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Always On Wireless WiFlyer review: Always On Wireless WiFlyer

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The Good Good range; excellent acceleration service.

The Bad Pricey; spotty performance; doesn't work with all dial-up providers.

The Bottom Line The WiFlyer adds Wi-Fi to dial-up connections or adds Wi-Fi to wired broadband on the road. It's pricey, though, and its performance is erratic.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.8 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Support 6

Review Sections

WiFlyer

The Always On Wireless WiFlyer delivers 802.11b Wi-Fi for both dial-up and broadband connections. It also doubles as a travel router, letting you connect via Ethernet to a broadband link in a hotel room or other public area and create a shareable high-speed connection. While the WiFlyer could be useful to the roughly 61 million Americans who still connect from home via dial-up, the dual dial-up/broadband capability makes the device most intriguing for travelers who might have a wired broadband connection one night and a poky dial-up connection the next. But at $149.95, it's a little costly. Check out Netgear's WGR101 for a more reasonably priced broadband-sharing alternative.

The device shoehorns a 56Kbps modem and a Wi-Fi radio into a pocketable 6.5-ounce base station. Always On Wireless provides an optional dial-up acceleration from SlipStream that, in our tests, quadrupled the speed of dial-up Web browsing. The service costs an additional $49.95 per year, though.

Setup is pretty intuitive: Plug in the access point to your broadband modem, and it automatically begins transmitting a Wi-Fi signal. Next, launch your Web browser, which automatically opens the WiFlyer configuration-and-connection page. To establish the dial-up connection, first connect the access point to a phone jack, then enter your ISP account info and access numbers. Access numbers are automatically provided for users of AOL, EarthLink, and MSN; the WiFlyer does not work with NetZero/Juno accounts, however. After configuring the connection, a quick-connect button on the unit lets you connect and disconnect with one key press.

Although it's not as sleek as some travel routers, the WiFlyer does house the V90 dial-up modem in addition to the 802.11b radio. On the back, there are two Ethernet ports and an RJ-11 phone jack. The device has no protruding antenna, although it does include a connector, should you want to add an external antenna for longer range. The WiFlyer offers WEP, WPA, and MAC address filtering security, as well as a NAT and password protection for managing the base unit.

The WiFlyer delivered a strong Wi-Fi signal with good range of approximately 220 feet. In tests using a dial-up connection, the optional acceleration service performed very well. At maximum compression, which severely degrades images, the throughput ranged from 95Kbps to as high as 152Kbps, three times faster than standard dial-up but much slower than even the pokiest DSL connection. Without acceleration, throughput was as low as 26Kbps. When connected to an ISDN line in a hotel room, the device lived up to its premise of transforming wired broadband to Wi-Fi. We were able to get fast Wi-Fi access on our notebook anywhere in the room, rather than being tethered to the desk by the phone jack. We also connected two notebooks to the router simultaneously with no problem.

Performance wasn't flawless, however. Occasionally, the base station indicated that it was emitting a strong signal, but our notebook could not connect. Rebooting the base station solved this problem. On other occasions, the dial-up connection page failed to launch. WhatÂ’s more, switching between dial-up and broadband modes required that we reinstall the same firmware update each time. Always On Wireless says that it intends to update the firmware to fix this problem.

The WiFlyer ships with a one-year warranty. Toll-free phone support is good for the life of the product and available every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT, which may not be optimal hours for those on the road. Support via e-mail is also available; we submitted a query that was answered in 1 hour, 20 minutes.

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