A single wireless router or access point can't always cover every room in a house. The Buffalo WLA-G54 wireless bridge gives you a plethora of features and options for expanding your home or office network without stringing cable. It includes a four-port switch for wired clients, and it supports both 802.11b and 802.11g standards. Because it's externally identical to the Buffalo AirStation 54Mbps wireless broadband router we've previously reviewed, it suffers from the same flaws, including limited mounting options and hard-to-see LEDs for the four-port switch.
The Buffalo WLA-G54 installs easily to a wired network, but connecting it to another Buffalo AirStation to create a bridge is harder than it should be. When you start the initial configuration, you can designate either a wired or wireless connection; the quick-setup guide has decent instructions for both. In either case, you have the option of connecting to the WLA-G54 via the Client Manager software included on the CD-ROM or a browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape.
Once you've connected a computer to the WLA-G54, you're ready to integrate it into your network by assigning IP addresses and the ESS-ID and configuring security options. The browser-based configuration tool includes wizards for WEP settings and MAC address restrictions, plus an advanced-configuration page that gives you direct access to all of your options.
If you use the WLA-G54 to create a wireless bridge to another Buffalo AirStation, you must register the MAC address of each Buffalo access point, router, or bridge on your network under the WDS section of the configuration screen. The terse documentation fails to cover this process thoroughly.
The Buffalo WLA-G54 wireless bridge distinguishes itself from other bridges, such as the, with its Wireless Distribution System (WDS) support. This lets the WLA-G54 act as a wireless repeater with up to six Buffalo WDS-enabled AirStations, such as the on a single network, making it an ideal solution for large houses or apartment buildings. Because WDS is not a standard, however, it doesn't work with non-Buffalo products.
A swivel cover on the top of the back panel conceals an MMX connector.
For larger sites, the WLA-G54 also works as a point-to-point or point-to-multipoint bridge that's capable of communicating with up to six other Buffalo base stations--a quick, easy way to extend your wired network or improve your existing WLAN coverage.
The WLA-G54 is packed with the latest security options to lock down your network. It offers both 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption, but the WLA-G54 also supports WPA and 802.1x.
Remembering some of the WLA-G54's more complicated settings is easy because the bridge lets you save its configuration on a local PC. This feature, along with the recessed reset/initialization button on the back of the WLA-G54 that resets it to factory defaults, is very handy in case you find yourself locked out of the device. The only feature we didn't like were the unit's LEDs, which are positioned on the bridge's side and difficult to see.
The performance of your Buffalo WLA-G54 will depend greatly on how you've configured it and what it is doing on your network. As an 802.11g access point, the WLA-G54 offers good range, with consistent and decent throughput up to around 100 feet before a swift decline. Theperforms better, but the WLA-G54 offers WDS, which the WET54G lacks.
Assume a throughput hit when you configure the WLA-G54 (or most any wireless bridge) as both a bridge and an access point for wireless clients. That's because in a bridged network, configuration packets have to be transmitted over the WLAN once to get to the WLA-G54 bridge, then again from the bridge to the next Buffalo AirStation or client adapter connected to your wireless network.
CNET Labs throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Buffalo offers a good two-year warranty along with lifetime 24/7 toll-free phone support for its products. The Web site contains firmware and utility updates and documentation downloads. Buffalo also provides some useful case-study information to help justify the purchasing decision. However, the site lacks self-help options, such as extensive and thorough FAQs or a searchable knowledge base.