Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter review: Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.2
  • Design and ease of use: 8.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 7.0
  • Service and support: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Low price; good performance; toll-free 24/7 phone support; excellent online tech support.

The Bad One-year warranty; no help for Windows XP users.

The Bottom Line If you want to surf the Web wirelessly from your back porch, Linksys offers an easy and affordable solution.

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Linksys home-networking equipment is known for its easy setup and low price, and the Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter is no exception. With an average selling price of $70, this card is a good value, especially considering its first-rate performance and 24/7 tech support. True, the documentation for this PC Card fails to give Windows XP users the hand-holding they deserve, and Linksys' stubborn refusal to offer warranties longer than one year is disappointing. But with the card's solid performance, low price, and great support, you have a winner.



Quick-installation guide.
When you insert the Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter into your laptop, Microsoft Windows detects the card automatically, pops up a dialog box, and asks for a driver disc. A handy quick-installation guide walks you through the setup, giving you the choice between infrastructure (router-based) and ad-hoc (peer-to-peer) modes. The 70-page user guide does a superb job ushering you screen by screen through every Windows 9x, NT, Me, and 2000 option for wireless network setup and configuration, going into considerable detail over obscure features such as preamble modes and RTC threshold values. You also get a meaty troubleshooting guide and glossary.

Windows XP users, however, are simply told to install their XP driver from the disc and to refer to their Windows XP documentation. There's some sense to this method; XP's own Wireless Network Connection utility provides all the features you need to configure the card. But given the wealth of the manual's clear, useful information in Linksys's own Instant Wireless Configuration Utility, it seems odd that the company omits any explanation of the often-confusing Windows XP utility. At the very least, the manual should instruct you to right-click the wireless network connection and select Properties/Wireless Networks/Configure to start the Windows utility.



Linksys wireless connection icon in Windows taskbar.
The Linksys Instant Wireless Configuration Utility provides a more sensible aggregation of features than Windows XP's native version. Once you install the Linksys utility, the Windows taskbar sports a new wireless connection icon that glows green when there's a good connection. We found the Linksys utility's estimates of the current throughput rate overly optimistic, however, much like Windows' own Connection Status utility.

Well-organized tabs appear across the top of the configuration utility screen for Link Info, Configuration, Site Survey, Encryption, and Advanced features. The Configuration tab is particularly handy, as it lets you choose ad-hoc or infrastructure mode, the Service Set Identifier (SSID), and power-saving options all in one place. The Link Quality and Signal Strength readouts on the Link Info panel are also quite useful, and the Advanced features are so well explained within the manual that Windows XP users would do well to have a look, even though the options are arranged differently. Like most of its competitors, the Linksys WPC11 offers both 64- and 128-bit WEP encryption options.



Configuration tab of the Wireless Configuration Utility.


The Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter delivered average performance, clocking in at 4.9Mbps on our throughput test. In informal range tests, the Linksys tied the Netgear WAB501 dual-band PC Card but came up just short of the mark set by the Proxim Orinoco World PC Card. Still, it should offer plenty of range for most home environments.

Throughput tests
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
802.11b Turbo   
802.11a   
802.11b   
Netgear WAB501 dual-band wireless adapter
28.8 
17.2 
5.0 
Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter
4.9 
Proxim Orinoco World PC Card (Gold)
4.9 
3Com 11Mbps wireless LAN PC Card with XJACK antenna
4.6 
 
Chariot 802.11b response time
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
Netgear WAB501 dual-band wireless adapter
3.0 
Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter
4.0 
Proxim Orinoco World PC Card (Gold)
4.0 
3Com 11Mbps wireless LAN PC Card with XJACK antenna
4.0 
 
Range test
Relative performance in typical office setting
0.0 to 1.0 = Poor   1.1 to 2.0 = Fair   2.1 to 3.0 = Good   3.1 and higher = Excellent
Proxim Orinoco World PC Card (Gold)
2.9 
Netgear WAB501 dual-band wireless adapter
2.7 
Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter
2.7 
3Com 11Mbps wireless LAN PC Card with XJACK antenna
2.3 
 
For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software as its benchmark. For wireless testing, the clients and the routers are set up to transmit at short ranges and at maximum signal strength. CNET Labs' response-time tests are also run with Chariot software using the TCP protocol. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response time are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network.

Linksys's tech support runs the gamut. On the downside, you get a very short, one-year warranty on the card, which the company tries to make up for with its toll free, 24/7 phone support. In addition, the Linksys Web site provides e-mail support along with an enormous knowledge base and a large quantity of general information about networking.



Linksys support site.


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Where to Buy See all prices

Linksys WPC11 Instant wireless network adapter

Part Number: WPC11 Released: Jul. 9, 2002
MSRP: $49.99 Low Price: $5.95 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jul. 9, 2002
  • Data Transfer Rate 11 Mbps
  • Connectivity Technology wireless
  • Interface (Bus) Type PC Card