The Good Easy, wizard-based installation; good phone support; solid security features.
The Bad So-so performance; no wall-mounting hardware.
The Bottom Line The MN-500 wireless base station provides networking newbies an easy and affordable solution for wireless home or small-office networks.
Microsoft MN-500 wireless base station
It comes as no surprise that Microsoft jumped on the 802.11b bandwagon. With the company's Xbox push into online gaming, the addition of home entertainment functionality into Windows XP, and upcoming products such as wireless smart displays, it's clearly to Microsoft's benefit to make wireless networking as easy--and prevalent--as possible. The MN-500 wireless base station puts Microsoft one step closer to this goal. Its helpful installation wizards and better-than-average tech support make the MN-500 a safe choice, particularly for the technologically challenged.It comes as no surprise that Microsoft jumped on the 802.11b bandwagon. With the company's Xbox push into online gaming, the addition of home entertainment functionality into Windows XP, and upcoming products such as wireless smart displays, it's clearly to Microsoft's benefit to make wireless networking as easy--and prevalent--as possible. The MN-500 wireless base station puts Microsoft one step closer to this goal. Its helpful installation wizards and better-than-average tech support make the MN-500 a safe choice, particularly for the technologically challenged.
Simple, efficient design
From a design perspective, the MN-500 looks similar to other wireless gateways. The base station touts a cool, industrial design and can stand on its side, making for an unobtrusive addition to a home or office. Unfortunately, you'll need to create your own wall-mounting solution if you want to maximize wireless reception; the MN-500 doesn't come with extra mounting hardware. It does, however, include four wired 10/100 Ethernet ports and a WAN input for your cable or DSL modem. At $150, the MN-500 sits at the low end of the price range for wireless gateways, leaving you plenty of cash to add a wireless USB adapter (MN-510) or a PC Card adapter (MN-520) for $80 apiece. Microsoft expects a kit including both the base station and an adapter to retail for a reasonable $220.
Easy-to-use setup utilities
The included Start Here pamphlet will help you through basic installation, but if you need more help, the clearly written 96-page manual will be a relief. And if you've ever used a Windows XP setup wizard, the broadband networking installation wizard will seem soothingly familiar. After you configure the base station and install the Broadband Network Utility software, you have the option of creating a setup disk for your client PCs (a blank disk is included), which simplifies the task of adding PCs to your network. However, we wish the software let us save the file to some type of removable storage, such as a DiskonKey, given the nearing extinction of the floppy disk drive.
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