U.S. Robotics USR5411 Wireless MaxG PC Card
There's nothing flashy or fancy about the U.S. Robotics USR5411 Wireless MaxG PC Card. This steel-gray Wi-Fi adapter lacks the colorful, image-laden setup guides and configuration interfaces offered with many wireless devices. Nor does the MaxG PC Card include range-extending MIMO support, though U.S. Robotics claims that the card's MaxG technology enables it to sustain fast throughput from far distances. That claim fell flat in CNET Labs' range tests, where this device earned merely mediocre scores. Until the MIMO standard is ratified and these expensive devices come down in price, we recommend the for those seeking a reasonably priced adapter with lots of speed at long range.
The MaxG PC Card resembles most wireless PC Card adapters: the majority of the card disappears inside your laptop's Type II PC Card slot, with about an inch extending outside the slot. That extension houses the card's wireless antenna, which you cannot manually adjust to point at your wireless router (thereby enhancing your signal strength), since the antenna is entirely ensconced inside of the card. While many Wi-Fi PC Card adapters sport this design, an external, adjustable antenna such as the one found on the Hawking HWC54D is a convenient touch.
U.S. Robotics should pay closer attention to the MaxG PC Card's setup and configuration details. The setup guide largely omits detailed screenshots that would make the process much less painless, especially for newbies. It also stops short of explaining complicated steps, such as entering WEP and WPA security codes and 802.1x authentication. The user guide contains more screenshots of the bundled configuration utility but includes just one-sentence explanations about its features, pointing you to the program's help section for more information.
The MaxG PC Card's configuration utility is a baby step up from Windows XP's basic Zero Config utility. Like the XP utility, the MaxG PC Card's app allows you to view available wireless networks within range, along with a few extra details, such as signal strength and channel number. The utility would be more useful if it let you create and save profiles for the wireless networks you access most. Instead, you must reenter security codes for these networks each time you access them. Aside from the configuration utility, U.S. Robotics provides a couple of spyware blockers and the company's iBand application, which graphs the amount of data being sent and received over your network.