the first to automatically install its drivers and Client Utility when first connected to a Windows computer.
The AI is also the first Buffalo product to be based on a chipset from Taiwan-based RaLink, the RT2500USB to be exact. It's also the second Buffalo 11g product to not use a chipset from Broadcom. (The first was the WLI-USB-G54 which converted from Broadcom to Conexant PRISM back in March [related story].)
Figure 1: The AI's board
(click on the image for a larger view)
The AI's white plastic package is about the size of a disposable butane lighter, but somewhat slimmer. It has a wireless activity (ACT) indicator that lights only during transmission, a tiny recessed switch to disable the auto-installation feature and a feature that should allow you to attach a lanyard or tiny keychain ring, neither of which is included. Buffalo does throw in a USB extender cable for use with hard-to-reach or too-closely-spaced USB ports.
To cut to the chase, I inserted the AI into a newly SP2-upgraded XP desktop machine and sat back to see what happened. The install was fairly uneventful, with the XP Notification Area / System Tray popping up two "Installed and Ready" notifications, one after the USB adapter install and the other after the wireless driver install.