Often-superconservative PC manufacturer Dell showed its nimble side today; the company now offers an optional draft 802.11n wireless card in all its XPS notebooks and some of its Inspiron notebook line. The Dell Wireless 802.11n card is based on the Broadcom Intensi-fi chip that works with other Broadcom-based routers, including the we tested back in May.
Although the new Dell card is backward-compatible with 802.11a/b/g wireless networks, getting it to work with some current draft 802.11n networks and future ones may not be possible. Like all other 802.11n products, its Intensi-fi guts are based on a specification that has not been ratified by the IEEE. The spec should be solidified by the end of this year or early next, however there have been quite a few bumps in the ratification road. If you're already buying a Dell laptop and want maximum wireless performance now at the risk of incompatibility later, the Dell Wireless 1500 should be more convenient and, at $59, less expensive than most PC Card-based adapters.
Based heavily on multiple input multiple output (MIMO) technology, 802.11n will be the next generation of Wi-Fi once ratified. MIMO increases throughput by using multiple antennas that can dynamically hand off traffic to one another whenever interference is present. Though the not-yet-ratified standard promises to increase bandwidth from 802.11a/g's 54Mbps to a whopping 270Mbps, CNET's tests on actual routers have shown .