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Compex NetPassage WPE54G - wireless access point review: Compex NetPassage WPE54G - wireless access point

If you're looking for an access point to go with your retro-modern decor, look no further. The futuristic design of the Compex NetPassage WPE54G will fit right in with your lava lamp and your plasma ball.

Brian Nadel
3 min read
Compex NetPassage WPE54G wireless access point
With its rounded silver dome and single external antenna, Compex's NetPassage WPE54G is more than a piece of networking equipment: it's a modernist desktop sculpture. One of the smallest Wi-Fi access points available, the silver NetPassage WPE54G is about the size of a portable router and is easily hidden on a bookshelf or a desk. Designed to sit upright, it comes with a plastic stand (which breaks easily), as well as an Ethernet cable, a printed quick-install guide, an AC adapter that's almost as large as the device itself, plus a CD bearing an 86-page manual, a setup utility, and a firmware-replacement tool.

The NetPassage WPE54G's Intersil Prism Nitro 802.11b/g radio includes a speed-enhancement feature called Nitro that Compex claims will boost throughput by 50 percent when used with other Nitro-capable products. Unfortunately, the WPE54G lacks Wi-Fi certification, which means that it may not work with all Wi-Fi gear.


Compex NetPassage WPE54G - wireless access point

The Good

Small; cool design; quick setup; good performance; versatile.

The Bad

Expensive; large AC adapter; lacks Wi-Fi certification; lacks MAC address filtering.

The Bottom Line

Compex's NetPassage WPE54G is a stylish and versatile miniature access point that performs well. Unfortunately, it's pricey, and it lacks Wi-Fi certification.

Setup is simple. Just connect the WPE54G to your Ethernet router or directly to your broadband modem and use a wireless client to access the unit's browser-based configuration tool. The HTML-based configuration windows let you adjust the access point's device name, network name, and mode--you can designate whether you want it to run in b-, g-only, or mixed mode.

To keep data from leaking out and hackers from breaking in, the WPE54G sets up a reasonable, but far from airtight, security perimeter. The firewall is based on network address translation technology and not the more advanced stateful packet inspection technique, but the WPE54G does support the latest Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption, as well as 64- and 128-bit Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) security for older clients. You can't lock out clients based on MAC address, although a firmware update will add this feature in the coming weeks.

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As an access point, the WPE54G was able to move 24.2Mbps and 11.3Mbps in a pure 802.11g and a mixed environment, respectively, in CNET Labs' tests. This puts it a step or two behind D-Link's class-leading DI-624 router on throughput. The NetPassage WPE54G's range was an unimpressive 175 feet, a good 50 feet short of the DI-624 and the Netgear WGT624.

As its benchmark, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software on a console system with clients running NetIQ's Performance End Points 4.4. Our throughput tests measure the transfer speed of a file that a user might send across the network. This is known as the payload throughput and does not include packet errors and other data that might be transferred over a network. Payload throughput can vary widely from the bandwidth speeds vendors advertise and is a much better gauge of what you're likely to experience with a standard file transfer. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.

Compex backs the NetPassage WPE54G with a three-year warranty, which goes beyond the one- and two-year coverage that most others provide. The company's online tech support, however, is a disappointment to say the least. It lacks many of the basic items we've come to expect, including setup tips, a chat room, and product-specific FAQs, though we did find downloadable copies of the product manual and the setup guide. The phone support staff is good, with a human technician available in less than a minute; when we called, the tech was able to answer our question. While the call is free, the support hotline is open only on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT.

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Throughput in Mbps  

CNET Labs throughput tests with mixed b/g clients  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Throughput in Mbps  


Compex NetPassage WPE54G - wireless access point

Score Breakdown

Setup 7Features 6Performance 7Support 7