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.
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.
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.