For tech experts who want to go wireless but hate the thought of tossing out their wired Ethernet routers, the D-Link DWL-2100AP provides a quick, easy way to add 802.11b/g Wi-Fi to a network or to wirelessly bridge existing LANs. For those who already have a couple of D-Link wireless routers in place, such as the , the D-Link DWL-2100AP can also function as a WDS (wireless distribution system) bridge between the two. Unfortunately, the access point's setup guide and user manual are too technical for computing beginners, and you can't use the device as a bridge between non-D-Link-brand wireless routers or switches. The D-Link DWL-2100AP also costs more than other access points, such as the , as well as most full-fledged Wi-Fi routers. The D-Link DWP-2100AP ships with the typical AC adapter, 7-foot Ethernet cable, and setup/software CD. This router also includes a couple of nice touches: The first is a removable antenna that bends at a 90-degree angle and rotates in a 360-degree circle, helping you extend your range into specific spots. The rubber stand allows you to set the device upright, elevating the antenna a few inches and perhaps expanding your coverage area even farther. Brackets on the DWL-2100AP's underside let you hang the device on the wall, as well. Two small nails should be sufficient, since the pocket-size box weighs just 0.4 pounds.
Experienced computer users should be able to interpret the D-Link DWL-2100AP's setup guide, but beginners may feel like they're reading a foreign language. The guide starts out by advising you to assign a static IP (Internet Protocol) address to the computer you'll be using to configure the device. We were pleased to discover that the guide explains how to assign the address in several different operating systems (Windows XP/2000/Me/98 SE and Mac OS X). In the Windows XP section, the guide describes the process under the OS's Classic View. However, XP's default appearance is Category View, which looks and acts slightly different. Unless you know enough about Windows XP to switch views during setup, you'll get lost. Other oversights, such as the guide's dual reference to the device's RJ-45 jack as an Ethernet port in some places and a LAN port in others, may further confuse novices.
If you can avoid the guide's pitfalls and you understand its jargon, you should have the DWL-2100AP up and running fairly quickly. Once you've completed the steps in the DWL-2100AP's browser-based configuration wizard, you can continue to adjust device settings via the mode, performance, filters, encryption, and DHCP server sections of the browser-based configuration tool. The user manual provides a somewhat perfunctory explanation of each section that will do little to enlighten newbies. Should you ever decide to trash your SSID or other basic settings and start all over, you can complete the configuration wizard again, or just press the DWP-2100AP's reset button, which returns the unit to its factory presets. On the game field of wireless access points, the D-Link DWL-2100AP is one of the more flexible players. You can use the DWL-2100AP's configuration tool to set it to one of five modes: plain AP, AP client, signal repeater, point-to-point bridge between two wired LANs, or a WDS (wireless distribution system) between two Wi-Fi LANs. Unfortunately, the WDS option works only if you're using two D-Link-branded devices with this feature. Another AP competitor, the , works only with other Netgear devices in both its WDS and repeater states.
The D-Link DWL-2100AP pulls ahead of the pack in security. The device offers 64-, 128-, and 152-bit WEP encryption, as well as two modes of WPA protection with 802.1x authentication: PSK (pre-shared key) or EAP (extensive authentication protocol), which involves coordination with a RADIUS server. You can also accept or reject up to 16 MAC addresses via the tool's filter section.
The D-Link DWL-2100AP's final noteworthy feature is AP Manager, a network management application included on the device's CD. The handy app detects the access points on your network and lets you manipulate their IP addresses and security settings, all within a single control panel. The D-Link DWL-2100AP's speedy performance rivals that of the fastest access points and wireless routers around. The device sports the same Atheros chipset, with Super G technology (PDF document) as the , so it makes sense that the two earned an identical 44.4Mbps score in our close-range, g-only throughput test. But you'll get those fast speeds only if all of the D-Link devices on your network are equipped with the Atheros chipset.
The DWL-2100AP earned less impressive scores in our b/g mixed-mode tests, achieving the 11.6Mbps throughput typical of 802.11b-based devices. In our informal range tests, we were still able to surf the Web one residential block from the device's location.
|Throughput in Mbps|
|Throughput in Mbps|
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software with Chariot 4.4 Endpoints as its benchmark. For wireless testing, the clients and the routers are set up to transmit at various distances from the access point and to automatically select the best transmission speed. All tests are run with Chariot software using TCP and are run in CNET offices over channel 1. Our tests indicate the range that you can expect in a typical office environment, but the range in your own home or office may differ. You may be able to achieve better performance in situations where you can establish a clear line of sight. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site. D-Link does a respectable job with the DWL-2100AP's service and support. The device ships with a three-year warranty, which is two years longer than the terms of most other access points, such as the . Around-the-clock, toll-free phone support lasts for the length of the warranty. The company also offers a fairly full-featured support Web site that includes firmware downloads, a knowledge base, and a FAQ list. The site also hosts an emulation of the DWL-2100AP's online configuration tool (just click OK without entering a password).