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Wireless Reviews

In Use

Basic wireless options on the ENS200's 802.11b/g/n radio are b only, g only, n only, b/g mixed, or b/g/n mixed. Channel mode options include 20, 20/40, and 40 MHz. Note that the 40 MHz only mode does not conform to 802.11n specs. All 802.11n products are supposed to fall back to or stay in 20 MHz mode when an interfering network is detected.

Wireless channel selection can be set to auto or any one of channels 1-11. A screenshot of the basic wireless option configuration page is below.

ENS200 Basic Wireless settings

ENS200 Basic Wireless settings

Advanced wireless options include settings for data rate, transmit power, RTS/CTS thresholds, distance, and frame aggregation. Finally, wireless traffic controls exist for traffic shaping and setting incoming/outgoing traffic limits.

ENS200 Advanced Wireless settings

ENS200 Advanced Wireless settings

From the LAN side, the ENS200 can be configured with a static IP address or to get an IP via DHCP. It also supports Spanning Tree Protocol, a technology that prevents network loops. When in traditional Access Point mode or WDS Access Point mode, the ENS200 can broadcast up to four SSIDs associated with VLANs 1-4.

Wireless security options include WEP, WPA, WPA2, and WPA-mixed. WPA and WPA2 authentication can be configured with a PSK (pre-shared key) or to connect to a RADIUS server. MAC-based security can also be configured to allow or deny a list of manually configured MAC addresses.

The ENS200 has a nice status screen presenting information about the device, its network settings, and current wireless settings. Below is a screen shot of the status screen from an ENS200 configured in Access Point mode.

ENS200 Status screen

ENS200 Status screen

Test Setup

EnGenius sent us two ENS200s to test.  I started by playing with point-to-point connections using WDS Bridge mode.  To get the connection working, which EnGenius calls a WDS Link, I put both devices in WDS Bridge mode and entered the MAC address of the other device in each.  Note that SSID is not specified when creating a WDS link because WDS is MAC address based.  Once I applied my configuration, the link came right up.

The shot below shows WPA2/AES security selected and the MAC address of the far-end device.

WDS Link settings

WDS Link settings

The screenshot below shows my active point-to-point connection (WDS link).

WDS Link status

WDS Link status

A challenge in setting up a WDS Link is it doesn't have a tool to help you align the link and optimize signal strength. An option is to temporarily put a device into WDS Station mode and use the Site Survey tool, discussed below, to detect available wireless networks and their signal strength.

I also tested Client Bridge mode.  This mode is useful to pick up a wireless signal, perhaps from a longer distance away and connect the ENS200 to a router to share that Internet connection in a local network.  EnGenius gives the example of using this mode in RV parks, campgrounds and marinas to access an available public Wi-Fi hotspot.

I set my ENS200 to Client Bridge and then configured it with a WPA2/AES key to access a wireless network broadcast by a Cisco WAP321 Access Point.  After clicking save to change modes and to set the WPA2 key, the ENS200 connected to the WAP321.  In the screenshot below, you can see the ENS200 is connected to a wireless network with SSID “MDC9.”

Client bridge link status

Client bridge link status

The Connection Status screen above is a useful tool for displaying the current status of the wireless network. This screen automatically refreshes on 5-15 second intervals and displays important information such as Tx Data Rate, Noise Level, and Signal strength. As you can see in the above display, the above connection is solid with a 65 Mbps data rate, -95dBm noise level, and a -35dBm signal strength. This screen is available only in Client Bridge, Client Router and WDS Station mode. It would be nice if there were an equivalent tool for WDS Bridge mode for tuning a WDS link.

Another tool for creating a clear connection is the Site Survey/Scan tool, which is available in all modes but WDS Bridge mode. The Site Survey tool in the Wireless Network menu, shown below, displays all detectable SSIDs, their associated channel and signal level, 802.11 type, and security setting. This tool has to be manually refreshed, but is useful for determining which channel has the fewest SSIDs and least interference.

Site survey tool

Site survey tool

I also tested a point-to-point connection with WDS Access Point and WDS Station modes based on EnGenius' recommendation that this is the optimal configuration for maximum point-to-point throughput.

WDS Access Point mode allows you to broadcast an SSID using common wireless security options including WEP, WPA, and WPA2.  Simultaneously, a WDS link can be set up using the same options available in WDS Bridge mode. 

I'll discuss my performance measurements of this configuration next, but one thing to mention first.  While measuring throughput over a point-to-point connection between WDS Access Point and WDS Station modes at various distances, I also checked to see if my laptop could connect to the ENS200 in WDS Access Point mode.  I was impressed my laptop picked up the wireless signal coming from the ENS200 in WDS Access Point mode 100 meters away!

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