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Wireless Reviews

Closing Thoughts

As could be expected, Linksys has done a nicer job than Belkin of taking Airgo's True MIMO reference designs and skinning them with an attractive package and user interface. I understand why Linksys felt it had to establish its own SRX (vs. Pre-N) branding, but wish that they had included Airgo's True MIMO sub-branding to help buyers who will be confused about product interoperability in a few months as more "MIMO" products hit the market.

While the WRT54GX' routing section provides 100Mbps wire-speed routing performance, its router feature set is just so-so and a step back from other Linksys routers. Given the premium price that the GX commands over its siblings, Linksys should equip it with every option available (content filtering, parental controls, QoS and VLANs) in its other wireless routers that sell for as little as one-third the GX' price. And shame on Linksys and Airgo for not including WPA2, especially given that it has been almost nine months since the 802.11i standard was ratified and six since the first chipset vendor reference designs were Wi-Fi certified!

Update 2/22/2005 - Linksys wrote to let me know that they are waiting WPA2 certification for the GX router and card. The also said that they had to use the "Pre-shared Key" nomenclature because the Wi-Fi Alliance wouldn't let them use the term "WPA" in the product until after certification.

Finally, it turns out that Linksys has included a WPA client for folks who aren't running WinXP. Just open the CD and run the odyc303.msi file to install a copy of Funk Software's Odyssey client. Linksys said this extra step is just temporary and that they plan to integrate a WPA supplicant into their client application

When I think about the non-standard performance-enhanced consumer wireless products that have hit the shelves since the enterprise market went cold with the burst of the dot-com bubble, my head hurts and my eyes glaze. But if we weren't buyin', then they wouldn't be sellin', so the upgrade train isn't likely to end soon.

But the MIMO fad may finally prove that there is a limit to consumer gullibility, or at least to what folks are willing to pay for wireless networking gear - no matter what performance improvements it provides. As I write this there's a 3X price premium over Linksys' standard 11g WRT54G router and 2.5X premium over the 11g WPC54G CardBus card. This should at least make buyers swallow hard before taking the plunge, or - as a chip vendor who doesn't currently have a MIMO offering likes to point out - leave MIMO gear on the shelf and put an 11g gear in her cart instead.

At least for now, no matter what moniker it goes by - True MIMO, SRX, Pre-N, VLocity, RangeMax - MIMO is just another non-standard performance-enhancement technology. It doesn't solve WLAN problems caused by an already over-crowded 2.4GHz band and has a snowball's chance of being compatible with 802.11n gear that won't appear until sometime next year. But at least Airgo's True MIMO flavor delivers the goods for unequalled throughput over range performance.

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