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Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti wireless notebook adapter review: Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti wireless notebook adapter

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MSRP: $139.99

The Good Like all notebook adapters, the Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti notebook adapter is a snap to install and connect. With the Nfiniti router, it showed impressive performance as compared to other Draft N pairs.

The Bad Because the Nfiniti router supports only mixed-mode operation, you can't get throughput as fast as those that offer single-mode operation. Regardless, the numbers are still well off the maximum throughput stated by the first draft of the 802.11n spec.

The Bottom Line While the Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti notebook adapter made a good showing in mixed-mode throughput testing, we still think it's too early to invest in Draft N technology.

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6.4 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Support 6

The Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti notebook adapter is the companion to the AirStation Nfiniti router. Like most notebook adapters, it is dead simple to install and use. The pair is based on the first draft of the 802.11n spec, and like the rest of the Draft N router/adapter combos we've tested, their performance was impressive when compared to 802.11g gear, but it fell well short of the stated maximum throughput offered by 802.11n (270Mbps). Our advice is to wait until the 11n spec is finalized (likely sometime in mid-2007), but if you absolutely must have draft 11n gear now, check out combos from Belkin or D-Link. The former is the champion for user-friendliness and support--while also offering good throughput--while the latter is the fastest we've tested so far.

The Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti notebook adapter looks like every other PC Card out there: most of the card slides into the card slot on your notebook, and the part that sticks out, which houses the antenna, is made of black plastic. Two indicator lights on the outer portion blink to indicate connection and activity.

Installing the Nfiniti notebook adapter is a breeze. Simply run the included CD to install the drivers and insert the card when instructed. From there, you can use Buffalo's wireless manager utility to establish a connection to your wireless network. For connecting, you have two options. First, you can use the utility to scan for available networks and to connect. The other option is Buffalo's proprietary AOSS, or AirStation One-touch Secure System, an automatic wireless configuration tool. This allows you to press the AOSS button on the Buffalo router, then press the AOSS button on the adapter (for Buffalo's adapters, the AOSS button is a virtual button in the wireless manager utility), and the two components will then talk to each other and establish a connection.

Buffalo has chosen not to support single-mode operation on its Nfiniti router, so we can't make direct comparisons to Draft N routers that do support single-mode op, except in the short-range mixed-throughput test. (Belkin made the same choice for its N1 router.) Single-mode operation generally provides better throughput than mixed-mode operation, though the reality is that most home networks will likely have a combination of older and newer networking gear, which necessitates using the router in mixed mode anyway. That said, the Buffalo duo still showed impressive performance as compared to the other Draft N pairs. At 10 feet, in mixed mode, the Nfiniti beat the competition with an impressive throughput of 60.23Mbps. At 200 feet (again, in mixed mode), the Buffalo fell just behind D-Link's N 650 router, with a throughput of 38.18Mbps. It beat the Belkin N1, as well as the single-mode routers from Netgear and Linksys. Still these numbers fall short of the promise of 802.11n, the first draft of which specifies a max throughput of 270Mbps.

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