Actiontec 54Mbps wireless access point review: Actiontec 54Mbps wireless access point

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MSRP: $249.99

The Good Excellent performance; WPA support.

The Bad Encryption uses hex keys only; printed setup guide lacks thoroughness; phone-support techs gave bad advice.

The Bottom Line This access point's speed is nice, but its competition offers greater configurability and easier setup--and Actiontec's support quality is dicey.

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7.2 Overall
  • Setup 5
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9
  • Support 3

Actiontec's 54Mbps wireless access point (WAP) can help you create a home network or a hot spot that supports two standards--802.11b and the newer, five-times-faster 802.11g standard. This access point is reasonably priced, and in CNET Labs' throughput tests, it was faster than the competition. It also comes with strong security, including support for both WEP and the stronger WPA encryption. But the product's rough edges--such as missing steps in the documentation, an incomplete manual, and clueless phone support--dampen our enthusiasm for the product. We recommend opting for a more polished product, such as Netgear's WG602.

Theoretically, all you need to do to install the Actiontec 54Mbps 802.11g access point is connect it to a PC, a router, or a broadband modem and plug its AC adapter into a convenient outlet. Once the three green indicator lights stop blinking, any 802.11b- or 802.11g-enabled device should be able to detect a wireless network with an SSID of Actiontec, the WAP's default setting.

For security reasons, you may want to change this SSID and configure WEP or WPA for your wireless network, and here's where our troubles began. Configuration of the access point requires a program called the Access Point Locator, which is compatible with Windows 98 SE and up, for identifying the access point's IP address. You then need to access the browser-based configuration tool by typing this IP address into any Web browser's address bar. Unfortunately, this process isn't well documented in Actiontec's start-up sheet or other documentation. Worse, some of the documented steps contained errors or omissions--we couldn't find the default log-in name and password, for example.

The Actiontec access point's physical package is complete, including an Ethernet cable and a software CD, as well as a trial version of Actiontec's Kid Defender parental monitoring software. If you plan to connect the access point to a router or a hub, you'll need to provide your own crossover Ethernet cable; you'll find only a straight-through cable in the box, and the access point does not support MDI/MDIX switching.

The Actiontec 54Mbps wireless access point has a simple, sleek exterior. Three LEDs on top show the Ethernet and wireless activity, as well as the power status. Two antennae that swivel 180 degrees extend from its rear panel. The access point is designed to sit flat, in part because its antenna design does not lend itself to vertical positioning, as do the more flexible antennae of the Netgear WG602.Screw heads built into its base allow for wall or ceiling mounting.

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